Israel stole my laptop!

I am currently in Zurich, Switzerland and really like it here, except for the fact that my laptop was stolen by the government of Israel… more on Zurich soon, but here’s the scoop on yet another run-in with government idiots.

I was going to write about how great Tel Aviv is… I had a really good time there, right up until I was about to leave the country.

I was going to write about how I saw very little, if any security forces at all in Tel Aviv and how nice and peaceful it is there…

But upon arriving at the airport to depart Israel at the end of my trip I was immediately taken aside and grilled with a plethora of ridiculous questions. They took particular note of the fact that I had been in Dubai recently. They asked me what I did in Tel Aviv… I told them that I just went out to some clubs and hung out at the beach, mostly. They told me that Tel Aviv isn’t known for its nightlife and asked why I didn’t visit Jerusalem. I told them I couldn’t care less about Jerusalem.

This went on for 15 minutes or so and about 5 security guys were all involved in the onslaught.

Finally they said they were going to take me into the back for questioning.

We went to the large back room… I was apparently the only one being questioned in there at the time. They took me behind a screen and removed most of my clothing and searched me.

Then about 10 guys and girls meticulously went through my bag, spending like a minute or two looking at each item and asking me stupid questions like, “what is this?”… I’d reply, “it’s a computer mouse”, then they’d say, “is it yours? when was the last time you used it`?”… this went on for nearly everything in my bag… they took most of my electronics and were running it through a number of machines behind a wall.

Then it got interesting… all of a sudden, sirens started wailing and lights started flashing and everyone went into a sprint out of the room… 1 person grabbed me by the arm and we were running out of the room… everyone looked very concerned. I just looked at them all looking so stupid and laughed and said, “uh is there a problem?”… but no one would look at me or talk to me.

Then they brought a pretty big guy over to watch over me. He started staring me down and cracking his knuckles… I gave him a look of “are you kidding me?”… I could tell just from his posture that he was a trained fighter and given that I was wearing sandles and fairly tight jeans, he probably could have easily taken me out if he wanted to, although I’d definitely give him a fight.

He didn’t end up doing anything though and we just stood there for about 15 minutes as security people kept rushing in and out of the room.

Finally after all that, someone appeared to give the all clear and everyone started making their way back into the room.

No one would tell me what all the fuss about, but my best guess is that something in my stuff came up in their machine as having explosive residue. I think this because about 3 years ago, in the US, when they swabbed down my laptop and put it through their machine it came up as having explosive residue on it. It is more than likely a machine malfunction or misreading as I haven’t been around any explosives as far as I know…

Then after about another 30 minutes of continuing to check and re-check every single thing in my bag they informed me they were going to keep my laptop and a number of other things like my cell phone charger for extra testing at another facility and once that was done they would ship my laptop to the airport in Zurich.

I was massively irritated by this. Everyone who knows me knows that the only material item I care about at all is my laptop, which I always need to have with me.

I said to them, “you do realize I am LEAVING Israel right? I’m not coming INTO Israel… if you were concerned about something I have, you should check it BEFORE I come into your country, no? If anything, if you think I am carrying something dangerous, you should be happy I am leaving with it, no??”

That just got a blank stare. Then I moved on to, “you guys have never seen a computer before, is that it? Its a L-A-P-T-O-P computer”

Now they started to look more angry… again, while I would have loved to verbally and physically beat down these bastards, I knew it would only end up with more problems, so I just bit my tongue.

They gave me some forms and told me that when I got to the airport in Zurich that there is a lost and found place there that i can register this info with and they will inform me when my laptop arrives.

The people in Zurich were very good about it and told me that this is a fairly common thing for flights from Israel and they laughed at the stupidity of it as well.

That was 2 days ago and still no sign of my laptop.

I am leaving Zurich tomorrow, so if it doesn’t arrive by then, it’ll basically be gone for good.

Tel Aviv was an amazing city full of a lot of really cool people and tons of beautiful girls… it is based right on the beach and the beach is really nice, with all sorts of bars and restaurants on the beach. The nightlife is very dynamic and a lot of fun too.

I place Tel Aviv now into my top 10 best cities in the world… and I would have wrote even more glowingly about the place and would have definitely wanted to return very soon, if not for my airport experience.

But the government of Israel has declared war upon me and so therefore I am now at war with it.

