Sorry again for being a bit delinquent about blogging!!!
We said goodbye to India on 20March. Our final time in Goa was absolutely incredible. The beach shacks we stayed in were certainly not deluxe but the location could not have been better and the staff of young guys working there were just fantastic, We had meant to only stay 4 days and ended up staying 9…that is how good it was! We spent most of our time bumming out with Paul, an American living in New Zealand that we clicked with. Long days of swimming and sunning and great dinners in town or on the beach at night. It was all good!
The beach at Palolem was very similiar in looks to a mini Puerto Vallarta, sort of a curving bay. However, instead of high rise hotels it was beach shacks and small eateries. They had a couple really fantastic restaurants- namely Magic Italy and Cheeky Chapatti where we spent most of our evenings. Weather was near perfect and the surf was my type, very little wave and warm but refreshing water temps. The guys at our hotel were 19-25 years old and all came from Calcutta. The Palolem beaches are interesting in that the shacks are put up every October and taken down every June so are disassembled during monsoon season.
We had originally booked a hotel of huts listed as the pick in Lonely Planet. However, upon arrival we found they were not on the beach! Can’t have that… so, we headed out in search of alternate accomodations. The first place we stopped was Cafe del Sol and they happened to not only have a room available but we got the ONE shack that was oceanfront with a veranda directly on the beach! Fantastic (especially at $28/night!) The room had a fan and mosquito net and very little else, bathroom had a toilet and shower with actual hot water which was nice, although we kept it on cool quite a lot. The beach was about perfect, not too big but large enough to have a variety of internet, shopping and restaurant options. It all added up to heaven for a week.
Then, unfortunately, we had to overnight in Mumbai prior to heading to Egypt. The hotel was ok and for 1 night no problem. However, after a dispute the next morning with the front desk about our charge, driving through slums to get to the airport, dealing with a dirty airport with no shops or restaurants open, and having some Indian men continually attempting to push ahead of us going through security I tell you… I was glad to be leaving. It’s amazing what a different experience you can have in one country from one day to the next!
Our flight to Oman on Oman Airways was uneventful and THAT is a very nice airport. Then a 4hr trip into Cairo. Upon arrival we were met by a Grand European rep. and taken to our hotel. Talk about luxury…the Semiramis Intercontinental is on the bank of the Nile and is truly 5star. Everything about it is gorgeous and the breakfast buffet is the best we have ever had anywhere. Of course, on our budget, this means we could barely afford to even get a drink there! But, we made do.
Egypt is a huge change from India. Cairo, which is considered quite polluted, was so amazingly clean to us after just leaving Mumbai, and the traffic actually usually even drives in the lanes! Something we haven’t seen in a very long time. The never ending brown and grey of the desert landscape is about as far removed from our tropical beach hut in Goa as you can possibly get. However, it’s nice to be in yet another new country. We love Egyptian/ middle eastern food so have been going a bit nuts in that department.
There is security everywhere in this country which is both comforting and disturbing. It’s a bit disturbing that they need so much security (we even have to go through a search and metal detectors at the hotel each time we enter) but also comforting that they recognize the need and are prepared and aware of what is going on.
The first full day with the tour we started out going to the Mohamed Ali mosque and the citadel, both of which were interesting. The mosque was very nice, designed after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and had some decent views of the city which we could see a bit through the smog. Then on to the Egyptian museum. What a fascinating place, it’s too bad it’s so oddly organized and things are not labeled well but the antiquities are great and certainly a taste of things to come. We paid an additional amount to go into the mummy room and saw 11 of the great leaders of Egypt. It’s interesting how intact and lifelike they still are. That evening we had dinner at a local families home and on the way got our first glimpse of the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx at sunset…wow!
Then, on Saturday which was Jim’s birthday, we had a 2:45am wake up call!!! What an ungodly hour! But, we wanted to get down to Luxor and through the airports before the heat got to be too much. A short 1hr flight to Luxor was uneventful and we boarded our cruise ship on the Nile, the MS Miriam. It’s very nice and unlike many river boats we’ve been on ,this room actually looks like a hotel room and is very comfortable. Sameh, our guide for this trip is an engagin young guy and has been really informative so far. He had studied anthropology prior to becoming a guide and knows way more than we ever needed to know about ancient Egypt!
Our first stop was the HUGE temple complex at Karnak and we got our first true taste of the Pharoahs. It is difficult to put into words how amazing it is to walk through these enormous temples with 4000 yr old reliefs and carvings (and even sometimes the color) still visible and imagine what life was like in that time. We had a couple of hours there and then back to the boat for lunch. The restaurant on the boat has been great. We had hoped to have a bit more “egyptian” food rather than the continental cuisine they mainly offer but everything has been very good and there is tons of it.
The afternoon we headed by horsedrawn carriage to Luxor Temple. We headed out around 5:30pm so it wasn’t too hot and were able to see the sun go down over the temple and the Nile. A great end to the day. At dinner that night they brought Jim a birthday cake and all sang happy birthday to him which may have embarrassed him a bit but was fun.
Since then we have seen the Temple of Horus at Edfu, the Colosses of Memnon, and the amazing Valley of the Kings. At the Valley of the Kings our pass allowed us to go into 3 of the tombs. Some were almost too hot and stuffy to breath in and we really give credit to the teams who excavate these sites! Being that far underground or in the mountain and dealing with those sites must be slow work. But, being the tourists who get to take advantage of their hard work is great!
We headed down to Kom Obo but due to traffic at the locks were a bit delayed and didn’t see the temple on the way down, we’ll catch it tomorrow on the way back to Luxor. At Aswan we saw the dam, which, of course, completely changed the way the flooding happens on the Nile, the Isis Temple at Philae and went to a perfume factory. It’s all so old and so overwhelming that it’s hard to take it all in!
Today, up at 3:30am again to fly to Abu Simbel, one of the highlights of the trip. Not only is the site, built by Ramses II amazingly well preserved, but possibly more impressive, it was moved to a higher site in the 60′s to avoid being flooded by the Nile. The pictures of how they cut apart, moved, and restored the temples back in their new home is truly an engineering marvel.
Now time for yet another great dinner so must go. Once we’re back in Cairo I’ll give some final thoughts on the fascinating country of India and catch you up on our time here in Egypt. What an amazing opportunity we’ve been taking advantage of!
Cheers for now, Love to you all, Jim & Rhonda