I’m Moving to Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan!

waterfall, Basushiobara

Imagine waiting for months to find out where you will be living. To give up your job and home and have no idea where you will live in the next month.

That just happened to me and it was the most anxiety inducing time of my whole life!

I am very spontaneous but I do love planning, especially when I’m giving up a job I’ve done for 5 years to move to the other side of the world, I want a little hint of where I will end up. Japan is such  a diverse country so where I’m placed will have a big impact on my lifestyle and what to pack. Couple that with the anxiety of doing a job I’ve never done before.

I felt so scared and apprehensive.

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Luckily I found out where I’m placed last Friday, the day after my last day of work! I’ve never travelled to Japan and had never heard of the place I’ve been placed (Nasushiobara).

The place I’m moving to is in the North of Japan. Initially I requested anywhere but the North but after researching the region I think it will be a perfect match for me. It’s right near Nikko, an area rich with culture that houses Edo period temples. The surrounding nature of the region seems stunning, full of waterfalls and lush greenery and is famous for Onsen. Even the Imperial family has a holiday home there!

I’m looking forward to hiking regularly, exploring the temples and spending a few wild weekends in Tokyo, just 1 hour away by

Now I know where I am placed I can start to enjoy my last few days in the UK with my family and friends, pack and prepare for my new life in Japan.

What do you think of the place that will become my new home? Have you ever moved abroad? If so do you have any advice for me?

Ask Stephanie Anything: 6 Cheap things to do in Singapore

 

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I get many emails from readers asking advice about where to stay and what to do in destinations that I’ve visited. Just email me at stephanie@pearlsandpassports.com if you have a question and I will answer it.

My question today was recieved from Caroline, a grad student who will be working in Singapore for the summer. How exciting!

”Hi Stephanie!

I just happened across your blog… I haven’t had time to search through it yet, but I was wondering if you might have some quick advice for me. I’m a grad student and I’ll be working at NUS in Singapore for a month this summer… do you have any tips for either really neat (and affordable) things to do in the city, or cool day trips from Singapore?

Thanks so much!

Caroline”

Singapore has an unjust reputation for being an expensive city. I believe that cities can be as expensive or as affordable as you want them to be. Dubai is one of my favourite cities in the world and I visited it on a very limited budget and had a great time!

Unlike Dubai space is at a premium on the small city state of Singapore. Most people live in high rise buildings above shops and restaurants. Despite this there are many things you can do for free or very cheaply in Singapore.

1) Visit the Botanical gardens.

Despite being so built up, Singapore has beautiful and vastt botanical gardens with beautiful flowers from different parts of the world. I found it hard to stay here for long due to the heat and humidity of Singapore but it is a great way to spend a few hours of the day. I especially loved the Orchid garden with the replication rainforest.

Bring a picnic and enjoy the greenery, you will appreciate it after working in the city!

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2) Buy a pass for the Museums and Art galleries.

In most museums in Singapore you can buy a three day pass for all of the museums and art galleries for just $20! This is a real bargain and a great way to escape the heat and learn more about the fascinating history of Singapore! Be sure to attend the tours of the larger museums and art galleries, they are probably the most informative tours that I have ever had the pleasure of taking. Explore the smaller quirkier museums too like the philatetic museum, (Thats a stamp museum for us non- geeks).

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3) Explore Chinatown.

People say that the best food in Singapore can be found in Chinatown, it’s an area buzzing with life. So many sights and sounds to behold. Pull up a chair on one of the tables in the centre of the narrow streets and taste the most authentic Chinese food outside of China.

There’s also a stall owned by a German selling bratwurst in Chinatown! I love the cultural diversity of Singapore.

4) Visit Sentosa.

Sentosa is a small island off Singapore that is easily reached by cable car from Singapore, (Be aware that the queues can get very long near the end of the day!). Sentosa is famed for it’s theme parks but it is also boasts a long white sandy beach and 70% of it is lush rainforest filled with wildlife. You will feel like you are a million miles from Singapore!

