AROUND THE WORLD IN 109 DAYS
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When I was young I watched the film Around The World in 80 Days and loved it. Ever since, the thought of going around the world become a great fantasy to me. Our travel was never going to be as adventurous and exciting, but it was a dream come true and a most enjoyable experience
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4 DAYS IN DUBAI

My imagination of Dubai has disappeared as soon as we landed at the airport. Somehow, I expected to see dry, sandy and vast desert land. What I faced with was green grass, beautiful gardens and very modern highways all the way to our hotel. I realised then that Dubai City is intent on modernising its image and catching up with the western world.

Dubai authorities don’t just understand that their country's oil one day will run out but they know they have to create something else to replace their dependence on it. One of their plans is to increase tourist facilities and encourage tourists to come and spend and spend. I must say the tourist infrastructure is very well developed. High standard hotels, taxis, tour buses, leisure activities, shops, restaurants and very well trained personnel are all in place to serve the visitors.

We enjoyed Dubai but it would be nice to come back in about 5 years and see what it is like. Presently, in some parts of Dubai, the building work is still going on and it looks like all the construction companies in the world are here. 


                                                        Dubai port
                                                                                     Dubai Port and The City.

 3 DAYS IN BANGKOK

One striking thing about Bangkok is the traffic chaos. There is no such thing as order in the city centre streets. Cars, motor bikes, and people seem to have a right of way all at the same time. Cafes, bars and restaurants serve on their tables positioned right on the pavements where pedestrians are supposed to walk but are forced off into the traffic path instead. In fact one restaurant was right in the middle of a petrol garage, where cars come and fill fuel next to customers sitting and eating.  Health and safety regulations are obviously non-existent.

Life in Bangkok is very cheap. We had a taxi with a tour guide for the whole day to take us around Bangkok and visit all the Buddha temples for a small amount of money. Eating out, shopping and accommodation are all extremely good value.


                                                             Temple
                                                                            
Buddhist Temple in Bangkok

3 DAYS IN HONG KONG

What is fascinating about Hong Kong is that it is such a small place (423 sq. miles) with a population of 8 million. We passed by a school where children were out for a break playing in the school yard. The yard is concrete and it was as small as a patio. I thought of the large school fields in UK and I didn’t know whether to feel guilt or appreciate what we have got. It is such a small place, yet everything works smoothly. The transport system is efficient. People are calm and polite.

We took a boat trip around the crowded harbour, where the Hong Kong boat people have settled. It is resembles a village settlement on land. They have all their belongings and pets with them. I remember seeing their dogs on deck and wondering where they would take them for a walk. No chance of that, of course. Their condition seemed appalling to us. On the other hand, it was fascinating to see that the boat people looked content with their life. 



                          Hong Kong boat.  Hong Kong boat.
                                         Boat people visit, Hong Kong                                           Boat people at Hong Kong harbour

4 DAYS IN SINGAPORE

What I had heard about Singapore is all true. It is a small Island crowded with people and every thing runs like clockwork. The streets, parks and buildings are very clean. Life in Singapore is highly regulated. They have strict rules and regulations for citizens and, by the looks of it, they enforce them pedantically.

Walking in the main shopping avenue, Orchard Road, was an experience for me. When the traffic lights change for people to cross the street, I noticed that everyone kept walking to his/her left side. On the right side, a huge crowd heads to the opposite side. If by mistake you kept to the right, you will be swept away by crowd wave.

The population is divided between three main ethnic groups of Chinese, Malays and Indians. This, of course, is a great influence on the type of celebrated sights, restaurants and shops. However, English is widely spoken and there are so many other nationalities who work and live in Singapore.

43 DAYS IN AUSTRALIA

Australia, with the land area of nearly 3 million sq. miles, is a vast country to visit in a short period of time. We never wasted time and kept going from place to place to cover as much as we could within the period we were there. It would be too long if I write about all the places we visited and I have just mentioned some of the highlights bellow.


CAIRNS

Cairns at the far north east of Australia is conveniently situated for travellers to start or plan their visits to the Great Barrier Reef, the Rain Forest around Kuranda, and Aboriginal cultural villages nearby. The town is packed with tourists from all over the world, in particular young people in their twenties.

We joined a 15 day organised bus tour to travel from Cairns to Sydney, covering all the tourist attractions on the way. The package was inclusive of accommodation, food, many excursions and a tour guide. We decided that was the best way to visit this vast country within a short space of time.

 
Barrier Reef

As one of the wonders of the world, a trip to The Great Barrier Reef is always exciting. We took a submarine tour of the reef and had a close look at various types of fish and coral. The size and extent of the reef, the different colours, shapes, and the volumes of fish in that environment was beyond imagination. 


                                                        The reef
                                                                                         The  Great Barrier Reef  

 FRASER ISLAND

Fraser Island is a world heritage site and protected as a national park. This island is 1125 sq. miles of vast sand dunes, dense tropical rainforest and deep fresh water lakes (200 of them).

I can tell the island is very well protected, because no building is built to overshadow the natural beauty of this place. When we approached the island by boat, there was no sign of our hotel from a distance. The boat anchored almost under the forest and we walked off the boat and straight into the hotel reception. The hotel is built with a wooden structure and below the canopy of the trees and with minimum disturbance to the natural habitat. In fact, I saw a bird nesting next to the receptionists' desks.

We went walking in the rain forest, swam in fresh water lakes and did some bird watching. Fraser Island is a paradise and an ideal relaxing holiday destination.

