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I’ve Been Around the World – Street Art Tour

More vicarious travelling for 2016 – worldwide street art with some female artists featured, which is nice to see in a world usually dominated by males. Enjoy.

Here There Everywhere

Melissa - East London

Last year I had big plans to finally blog regularly and they fell through as always.  Life as it does got in the way but mainly the second half of 2015 was marred by seasonal depression, visa issues and a real hatred for my new job.

Most of those things have now thankfully resolved thmeselves or are on the way.  I’ve also been taking vitamin D consistently for the past month – only after years of my doctor saying I should because I am deficient.

I am finally feeling myself again, motivated and wanting to share about my goings on in London.  However, I know how easy it is for me to ditch the blog.  A time will come again where my mood will dip and I will retreat from it and I’ve come to terms with that and allowed myself to feel okay if there are long breaks in…

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Walking London: Barbican to Southbank

In spite of my love/hate relationship with the place because of the experiences before my departure, this is, and will always be, my 2nd home. So in continuing with my theme of living vicariously through others’ travels this year, here’s a post about a small section of my 2nd home. Enjoy.

Here There Everywhere

Start: Barbican Tube Station

This past Sunday was the first time in ages where I went on one of my rambling exploring days out.  Yes it’s been winter, and cold and grey but I usually manage to get around during the season.  Not the case this winter where I mostly stayed inside.

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It feels good to finally feel the sun on my face and not only get out and about but want to get out and about.  The prospect of using my new lens was also an incentive to  haul my very heavy D-SLR out with me.

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With flowers budding all over the place, longer days and even a few days where I wore sunnies (!) none of us can deny that Spring is knocking on the door.  I’m finally getting into using my twitter account more and seeing the point of it all (@wanderlust _wtb) over the past…

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28 mind-blowing facts about Uganda!

I volunteered in Uganda a while ago for 6 weeks. It’s one of my favorite countries, and I’m well overdue for a trip back there. If you’ve never been there before, consider adding it to your travel (and/or bucket) list.

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kampala city Evening view of Kampala city (credits: Joel Nsadha Isababi)

Uganda is commonly referred to as the Pearl of Africa which is not far from the truth considering her natural resources combined with a very hospitable population. Here are some crazy facts about her;

  1. Caesarian sections were being performed in Uganda way before 1879 when R.W. Felkin observed his first successful operation by indigenous healers in Kahura. (reference: Notes on Labour in Central Africa” published in the Edinburgh Medical Journal, volume 20, April 1884, pages 922-930.)
  1. There are about 880 mountain gorrillas in the whole world and half of them are found in Uganda.
  1. Ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country with a rate of 28.1%. This means that 28.1% of Uganda’s population own or co-own a business that has paid salaries for more than 3 months but less than 42.
  1. Lakes and rivers cover 26% of Uganda which is 91,136…

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9 Things Everyone Needs to Appreciate about Mangroves

Re-blogging/Reblogging because I began liking mangroves when I visited Australia in 2009.

A Traveler's Tale

A boy received a camera as a gift from his father on his birthday;
Boy: “Thank you so much, Dad! You know that I want to be a photographer like you but I don’t know if I can be as good in photo composition.”
Dad: “Oh, I’m sure you’ll do well. What sorts of subjects would you be photographing, son?”
Boy: “Nature! I love nature!”
Dad: “In that case, you don’t have to worry. Nature has already prepared the perfect compositions for you. All you need to do is to go out there and capture them with that camera.”

I thought of this story while leisurely inspecting a seaside place one sunny day. Aside from the sparkling seawater, there were some interesting rock formations by the beach and, yes, there was a line of mangrove trees that seemed determined to both fearlessly defy the waves and mischievously keep prospective swimmers…

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United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 2.

The day after we returned from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, we went on a desert safari that took place in the evening. (Step-dad stayed in since his stomach was still hurting.) Travel Friend left Dubai – as he was departing via Abu Dhabi airport to return to the States the next morning – and met us in Abu Dhabi to go with us on the safari. Another travel group member (Travel Friend 2), who was in the United Arab Emirates at the same time as us, drove from Dubai and wound up going with us at the last minute. We had a good time.