5) Explore Little India.

Before I flew to Singapore I spent six weeks in beautiful Sri Lanka. Initially the craziness of Sri Lanka left me feeling a little unsettled but I eventually got used to the different pace of life. When I arrived in Singapore I almost experienced another bout of culture shock, it was so different to Sri Lanka. Singapore is very urban, clean and organised and nearly every Singaporean has a smartphone and a snazzy wardrobe. It’s a million miles away from exotic Sri Lanka,

As soon as I got off the metro at Little India I felt right at home again. The streets were filled with familiar sights such as women dashing around in colourful saris and the smell of incense and curry around every street corner. The crowds of people in Little India were chaotic compared to the organised metros of Singapores CBD.

little India is the perfect place to experience Indian culture. There’s a surprise on every corner be it a Hindu temple or markets selling scores of Saris. There’s no shortage of amazing curry houses and cooling lassis either! I got my second henna hand tattoo in Little India for the cheap price of $5!

littleindia sari temple

 

 

 

6) Go on a free walking tour.

Singapore is such a beautiful city full of amazing architecture juxtaposed against temples and hawker centres. I went on a free walking tour in Singapore where the guides are Singaporean students. It was invaluable to help me orient myself in the vast metropolis and I got some cool local tips too!  I ended up near the famous Bugis street and ate dinner in one of the best Hawker centres in town for just $4.

Who says that Singapore is expensive?

 

 

 

 

Have you visited Singapore before? If so did you find it affordable like me or more expensive? Do you have any more tips on cheap things to see and do?

 

 

 

 

July travel plans: I’m heading to Tuscany, Italy!

If you follow me on Facebook you will already know this exciting news.

 

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I originally intended to travel to somewhere in Eastern Europe after being captivated by Poland’s culture, history and friendly people.  When searching on the Ryanair website I suddenly had an urge to go to Italy. Visions of an Eat, Pray Love kind of holiday filled my mind so I decided to book a return flight to Pisa without knowing much about the region.

I figured that Rome would be full of tourists and that Tuscany will be a little quieter at this time of year (I may be proved wrong…).

The more I researched about the region the more excited I got about my trip. So here are my travel plans for the week.

3 days in Pisa with a day-trip to Lucca. I’ve always been fascinated by the leaning tower and have been recommended to visit the small town of Lucca by a good friend who has travelled in the region.

4 days in Florence with a daytrip to Siena. I’ve always wanted to visit Florence, I love small cities where you can walk everywhere and it seems full of culture. I decided to stay in a campsite on the hills which is a ten minute walk from the centre of the city. I’m staying in a ‘tent-dorm’ which will certainly be a new experience. It will be well worth it though when I wake up to views of Florence and the Tuscan countryside! I also can’t wait to see my favorite piece of art in person; Botticelli’s Venus in the Uffizi!

Siena is a small Medieval town in southern Tuscany, I’m fascinated by medieval architecture and I am going to try to take some beautiful photos on my DSLR.

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Apart from the beautiful scenery and culture I can’t wait to eat delicious Italian food, drink Italian wine and try and blend in with the stylish Italians despite packing only carry on luggage!

 

I miss long term travel but for the time being small holidays are satisfying my wanderlust. I’m so lucky that I live in Europe and have so many different countries just a short flight away!

 

Have you ever travelled to Tuscany? If so do you have any travel tips for me?

 

 

Celebrating Songkran in…..England?

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Today I attended Songkran celebrations at a local Buddhist temple. The experience was very different to when I experienced Songkran in crazy Bangkok with fellow travel blogger George on the go!