The really stupid part about all these security things in places like the US and Israel is that, if these countries didn’t do things to other people to make these people hate them, then they wouldn’t have to have security to “protect” them from those people.

As usual, another very enjoyable time was ruined by a governmental experience.

I’ll update soon, hopefully from my own laptop on beautiful Zurich and on my trip south to Italy tomorrow to go cruising in the med.

Shalom.

The Gulf

I am currently in Tel Aviv and having a great time and will have a report here tomorrow, but in the meantime, I recently wrote an email to a friend about Dubai and the gulf and thought some of you may find it amusing, so am posting it here:

I was in Kathmandu, Nepal and had decided one morning that I did not want to be in Nepal any longer, so I headed to the airport. It was almost impossible to get a flight out… something I found odd and wondered why. After almost giving up, someone walked up and said, “Where you going?�. I said, “Anywhere, I just want to leave Nepal.�. He said, “You want to go to Sharjah?�

I said sure and paid him $300 cash and he hand wrote out a ticket, something that would seem very shady anywhere else, except for in Nepal!

As he was walking away I asked, “By the way, where’s Sharjah?�

He told me it is near Dubai, which was in the direction I wanted to head so I thanked him and headed off.

I flew on Air Arabia, a new low cost flyer based out of Sharjah, which I later found out, is practically part of Dubai, a short drive away (although it could be hours depending on the brutal Dubai area traffic).

The airline was very nice, had a brand new plane and everything felt great but I noticed something different about the vibe as I got on the plane.

Everyone else on the flight were men, all about 5 feet tall on average, wide-eyed and almost cattle like as a few “handlers� appeared to be herding them onto the plane.

While they all were in their 20’s and 30’s, the mood was that of an elementary school field trip as the frazzled flight attendants ran from seat to seat, telling them how to use the seat belts, to stop playing with the onboard equipment and various other instructions amongst the group who were half wide-eyed with wonder and half with looks of base fear.

As I looked at the paperwork in the hands of the man beside me I began to realize why this flight felt so unusual. He had a hand written letter in his hand stating, and I repeat word for word, “Dear to Whom It May Ever Concern, Please take notice that XXXXXX of Nepal is a contract employee to Makarrech Services Inc…�

Those that have been to places in the Gulf, like Dubai, know that there is not one person who is Arab and born in the Emirates who holds any sort of labor or basic job position. Every taxi in Dubai is driven by a Pakistani or Indian. Every retail store is attended to by a Filipina.

And every construction and basic labor and services job is done by Bangladeshis, Indians or, as I just found out, Nepalis.

The Emirates, and most of the Gulf states, have created a massive industry just surrounding their search, which appears to go deep into the villages in the Himalayas, looking for basic labor.

The flight was a lot of fun. As we took off, a process that has become all too mundane for many of us nowadays, I couldn’t help but notice all the clutching of armrests, gasps and prayer. As I later entered the bathroom, which was unlocked, although there was a Nepalese man inside peeing, I was welcomed to a completely full-of-urine toilet bowl. An apparent lack of understanding of the flushing process, no doubt.

As I flushed I could only laugh at the constant, and unrelenting pulling and pushing on the door by a passenger outside, obviously unable to grasp of the possibility that there may already be someone inside.

Upon landing, most of the passengers were again herded into various areas in the airport after which I would likely never see them again.

As I drove past various construction sites, operating at all hours of the day and night, in the 45c heat, throughout the week I couldn’t help but wonder how these men, from undoubtedly cold climates in the Himalayas, were faring.

BLACK ROBES

As per the comment, “The bazaar is populated by only a few women wearing the most severe of black robes, the sort that only leave eye slits.�

There actually is an even more severe black robe than the eye slit model. It is one I saw most often in the city of Doha in Qatar.

I was at the mall and saw many women with head to toe black robes with NO eye slit! Upon closer inspection, the material around the areas where their eyes would be is of lighter black material than the rest of the ensemble, something to which they must be very thankful for to Allah and to their husband for giving them.

If you spend enough time in areas where all the women wear these robes with just the eye slit, it is quite amazing how quickly you become attuned to becoming attracted to a woman based solely on the rough, general shape of her body and the look of only her eyes. This, no doubt, also became apparent to some of the men in the group, who quickly took care of that heinous transgression with the new style, no eye slit models.