                                                       Raser Island
                                                            A hotel under the cover of trees on Fraser Island.

GOLD COAST

The Gold Coast is a great tourist destination. Up to 2 million visitors come to holiday here every year. It is over- developed and looks crowded but the beaches are long and large enough to take it all. Starting from Surfers Paradise all the way down to Byron Bay, with few interruptions, there are up to 50 miles long sandy beaches.  

                         
                        Byron bay.  Group travelers.
                                       Extended beaches of The Gold Coast.                                    Group photo at Byron Bay

                                      

ABORIGINES

Seeing Aborigines wandering aimlessly in towns, such as Cairns and Alice Springs, made me sad. It appeared there are many alcohol related problems. However, when we visited some aboriginal villages, I realised that they have a very complex and rich culture which they enjoy. Watching how they made their tools and instruments for their living, and being that close to them, was a treat.

We were invited to participate in boomerang and spear throwing as well as blowing didgeridoo in one Aborigine village. In fact, as a result of that I brought one back home and learned how to play it properly.

                           

                               Abo dancers.   Didgeridoo  
                                                 Aboriginal Dance.                                                               Playing my didgeridoo.

 Uluru (Ayers Rock)

A towering image in the middle of flat, dry land, Uluru is 3.6 km long and rises 348m. We joined crowds who gathered to watch the colour performance just before sunset. The colour of this rock changes gradually with the sunset from series of deeper and darker red before it fades into charcoal. During this process, the rock looked like a huge glowing fire. We got up early morning the next day to experience the reverse at sunrise. I can still see those images.



                                  Uluru Uluru  
                                                                                              Colour contrast of Uluru at sunset.

 THE STARS IN THE SKY

As we travelled a lot through Australia, we stayed in various types of accommodation, ranging from 4 star hotels to camping in the outback. While visiting Uluru, we camped at Kings Creek Camp in the middle of almost nowhere. There was no electricity and the night was pitch dark. As the sky was very clear and cloudless, we lay on our backs by the side of the camp fire watching the stars in the sky. I don't ever remember seeing the sky packed with so many stars like this before. Unfortunately we had only two nights there.

                                                                               Kings Kreek
                                                                                          King's Creek camp in the outback  


23  DAYS  IN  NEW  ZEALAND

As a result of our enjoyable experience in Australia, we joined another two weeks of an AAT Kings bus tour in New Zealand. This tour covered both islands and we visited most of the popular tourist areas.

New Zealand is not just a country with natural beauty but it has very well developed farmland. The country has up to 50 million sheep, 8 million dairy cattle and 2 million deer on its farms.  New  Zealand is the  world's biggest exporter of  meat, wool, cheese, and butter.

It is difficult to choose a highlight from New Zealand, because there are so many of them. Just to mention some, there is the scenery and waterfalls at Milford Sound, the picturesque Queenstown on Lake Wakatipu, Waitomo caves with the glow worms, the rising steam of geysers in Rotorua. What is more, the Maori traditional villages and welcoming ceremony is not something to be forgotten. Those traditional dancers could scare you to death with their eye and tongue movements. Fortunately for us it all ended with a Hangi Feast, meat cooked under the cover of ash and fire, but tender and tasty. 

                                                                                      South Alps. 

                                                                                                          Southern Alps, New Zealand

 
                                                          Milford Sound  Christ Church    
                                                                      Bowen Falls, Milford Sound.              Christchurch, New Zealand.     

 8 DAYS IN HAWAII

Although we were based in Waikiki beach while we visited Hawaii, we travelled around the other islands. There is no doubt that the islands are beautiful. I was very disappointed with the beaches though, in particular Waikiki beach. Somehow I expected to see an endless stretch of it. I must say it was too small for the amount of surfers and sun worshippers.

 

                                          Waikiky Diamond Head    
                                                          Waikiki skyline and the beach.                                     Diamond Head, Waikiki. 

 

4 DAYS IN MEXICO CITY

The city is packed with people (20 million) and the city centre looks like a place with no-go areas. In the first place, every space on the pavements of the streets is occupied with items on display for sale. In the second place, every doorway of a bank and jewellery shop is manned by machine gun carrying police men. Add the traffic jam and pollution and we thought how lucky we were only staying four days.

                                                                                    Mexico City
                                                                                               Constitucion Square Mexico City.

14 DAYS IN ST. PETE  BEACH IN FLORIDA

We planned to finish our long travels at St. Pete Beach because we know the place very well. We have had at least ten previous holidays there.

I believe St. Pete Beach is the best beach in Florida. It is wide and long (up to 5 miles). It is flat and you can walk or jog without sinking into the sand. It is ideal for bird watchers. During winter months, pelicans, herons, egrets, cormorants, ibis, sanderlings and anhingas are widely visible. Almost every morning and evening, dolphins are seen playing close to the beach. Most days the sunset is spectacular.

We once tried to count the number of restaurants available in St, Pete Boulevard and we found up to thirty. Most of these are fish restaurants and we have never managed to try them all. We keep saying next time we will try them all. However, every time we try one, we like the food and the service. Instead of moving on we frequent the same group of restaurants and try different dishes each time.

                                                                                     Sunset    

                                                                                                     Sunset in St. Pete's Beach.

                                         egret   heron

                                                              An Egret, St. Pete's Beach.                                        Heron, St. Pete's Beach.




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