In Thailand Songkran is a crazy celebration. People of all ages take the streets by storm and cause havoc soaking passers by with super soakers, buckets of water and smear their faces with clay. It’s a very special celebration and it shows how highly the Thais value ‘Sanuk’ in their everyday lives. I had recently read an article online that said that scores of people were injured during the Songkran celebrations and that over 200 people had actually died. It is chaos on the streets during Songkran in Thailand, no one is exempt from a soaking, even people riding scooters! The article I read seemed to be spreading fear and had many other links stating ‘why Australians shouldn’t travel to Thailand’ so the figures may have been exaggerated…

I knew that there was a Buddhist temple in the next town to where I lived but I had never summoned up the courage to go. After seeing an advert in a local newspaer I decided to see what the temple would do for Songkran so I could compare my experience from last year.

I knew that the temple had a number of Thai monks from the original Wat Pra Singh  situated in Chiang Mai; Northern Thailand.

I actually visited the sister temple when I was in Chiang Mai!

As I pulled in to the car park I was atounded to see a car park attendant. I had thought that Songkran would be a fairly small celebration in Runcorn because very few people are Buddhist. I arrived ten minutes early and the car park was heaving, luckily I got the last space.

 

As soon as I exited my car throngs of giggling Thai girls in traditional dress scurried past me. The car park displayed both the Thai and British flags side by side. As I walked in to the temple it was full of Thai men, women and children giving alms to the monks on the stage. It was totally not what I was expecting and was a pleasant surprise. I never knew that so many Thais lived in my local area! I live in a working class Northern town that sees very little immigration.

I removed my shoes, sat down in the altar room and found a space amongst the bustling bodies. I was astonished to see only four other ‘falangs’ in the room and the room was full of Thais! The service was completely in Thai and I was transported back to Asia when I meditated. It felt so familiar and comforting in a weird way.

It’s hard to think that South East Asia was my home for seven whole months last year.

thai children

 

After the chanting we poured out of the temple and ate some very authentic Thai food. Eating that Thai food brought back so many memories of when I lived in Thailand: The time I lived with an ex monk, the time I trekked in the Thai jungle and my first time eating Thai food on a street corner in Bangkok. There were a few stalls selling traditional Thai food and it was nice to see people eating their food communally on the floor, the Thai way! There was also a bouncy castle for the children.

 

Sogkran was more of a family celebration and I felt quite alone strolling through the crowds solo. I occupied myself by taking photographs of the hustle and bustle and admiring the Thai girls all dressed up in traditional dress ready for the ‘Miss Songkran’ beauty contest.

 

 

 

In a nearby social club there were displays of traditional Thai dancing. It was so nice seeing everyone getting their elaborate costumes ready at the side of the stage and the children dancing enthusiastically to the acts. I had to pinch myself once or twice and remind myself that I was in a working mens pub in a Northern town and not Bangkok!

After the dancing there was the Miss Songkran competitions; both Thai and English girls were both encouraged to enter, It would be hard to beat the exotic Thais at their own game though!

thai beauty

 

I’ve been feeling quite down about being back in the UK recently, It’s been five months now since the end of my RTW trip. ‘Normal’ life is very different to nomadic life. This little slice of Thailand made me feel a little less homesick for South East Asia.

It was just what I needed.

Have you ever celebrated Songkran in Thailand or your hometown?

I’m heading to Egypt!

 

If you follow me on my Facebook page you will know that I will be heading to Egypt next week!

I’ve only recently come back from Krakow, a place where I spent a very reflective 6 days drinking Polish beer and vodka and learning about the very dark history of Krakow from Medieval times through to World War two.

Now it’s time to travel to my fourth continent and experience a very different side to travel. For the past three years I have travelled on a serious budget, even sleeping in $1.50 a night dorms in Cambodia and taking 10cent train rides through rural Sri Lanka.

Now it’s time to experience all inclusive travel!

I will be staying in Sharm El Sheikh which is located on the tip of the Sinai peninsular lining the beautiful Red sea. I’m excited to spend two weeks basking in the warm sun and using the PADI I gained in Thailand by scuba diving in the Red sea. I want to see Nemo or maybe even a (friendly!) shark.

Recreate my ‘endless summer’ of 2013!

I’m also excited to have my towels transformed in to beautiful statues on my bed each day, sad I know.