Now that you cannot even see their eyes it becomes almost impossible to feel attracted to any but the most voluptuous of females. However, I wonder how long before it reaches its next logical step, in the form of dressing them in abstract shaped robes, such as a circular or triangle cut, or perhaps an unsexy rhombus, just to ensure that you absolutely, unquestionably cannot even discern anything about what they may look like.

One thing is certain, the last place you would want to engage in a high stakes poker game would be in the Gulf. Those non-eye slit women would be near impossible to catch on a bluff!

I spent 20 minutes at the food court of the mall awaiting like a bird watcher waiting for a rare species to come into distance, wondering how these women ate food with these contraptions.

It may have just been happenstance, but during my short attention span I never saw any of the women eat. The men they were with ate but their robed partners just seemed to sit there.

A woman beside me made a motion to half remove her head scarf numerous times, which got my heart palpitating with excitement, only to nervously put it back down.

I am not sure if my eager on looking was the reason for her shyness or if there was another reason for her to not disrobe and eat.

Later that day, as I walked along, I hoped I wasn’t the reason for her not at least getting the basic enjoyment of some mall food.

Crossing Jordan

I arrived in Amman, Jordan, officially named the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a few days ago from Qatar.

Jordan is very centrally placed amongst a number of nations that are hotbeds of issues, including Iraq to its East, Syria to its North, the West Bank and Israel to its West and Saudi Arabia to its South, with Lebanon nearby as well.

Upon arriving here I had a few friends send me messages questioning why I would go to Jordan, assuming it is a dangerous place to be. But that is simply not the case.

Given its location, I could see why people feel that way. At the airport, one of the destination options on the taxi sheet is the Iraq border and there are numerous signs leading from the airport stating, “turn left, Iraqi Border�.

But just because Saddam Hussein created a massive disaster in Iraq, and the American government decided to immerse itself into it and make it even worse, does not mean that Jordan has to be involved.

Actually, the story of Iraq and Jordan is one of two Husseins. Two very different Husseins!

Saddam was a horrible dictator who retained power through fear and terror. In Jordan, however, King Hussein helped guide his country to becoming an oasis of peace, stability and moderation in the middle East throughout much of the latter half of the 20th century.

It is truly amazing what a difference one person can make, especially when they have access to a great amount of power (power means money and guns).

I only spent a few days in Amman, but can report that it was a very beautiful city full of very nice, friendly, intelligent people.

Jordan doesn’t have the oil wealth of the rest of the gulf to its South but the city has a vibrance and life to it that you just can’t get in places like Dubai and Qatar, where the only time you ever see any locals is as they whisk by in their Indian chauffer driven Mercedes and Lexus’.

The history and culture of Jordan is as deep as anywhere in the world and the city of Amman reflects that, with a very ancient feel to it, combined with a nice amount of modernity.

I really only went out one night in Jordan, as I was only there on a Monday and Tuesday night, which were, as expected, very quiet.

I stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Amman and it was excellent. Nearby are many other luxury hotels, including Le Royale.

I heard there was a good lounge at Le Royale called Cube, but it was closed on a Monday night. The nightclub at the Hyatt, called JJ’s, was also very quiet, which left me to consider just packing it in.

However, as I was walking back to my hotel a taxi driver lured me in with, “girls? Lebanese, Syrian girls!�. Wanting to at least experience something in Amman, I hopped in his cab and he took me to some shady looking place.

As I walked in, it was apparent I was the only one there… the place was as gawdy as could be, with really crappy looking cafeteria style table and chairs. On stage was a live Arabic band (who actually weren’t that bad). Also on stage, flanking the band, were two sets of 6 girls, just standing there on each side of the band, almost like they were at attention in a military parade, except smoking and somewhat just milling about.

Feeling very awkward I sat down and ordered a drink. They brought over 4 plates for me: apples, carrots, cucumbers and oranges. Mmmm mmmm, cucumbers!

After a while one girl came and approached me. She told me not many girls there speak English because every single one of them was from Morocco.

I said ok… I ordered another drink… the band kept playing, the girls kept standing there. Finally I ordered one more drink, but thought I better ask how much they are first because places like this can sometimes be huge rip-offs. The waiter didn’t know. The bartender didn’t know. I just looked at them like, “you don’t know how much the drinks you serve cost?�. They all looked flustered and called the owner over. He informed me the drinks were nearly $30 each! I informed him that I would soon be leaving then.

Before I left I kinda talked to one of the girls who was one of the cuter ones there. She didn’t speak much English though (note: everyone in Jordan seems to speak very good English). I asked her if she wanted to come with me and go somewhere else. Her English speaking friend told me she cannot do that.

I just looked confused. What is the deal with these girls?

The girl told me I should get her # and call her tomorrow. I did… then she said, “don’t you want to tip her for giving you her #?�… I was just plain confused and said, “Why?�… they looked confused as well.

So, I guess, that place specializes in expensive drinks and has a bunch of girls who you can give some money to if they give you their phone #?

Anyway, I left after that and called it a night!

I hear that on the weekends, Amman nightlife is pretty good… but don’t bother going out on Monday nights!

I am currently at the Amman airport waiting to get on a flight to Tel Aviv for a few days. It will be very interesting to visit that place.

As for Jordan, it is very nice here… I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again and recommend it for anyone in the area… but if you want to go out to any clubs in the evenings, just wait until the weekend! (btw, weekend nights in the middle east are Thursday and Friday evenings as they generally work on Sunday)

QQQatar

I spent a few days in Dubai… not much has changed there, still construction like crazy, still unbelievably terrible traffic, still expensive. With all the things going on there, and the huge amount of people from all over the world that seems to have descended on Dubai, it is definitely a must-see kind of a place… but after spending a few days there again it reminded me of some of the things I really dislike about Dubai, not least of which is how you have to take long car rides to get almost anywhere as the place is so spread out… plus the traffic is so bad, at any time of day or night… not to mention you can sometimes spend an hour just trying to get a taxi. So, for those reasons I will likely not spend a great amount of time again in Dubai in the near future… but why would I, when I could spend time in Qatar, which is fantastic!

I arrived in Doha, Qatar (pronounced similar to Cutter) a few days ago. Doha has a much smaller feel to it than Dubai does, but it still has all the things you would expect in a larger city, giving it a nice feel. The city sprawls around a huge bay which is really impressive looking in the day or night.

The city is very easy to get around in and has a nice, relaxed feel about it.

As with everywhere in this oil-rich region, there is obviously a lot of money here… every car is expensive and new… and things are quiite expensive (though not as much as Dubai).

I am currently staying at the Marriott here and it is great… it has numerous restaurants in the building which all look good and are always busy with lots of people dining and drinking throughout the evening… the gym is good, and also full of people… same with the pool which is out by the beach. As well, there is an exclusive VIP member only nightclub in the building called Pearl which you can’t get into unless you are a member or stay at the hotel. I’ve gone twice and both times were packed and pretty good. Other really busy and good clubs in Doha are the Aussie Bar at Rydges and Paloma at the Intercontinental Hotel. They are all pretty good.

EXCEPT…

Did you know that Qatar has the highest discrepancy between males and females in the world? There are nearly 2 men for every 1 women here, and it definitely shows with the nightlife. Most of those bars almost feel like gay bars as it is immediately obvious that out of 80 people in the club, 70 of them are guys!

That, combined with ludicruously expensive drinks ($30 for a double vodka redbull????!!!) makes me have to give Doha good marks for attempt but failing grade for single guys out to meet some nice girls.

In fact, most places don’t even let guys in unless they are accompanied by girls… which leaves the bizarre site of seeing dozens of guys all ‘hanging around’ outside of bars trying to find some way to get in, followed by going inside to the bar where it is dozens of guys all standing around, most looking quite tense, all ogling the few girls in the place!

Oddly, even given the lack of females, most places had a pretty good vibe and everyone seemed to be having a good time… if it had more women here, I’d rate Qatar very high for nightlife…

I am not sure of the reason why Dubai is so hot, but Doha seems much cooler, which is nice. It was regularly in the 40-50c range in Dubai, with it not cooling off much at night… but in Doha the days and evenings are bearable… in fact, the evening is very nice, with a nice breeze.

In general, if you are in the area, Doha is a definite must-visit… I’d go see Dubai, just to see it, but then I’d go to Doha…

I extended my stay here 2 more days because I like it so much (that, and the internet here in the hotel is SO BLAZING fast that having that alone pretty much made me decide to stay here longer!) and now should be in Jordan on Monday and then likely on to Israel for a few days…

I have revised my trip schedule, but as you have realized by now, there is almost no point to having this list as it almost surely will change dramatically… but I like to kind of have a general layout sometimes.