Although Sharm may not be classed as ‘real Egypt’ because it doesn’t have magnificent cultural icons like Cairo, I’m looking forward to just soaking up the atmosphere in the souks and observing daily life in Egypt!

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Have you every travelled to Egypt or Sharm El Sheikh? If so what did you think of it? Have you ever travelled on an all inclusive holiday?

New Travel plans: I’m heading to Krakow in Poland!

On Wednesday I celebrated my two month anniversary. It’s been two months since I got back from my amazing 10 month trip to the other side of the world and back.

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The beautiful Old Town square in Krakow

Although I’ve enjoyed being back home It’s been hard adjusting to ‘normal’ life again. A life where I can accurately plan what I will be doing for the next few weeks if I want.

Did I mention that I hate repetition and knowing what I will be doing each day?

I decided that two months at home was enough for me and that I was ready for a new adventure. I’ve always been interested in the history and culture of Poland and I’ve always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I visited Dachau in Munich in 2012 and it touched me more than I can ever imagine. I learn’t a lot about world war two and humanity despite having more questions than answers when I walked out of the gates.

So I decided to combine my love of history, culture and beer and visit Krakow!

Krakow will be my first foray into Eastern Europe, a place that seems very mysterious and intriguing to me. In the past I have only visited Western Europe and I can’t wait to see how different it is.

I’ve even started to learn basic Polish, It’s a lot harder than any other language that I’ve attempted to learn but I’m trying my best!

I’m back on the road, if only for 5 nights….

 

Have you ever travelled to Krakow or Poland? Do you have any tips for me?

 

First impressions of Singapore

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When I arrived in Singapore I was a little bit burnt out from travelling around Sri Lanka. Although I loved the country it was not an easy country to travel in as a newbie traveller and I was frequently overwhelmed by the sighs, sounds and different cultural practices.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I arrived in the vast Singapore Chiangi airport. I window shopped at all of the Western luxuries that I had been without for weeks and my mouth watered when I saw a Subway. Sri Lankan food is delicious but it does get a bit repetitive. It’s very hard to find bread and mayonnaise that is not sweet out there too! I had actually dream’t about a tuna and cheese sub when I was on my bus to the airport in Sri Lanka.

My backpack was now 19kg so I treated myself to a taxi to the hostel to save my legs and my dignity. It was strange not having to barter for ten minutes before agreeing on a price. The hostel was cosy but absolutely tiny! Luckily it was very well laid out and every square foot was useful and functional. I would soon learn that most Singaporeans live in small government owned flats. It’s a very densely populated city state!

 

I wandered around the sprawling city after recharging with a nap. I absolutely love architecture and Singapore’s skyline was nearly as impressive as Dubai’s! Despite the city landscape there were areas of grass and trees too.

 

 

 

Singapore is modern, clean and English speaking. It was a welcome rest-bite from ‘real Asia’ and I spent a week relaxing and eating delicious local and international food. I love fashion and I loved the Singaporeans quirky fashion sense. I spent hour looking at kooky Asian cosmetics and beauty products, I couldn’t believe that they had strips to make their eyes a more Western shape and every face product was whitening.

I guess everywhere in the world people want what they don’t have.

The rumours are right, Singapore is spotlessly clean and there are signs everywhere telling you not to chew chewing gum, jaywalk or even bring smelly Durian fruit on the metro!  Other bloggers have described it as being too perfect but I thought that it still had lots of character and history.

In Singapore I was anonymous. It’s very overpopulated so people barely acknowledge your existence as they push past you in the busy streets or busy metro system. Surprisingly I had mixed feelings about this. I sometimes got annoyed at how much I stood out in Sri Lanka, how people would chase me down the street trying to sell me things or talk to me. Here everyone just went about their daily business, barely glancing up from their smart phones.

I missed the attention.

I ended my first day in a hawker centre near Bugis street. Eating the delicious and very cheap food (just $3 for prawns and noodles!) I felt excited to further explore the city. Singapore has world class museums, art galleries, monuments, nightlife and undoubtedly the tastiest and cheapest food in the world. I felt completely safe.