So, here is the latest list… I’m not sure, but this list seems quite a bit crazier than before… not sure how or why:

May 17-21 Doha, Qatar
May21-24 Amman, Jordan
May24-26 Tel Aviv, Israel
May26-27 Zurich, Switzerland
May27-Jun5 Italy – all – on boat
Jun5-8 Slovenia on boat
Jun8-11 Croatia on boat
Jun11-15 Istanbul, Turkey
Jun15-18 Kuwait City, Kuwait
Jun18-22 Tehran, Iran
Jun22-30 Jounieh Beach, Lebanon
Jun30-Jul3 Prague, Czech Republic
July 3-6 Poland
July 6-10 Ukraine
July 10-14 Estonia
July 14-18 Helsinki, Finland
July 18-23 Oslo, Norway
July 23-27 Denmark
July 27-30 Amsterdam
July30-Aug3 Brussels, Belgium
Aug3-7 Iceland
Aug 7-10 Halifax, NS
Aug 10-17 Edmonton
Aug 17-24 Vancouver
Aug 24-28 Las Vegas
Aug28-31 LA
Aug31-Sep2 Cancun, Mexico
Sep2-Sep15 Acapulco, Mexico
Sep15-20 Huatulco, Mexico
Sep20-Sept28 Cuba
Sep28-30 Bahamas
Sep30-Oct3 Haiti
Oct3-15 Dominican Republic
Sep25-30 Puerto Rico
Sep30-Oct3 BVI
Oct3-7 Antigua @ Barbuda
Oct7-15 Barbados
Oct15-21 Trinidad & Tobago
Oct21-28 Caracas, Venezuela
Oct28-Oct31 Guyana
Oct31-Nov4 Suriname
Nov4-9 French Guyana
Nov9-27 Brazil
Nov27-Dec8 Argentina
Dec8-12 Paraguay
Dec12-15 Bolivia
Dec15-20 Cartagena, Colombia
Dec20-25 Nicaragua
Dec25-28 Honduras
Dec28-2008 Belize
………..phew

Muscrat!

I ended up at Muscat in Oman but ended up only staying one night because a) hotels there are super expensive (paid over $500 USD/night at the Grand Hyatt) and b) it’s too quiet for my tastes (especially after having just spent the last week in quiet Nepal).

It’s really nice there though from what I saw… everything is brand new looking, all nice new roads, cars, buildings… it is clear there is a lot of money there.

The geography is cool too as it is a port town with a big bay with a backdrop against desert mountains, with a lot of greenery within the city itself.

The Hyatt has a great design with a cool pub with a good live band as well as a large nightclub downstairs, but it wasn’t busy because it was Monday night unfortunately, but if I am back in Muscat I’ll likely stay around the Hyatt for the convenience.

It’s as westernized as it can get really, having seen Papa John’s, KFC, McDonald’s and numerous other American chains all in gleaming nice new glass buildings seconds after leaving the airport… everyone speaks good English and everything is very nice… all the people I spoke with were very cool and you could tell, very educated… it was an overall very nice place… if it weren’t so expensive and not so early in the week (Monday, with most people telling me that most nightlife is only on the weekends) I would have definitely stayed longer.

But after a fairly quiet week in Nepal and the knowledge that the only place in the Gulf which will have any sort of nightlife until the weekend is Dubai, I took off to Dubai today.

So I booked a flight on Jazeera Airlines, a new low-cost carrier in the Gulf… talk about low-cost, my options were $5 for economy or $20 for first class and that INCLUDES all the taxes… basically it was free for economy or $15 for first class, pre-taxes!

I booked first class because I’m such a big shot… the plane was great, brand new and the flight was nice and short (40 mins)…

As a sidenote, I figured out where Sharjah is… it turns out it is basically a city right beside Dubai (a 15 minute drive to Dubai apparently)… Air Arabia runs out of there… it’s funny though, it is obvious they are really trying to make Sharjah into the next Dubai, but because of that, they don’t tell anyone it is right beside Dubai, so they probably miss out on a lot of customers who have never heard of Sharja… anyway, if you want cheap flights in the gulf, definitely check out Air Arabia and Jazeera.