Despite all this I felt like I wasn’t in Asia anymore….

 

Have you visited Singapore? If so did you think that it was too perfect or an example of how a well run city should be?

You can keep up to date with my adventures by following my Facebook page. I update it daily and it’s an easy way to contact me.

https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports

 

 

 

Three months of Travel: Summary and review

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My third month of travel has been filled with many ups and downs. The major downer on the month was when I contracted Dengue fever in Koh Chang. It was the hardest time so far in my travelling and I was so ill that I was going to go home ASAP! Something made me want to stay though and continue travelling.

That was the best decision that I could have made!

Luckily I recovered well even though I was quite weak for a few weeks and had to retire to my room for an afternoon nap each day when I started to feel dizzy.

From Koh Chang I travelled to the North of Thailand to the amazing city of Chiang Mai. I made the most of the vast array of international food available and I stuffed my face with Tacos, Sunday Roasts, burritos and cheese and Branston pickle sandwiches……. With the odd bowl of Kao Soi thrown in for good measure!

 

I stayed in Chiang Mai for over a week, relaxing, walking and exploring the many beautiful Wats and Temples. After a week I felt bored of relaxing and decided to go on a three day jungle trek which was one of the best experiences of my trip so far!

For three days we trekked up and down the Thai countrysides various hills with our crazy guide Ping Pong who was hilarious. For some reason we started trekking just as the midday sun started to blaze down upon us. Thai logic!

I also got to experience riding an Elephant (again), white water rafting and bamboo rafting down the river.

It’s surreal that in the past three months I’ve ridden Elephants and Camels but not Horses! I really miss horse riding actually!

 

Feeling brave after all of my adventurous activities in the Jungle’ i decided to volunteer at Happy Healing home which is located in the Mountains not far from Samoeng with the intention of learning about meditation from an ex monk.

Unfortunately the Happy Healing home was not so happy for me due to a variety of reasons that I will be writing about in a future blog post. I also learned very little about meditation.

Even so it was a unique opportunity to live with a Lanna family and learn how an organic farm works. I have honestly never been so dirty in my life! Covered in sweat and mud each day and I didn’t look in a mirror or wear a scrap of makeup the whole time I was there!

 

After two days of recovering from my farm experience in Chiang Mai I am now in the charming hippie town of Pai a little further North. My Thai Visa runs out soon so I will be moving on to a completely new country; Laos!

 

Total countries visited= 1, I’ve been in Thailand for the whole month!

Tropical diseases contracted= 1, Dengue fever in Koh Chang. Damn you stupid mosquitos!

Boxes sent home= 1, full of souvenirs from Chiang Mai.

Modes of transport= Overnight train, bus and ferry. The ride to Pai was a particularly crazy bus ride, the road has hundreds of sharp corners!

Hospital visits= 3, The hospital in Koh Chang was very posh and safe but also very expensive! What kind of hospital has fountains outside?!

Lessons I have Learned= That I am now officially a hippie and it’s something that I have to embrace. I now describe places as having ‘negative energy’ and ‘bad vibes’ and I even visited a Taoist healer for an abdominal Chi massage. I have also hardly worn makeup in the past month and basically lived in my hippie pants!

Axes used= 1, at the ‘Happy’ healing home I cut logs with an axe and asaw. How bad ass is that!

Monks chatted with= 3

Hill tribes visited= 2, Lisu hill tribe and the Meo hill tribe.

 

Can you believe that I have been in Thailand the whole month? Would you have done the same as me and continued travelling after contravting Dengue fever or would you have booked the first flight home?

As always I love hearing your thoughts and comments!

Ask Stephanie Anything! Part 1

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A lot of people ask me various questions about my travels on Facebook and Twitter so I thought that answering the questions publicly would be a good way to help other people. After all if one person is thinking it surely someone else is!

So here it goes! You can ask me any question you like my contacting me on my Facebook or Twitter pages 🙂

How have you dealt with uncomfortable situations with people you don’t quite get a good feeling from?