So, I am in Dubai now… ahhh, after Nepal and Oman, it is so nice to be in a really modern (unlike Kathmandu) city with a massive (unlike Muscat) nightlife… Dubai is sort of the Las Vegas/NYC of the Gulf…

I just realized I haven’t been in Dubai since September 2005, nearly 2 years ago… it appears the growth here hasn’t slowed at all, with tons of cranes and gridlocked traffic around the clock… this place is definitely happening… if I get the opportunity over the next few months and am in the area I think I’ll try to stay here longer… maybe a month or two.

But for now I’ll likely stay here until Thursday or Friday, then probably Doha, Qatar for the weekend.

Nepaled It

I spent 4 days in Nepal, all in the capital city of Kathmandu.

The first time I ever heard the word “Kathmandu� was in a Happy Days episode (for all those in their 20’s or younger, it was a tv show starring a really cool short little Jewish guy called the Fonz)… anyway, in that episode the Fonz had a new girlfriend from Kathmandu… and the show made her sound all exotic and mystical. For some reason I always remembered that, and when I had the chance I decided to go there.

Now, granted, just going to Nepal and spending your entire time in the fairly poor and rundown city of Kathmandu is really not getting the essence of the area. While you can’t see the Himalayas directly from Kathmandu, a very short drive/flight away is the most amazing mountain range in the world, by far. You can’t even mention the Rocky Mountains in the same paragraph as the Himalayas, and the Alps don’t even come close as well.

The Himalayas, home to Mt. Everest (at nearly 30,000 feet high, or nearly 10 kilometers!) is at the height that international 747 airliners cruise at! To give you an indication of how high that is, you wouldn’t be able to breathe without assisted oxygen and the temperatures regularly hover below -50c at that height!

And it’s not just Mt. Everest that is there… To comprehend the enormous scale of Himalayan peaks, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 6,962 m, is the highest peak outside the Himalaya, while the Himalayan system has over 100 separate mountains exceeding 7,200 meters!

And now that I told you how fascinating the Himalayas are, well, I didn’t go there.

Why not? Well, again, I am on a bit of a sprint to get somewhere (more on that below) and not to mention my flip flops and a pair of shorts are about the only hiking gear I have in my arsenal at the moment… so, I’ll leave climbing Mt. Everest until next time!

Kathmandu is interesting. It is quite a mix between Indian and Chinese cultures there, but being on the Indian side of the Himalayas, Kathmandu looks and feels a lot more like India than it does China… right down to the holy cow’s roaming around right in the middle of the street.

Obviously, anyone interested in Nepal is interested in the amazing natural surroundings and hiking and mountain climbing. I don’t have much to offer in terms of info there except to say that the natural surroundings around Kathmandu look quite beautiful. I don’t know what kind of trees they are, but there are many trees there that are just full of purple flowers…

What I can tell you about is Kathmandu, though. It is quite poor looking and feeling… and, similarly to Vientiane, there are hardly any buildings over 5 stories, giving it a very rural feel.

There is very little nightlife in Kathmandu, but I managed to find what was there. The main/only place to go is an area called Thamel which has a lot of little pubs and a few go-go style bars. There really is nothing there you would call a disco. And even on a Friday night I never saw a place that had more than 25 people inside, so it is verrrry quiet. Although I still managed to have a pretty outrageous time, bringing two Nepali girls back to my room to the shock and dismay of everyone including the Nepalese military and staff at the hotel who had apparently never seen anything like that… I managed to talk my way through them all but they still came to my room in the middle of the night to tell me “that is simply not allowed sir”….

I found quite a few people really tried to rip me off there, which I wasn’t used to at all coming from Thailand… I had one taxi guy on the oldest, crappiest bicycle I’ve ever seen drive me around from pub to pub spanning a total of a few blocks over 1-2 hours after which he tried to charge me $100?!?!? All he got in return was a laugh, then a look of “try again and don’t make me laugh again�. He went down to about 1/10th of his initial price soon after, which was still probably a rip-off, but whatever.

The vibe in Kathmandu is very hippie… naturalist… environmental… zen style… which is fine, but not really my vibe.

So, after a few days I decided to leave. I talked to a travel agent and he kinda just said “oh, almost all flights from Nepal are fullâ€?… then his power shut off and he told me to come back tomorrow and he’ll see what he can do. The next day I went to a different one and he gave me the same story and then told me his power doesn’t work so he can’t even find out if there are any seats available anyway… if I were to have listened to them, I would have been under the impression that unless I took a train or bus, I was stuck in Nepal forever.

I knew there were a few flights to Delhi every day and also some other flights to places like Dubai. I was bored of Kathmandu and craved to be in a more modern/big-city style environment so I just decided to pack my stuff up this morning and just go to the airport.

The Kathmandu airport is probably the most unorganized, irritating, non-modern airport I have ever been to anywhere. There are no signs, no monitor’s…. nothing telling you what flights are departing or anything. You sort of just have to stand there and from time to time people will walk by and ask you where you want to go and then sometimes they help you try to get there. There are lines for everything there, including airport tax, customs, 3-4 different bag checks and searches… and even when you get through it all to the departure “lounge� there are still no signs telling you which flights are boarding or anything… it almost seems like you are in a flea market the entire time you are in the airport and just have to best try to find your way by asking people.

I stopped at a few counters and they told me all their flights are full, but I could wait on the wait list, which I did. In the meantime someone asked me if I want to go to Sharja… I said sure, anywhere! After he ran around for a bit I paid him cash (about $300 USD) which he just put in his pocket, then he wrote out an airplane ticket for me to Sharja… as he was about to walk away I asked, “By the way, where is Sharja?�

He said it is by Dubai, so I am presuming it is in the UAE. The airline I am on at the moment, writing this from, is Air Arabia and even thought it doesn’t really say in their onboard magazines, I am pretty sure Sharja is in the UAE. From the pictures Sharja looks very nice, but I was reading that there is no alcohol in Sharja.

Now, I am not an alcoholic or anything (yet), but if I am going to go sit in the Arabian desert, I’d like at least the option to have a cold beer or something.

So, even though the plane hasn’t landed yet (4 hour flight) I am already pretty much committed to trying to find an onward flight to Muscat, Oman, which looks like a pretty cool city.

If I can’t, then maybe I’ll spend one night in Sharja and then go on to Oman.

Before I left Kathmandu I got an email from one of my friends who seemingly has the ability to blow all my best laid travel plans out of the water. It was my buddy with the 90’ yacht from Mexico… he told me that his yacht arrives in Italy (after being shipped on a giant tanker from Florida for the cheap sum of only $100,000!) on May 27 and he said I should come and join him as he cruises down Italy, then up the other side, through Slovenia and on to Croatia. Hmmmmm, all expenses paid cruise through the Meditteranean on a luxuriously outfitted yacht complete with maids, waitresses and gourmet chefs…. I gave it about 2 seconds of thought and then emailed him back and said, ok I’ll be there!

So, forget my whole travel schedule I had so meticulously laid out in my last blog entry, I will attempt to spend the next 10 days or so in Oman, Jordan and Israel and then will fly to Zurich on about May 27 and catch a flight on my buddies private plane to Genoa, Italy, where the cruising begins! After I reach Croatia, I am not sure, maybe I will resume my previous plans and head to Kuwait and Iran… or maybe not. Why do I even bother to try to plan? Every single time I do, I never stick to it. 😛

*note: I just landed in Muscat, Oman after transferring in Sharja, wherever that was. More updates from Oman soon

World Tour

How is this for an about face? It was only a few days ago that I wrote here that I was considering heading East and going to Canada for a bit… well, surprise, after talking with a few people about some interesting goings-on in Europe and the Middle East, I have decided to spontaneously head West and embark on a 5 month long+, 40 country trek!

Now, as you know by now, everything is completely tentative, so don’t be surprised if next week I am in Greenland on a seal-clubbing expedition or something, but for the time being, I will be making my way West. I am currently on a Thai Airways flight to Kathmandu, Nepal, so barring any highly unforeseen difficulties, I will at least make it that far.

After Nepal I am considering going through Pakistan and then on to the Gulf, possibly beginning with Qatar or Oman, then Jordan, Israel, then Kuwait and hopefully to Iran if I can get a visa. I’d really like to get to Iran prior to August, which is the next implied date for the evil neo-nazi… sorry, what do they call them now? Oh yes, neo-conservative empire to attack Iran… in fact, if things go that way, the entire middle east will not be a nice place to be for many years, so I thought I better try to go check it out before I get inundated by propaganda and can try to make some semblance of my own views on the area.