I’m very lucky because I have only not felt safe twice during my travels. The first time was in Colombo in my last night in Sri Lanka. I arrived late after hours on the bus and I was going to go Negombo on the bus so that I was near to the airport the next day. As soon as I got off the bus I got a really bad feeling. I was surrounded by men so decided to get straight in a tuk tuk and head for a luxury hostel that had been recommended to me by a fellow traveller. Unsurprisingly the tuk tuk driver ‘couldn’t find’ the hostel so tried to take me somewhere else instead. I stayed in the tuk tuk and told him that I wasn’t going to get out until I was at the hostel. Luckily enough he was suddenly able to find it….

The second time I didn’t feel safe was in Kuala Lumpor. I hated that city. I was out on my own taking photos of a church when a man approached me and started talking to me. I was in quite an isolated area so I just said ‘no thanks’ or something and started walking off. I turned around after a block or so to find that he was still following me! I walked faster and then walked in to the reception of a random hotel to try and stop him from following me. Luckily this did the trick. I just didn’t feel safe in KL, it’s a dirty and chaotic city and it has scores of people sleeping rough in the street. More that I have ever seen in my travels!

So overall I’ve been very lucky. If I meet someone who seems ‘dodgy’ I just use common sense and try to get away, with a smile. You soon become aware of who is trying to trick you out of money and who is genuine when you travel.

 

 

Did you feel safe staying in your ‘rustic’ bungalow in Koh Chang?

At first I didn’t, the door didn’t close properly and a small child could easily break in. I then realised that I am in Koh Chang and I should trust people. All around me were fellow travellers staying in the other huts so it would be hard for someone to actually break in. After that I did feel quite safe and really enjoyed staying in the huts, until I got dengue fever…

Whats it like travelling on your own?

I liken travelling on my own to being on a rollercoaster, sometimes I have loads of friends and sometimes I’m completely alone and it seems like everyone else is travelling in a couple…. Luckily i’m the type of person who enjoys my own company immensely. I love exploring new places alone because there’s no one else saying ‘oh we should go there’ or ‘oh I don’t want to eat that’. It’s complete freedom.

I have also found that travelling alone has made me a lot more confident. I can now walk up to people and start a conversation and I feel a lot less shy. There’s lots of solo travellers too which can make it easier!

The only time that I wished that I was travelling with someone was when I had dengue fever. Other than that I feel a sense of accomplishment doing everything by myself! I rarely feel homesick now.

Surprisingly I still meet a lot of travellers who are surprised that I’m travelling alone. Many say that it’s not safe for a women to travel alone which is quite a sexist view. Overall I feel safer on my travels than I did in England, that sure says a lot!

 

How do you decide that it’s time to move on?

Usually I move on when I am bored or when I meet other people to travel with.  I spend over a week in Singapore which was far too long in hindsight but I really needed that taste of Western civilisation after Sri Lanka. I was enjoying eating Western food again after a month of rice and curry! Little did I know that Malaysia was also extremely modern!

I stayed in Koh Chang for so long because I made some amazing friends. Good friends are worth staying for!

Please let me know via email, Facebook or twitter is you have any more questions for me! I update my Facebook page daily and it’s the best place to follow my travels!

Enjoying Arabian hospitality on a Desert Safari

 Desert safari, Dubai

Whenever I mentioned that I was going to Dubai to people who have been before, they all said that there was one experience that I should not miss out on-

The Desert safari!

To be honest I was a little confused at first. I always thought that the desert was a barren place with limited wildlife, what animals would I be able to see on a desert safari apart from the odd camel?

Then after a little research I realised, it’s more of an Arabian experience than a desert safari!

The safari bit of the experience is what is known as ‘Dune bashing’, riding a 4 by 4 through the desert near to Dubai. Going as fast as possible over the sand dunes and spinning and hand break turns that envelope the car in a cloud of sand. This part of the safari did not disappoint. The driver was a local Emirati man and luckily we led the procession of cars through the desert. I would liken it to a roller coaster experience but in a car. Luckily the car had an internal cage, just in case…..