After Iran I am thinking to possibly head over to Africa for a brief tour of the East Coast, from Egypt all the way down to South Africa, prior to heading up to Italy, Croatia and Greece for a few weeks, then up through Estonia to Finland, Norway and then to Iceland… then Canada by the end of summer prior to heading to the Caribbean… anyway… I have attached the entire highly volatile list at the bottom. In fact the list is so volatile that I actually had Bangladesh as my starting point as of a few hours ago but I realized just before leaving that they require I arrange a tourist visa before going to the country, so I had to quickly cancel that trip and decided to go to Nepal instead (where they also require a visa but you can get one upon arrival at the airport apparently).

So, you may be asking yourself, if Jeff appears to be on another worldwide, multi-month/year tour, what does that mean for Thailand, and Jane.

Well, that is a loooooooong story… and one that I haven’t even fully figured out for myself yet… but, after nearly 1.5 years being in and around Thailand, I have finally started to become a bit bored. Now, when I say “a bit bored�, I still love Thailand, and if someone told me I would have to spend the rest of my life in only one country, I’d probably still pick Thailand… but a few things have been bothering me of late. For one, as I look in the mirror, and at the world around me, it is very clear that time moves on… and at 36 years old, I figure I can probably only pull off this ridiculous lifestyle of mine for a few more years before I at least gear-down and am a bit more unable and a bit more unwilling to just jump on a plane/train and go somewhere new every week.

As well, while Thailand has been just an amazing time for me, there is a very big planet out there that I would still very much like to discover, and by staying in Thailand, or even having the lure of going back to Thailand, I won’t have the willpower to stay out there on those bad days where you just want a warm, comfortable place to be and would therefore sacrifice the potential enjoyment found in discovering a new and amazing place and people as well as the fountainhead of knowledge that you soak in as you see the world in person.

As for Jane, that is another very, very, very loooooooong story, but suffice it to say for now, that as much fun as I’ve had with her, she can be a handful… it is really like having a small child around… yes, she is fun and playful and there is never a dull moment, but seriously, there is NEVER a dull moment… and I like to have some dull moments (read: peace and quiet) sometimes! And, as with most relationships, there are tons of little issues too. But the main thing is that I still feel the need to be and feel free and, when your in a relationship with anyone, least of all crazy Jane, there are all sorts of trade-offs and sacrifices you have to make… and the scales have been leaning towards too much sacrifice for too little reward for me for a while now…

And so, today I left Jane and Bangkok with the possibility that I may not go back there for a very long time (read; 6months… maybe years)… it was really quite difficult. Much like James Holman, the blind traveler though, the allure of the road and the adventure will likely help me get over my sad feelings of leaving Thailand and Jane today… but for now, I am on the road and going to try not to look back for a while… we’ll see what happens!

Here is the proposed trip… kinda looks like a rock band concert tour itinerary… but hey, I am a rock star… maybe I’ll put this list on the back of a t-shirt. 😛 Next update soon from Kathmandu.

may 11-15 Kathmandu, Nepal
may 15-17 Karachi, Pakistan
may 17-21 Muscat, Oman
May 21-25 Doha, Qatar
May 25-31 Israel
June 1-4 Kuwait
June 4-9 Iran
June 9-12 Egypt
June 12-15 Zambia
June 15-17 Zimbabwe
June 17-25 South Africa
June 26-30 Jounieh & Beirut, Lebanon
July 1-10 Lignano, Italy
July 10-15 Croatia
July 15-22 Greece
July 22-24 Cyprus
July 25-31 Turkey
Aug 1-5 Switzerland
Aug 6-10 Parnu & Tallin, Estonia
Aug 10-14 Finland
Aug 14-18 Norway
Aug 18-22 Amsterdam
Aug 22-26 Iceland
Aug 27-Sept6 Canada
Sept 6-9 Cuba
Sept 9-12 Jamaica
Sept 12-14 Haiti
Sept 14-19 Dominican Republic
Sept 19-24 Puerto Rico
Sept 24-27 Barbados
Sept 27-Oct 1 Trinidad & Tobago
Oct 1-6 Venezuela
Oct 6-10 Guyana
Oct 10-14 Suriname
Oct 14-17 French Guiana
Oct 18-Nov 15 Brazil