 

After the adrenaline rush of Dune bashing we made our way to a ‘Bedouin camp’ in the middle of the Dubai desert. Tables with cushions on the floor surrounded a centre stage. I quickly made friend with another solo traveller from Egypt and we then set out to explore the many things to do at the camp before dinner!

Henna and Shisha

 

Our first stop was the tent that was offering hand henna. I have never had henna on my hands before so was dying to have a design drawn on my hand. I was very pleased with the result! After an hour the henna starts to fall off leaving a brown/red colour stain that darkens the next day. It looked beautiful! Little did I know that this was the start of a henna addiction….

 

We then made our way to the Shisha tent. As you know I love Shisha (Even though I don’t smoke!). We shared a mint shisha and somehow became the main attraction of the camp! A massive group of Chinese tourists took a shine to us and proceeded to photograph us secretly as we smoked the Shisha. Some braver members of the group actually sat in between us and smoked our shisha so their friends could take photos of us. It was weird that they wanted to take photos of two ‘Western’ girls when there were women in traditional Arabic dress all over the camp!

Riding a camel

 

Next up was what I was looking forward to most…..Riding a camel! Believe it or not Chinese and Japanese tourists proceeded to take photos of us the whole time that we were on the camel! I just smiled and acted like people took photos of me all of the time!

I didn’t realise that it’s so high on top of a camel. I’m used to riding tall horses but the camel was taller than any horse than I have ever ridden! Suprisingly it was a smooth ride although I think that was because the camels were so well trained. Luckily the camel did not spit at me too.

 

 

Before Dinner I had the opportunity to hold an Eagle and got some pretty impressive photos! Falconry is the sport of Arabian kings, do you think I could be an Arabian queen?

 

 

We were then treated to a magician show before dinner. My Egyptian friend even bought me my first coconut to drink! Once again I didn’t realise that this would lead to an addiction to coconuts…..

Arabic clothing

We had the opportunity to try on traditional Arabic clothes. The ladies outfit was an abaya and a burka. I had really wanted to try on the abaya and burka to see if it was an oppressive garment. When I first looked in the mirror after trying on the outfit It just didn’t look like me. It’s the opposite to clothes that I usually wear; I prefer figure hugging clothes not shapeless sacks. I also like looking individual. It’s impossible to look individual in an abaya; i guess that’s the whole point of it.

 

 

 

I was surprised to say that it felt quite nice and comfortable to wear. I felt quite mysterious too which I kind of liked.The sleeves had a beaded design and I was told that abayas very often have small details that make them different. They are not all just plain black sacks.

I can see how it’s a practical design in the desert but the fact that it’s black makes it oppressive, it must absorb heat. Trying it on was certainly an experience and made me look at abayas and burkas in a different light.

At the camp there were quite a few women wearing abayas and burkas. They acted just like normal twenty something women. Complimented me on my nails and henna and we laughed and joked about things. I did notice that the younger ladies had very detailed eye make up and individual eyebrows. I guess that is the only originality that they can show to the outside world. Which is kind of sad.

Arabian buffet

Dinner was an Arabian buffet consisting of rice, salad, curry and a BBQ. Surprisingly women had to used a different buffet than the men. This just added to the exotic atmosphere, I was in the Middle East after all!

 

The entertainment was world class. Belly dancing and a whirling dirvish stole the show! When the entertainment ended I didn’t want to leave the camp!

 

 

Overall I would highly recommend the desert safari. Dubai is a very modern city and you can sometimes forget that you are in the Middle East. Even though it’s clearly geared towards tourists it’s such an enjoyable thing to do and it gives you a glimpse of what nomadic life must have been like in Arabia! It only cost 160 Dirhams too!

I felt like I was in Aladdin!

What do you think about the Arabian desert safari? Do you think traditional Arabic dress is practical, cultural or oppressive?