We went on the evening desert safari with the Abu Dhabi Desert Safari company in Al Khatim Desert. There isn’t much to say; hopefully the photos speak for themselves. (I didn’t include all photos; I didn’t want to post photos of anyone just in case they prefer privacy.)

After returning from the safari, step-dad was up & about, feeling better. Even though we didn’t get back until a little after 21:00, our host (an expatriate who’s also a travel group member) surprised us by taking us on a bit of a tour of her part of the city. (Travel Friend 2 went straight to the airport after the safari to catch her flight home.) There isn’t much to say here either; hopefully the photos speak for themselves.

By the time we finished eating, it was almost midnight so we called it a night. Tomorrow was our last full day there, Travel Friend had a red-eye flight, and we (the 3 of us) had a couple of things to do before our departure.

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Secret Ways to Experience Singapore.

Check out this blog post about Singapore. It makes me want to visit the country even more. Hoping to (finally) get deep in travel to Asia in 2016 and/or 2017.

P.S. United Arab Emirates posts should be up within 1 week. Continue staying tuned.

The Shooting Star

My restless soul has a strange relationship with the little red dot on the world map. In the six years I studied and worked in Singapore, I spent my days planning adventures and craving excitement in the far reaches of Southeast Asia. But when I moved away in 2011, I was filled with nostalgia and a curious desire to rediscover Singapore itself – especially given that it’s just a short hop and an e-visa away from India.

I’ve discovered hidden beaches, password-protected bars, mangroves to kayak through and pristine forests over my last few trips to the country; it’s time to spill the secrets:

Leave your footprints on a hidden beach

You’ve reveled in the underwater world and manmade beaches of Sentosa. Now ditch the crowds to find solitude at Lazarus Island – an undiscovered, undeveloped stretch of coastline where soft white sands are caressed by gentle azure waters. To…

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United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.

We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.

Emirates Express.

Emirates Express.

It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside.😐

Upon arriving to Dubai, we took a taxi to Citymax Bur Dubai. There wasn’t much time to spare before we had to leave to head to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world for our evening viewing.

We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.

Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.

NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.

While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)

Shameless plug – if you travel, especially abroad, make sure that you buy travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is cheaper than per-trip insurance. Along with step-dad getting sick (thank goodness it wasn’t worse), 2 members of my travel group died in Panama a little over 2 months ago. Their deaths gave me the needed push to buy travel insurance from now on.

After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.

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Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattantimes 10.😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.

Stay tuned – desert safari next

United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 1.

The day was here. It was only less than 2 months before that I’d purchased the tickets…

Xmas Day 2014, the middle of the night. It was 04:00 and I wasn’t sleeping well for some reason. I decided to get on social media and I saw what I thought was a joke – glitch fares for different flights going to select cities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I hesitantly checked. Lo & behold, the prices were real. I nervously clicked the “submit” button. I was so excited that I sent a text to my close friend saying (something to the effect of)

“Listen, I just bought a ticket to the Middle East for (insert low dollar amount here) round-trip. When you get up, text or call me and let me know if you want in. It’ll be my treat.”

I dozed off, then the phone rang a little after 08:00 or so. My friend called to say

“Are you kidding me? HELL YEAH I wanna go!”

I laughed, got back on the internet and to my surprise, the glitch fare was still there. I bought her ticket while we were on the phone, then said

“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy 4th of July, don’t ask me for shit for at least a year.”😐

I then tried buying a ticket for my oldest nephew, who’d told me that he has wanted to visit the Middle East (Dubai specifically) for a long time, but the website said he was too young (15 at time of purchase) to have his own ticket. So in other words, I should’ve bought his ticket with mine. (He came over later that day for Xmas lunch/dinner and told me that he’d have missed a lot of school if he went. I’ll plan around his school vacations next time.) So I said to my friend

“Since I can’t bring (oldest nephew), I’m thinking about who else I can treat…”

I knew my uncle couldn’t go, and my aunt is too fickle & fidgety to sit on an hours-long flight. So even though I wanted to take them, I knew it’d be a no-go. The first person that came to my mind after them – my ex-stepfather. Although he and my bio mother divorced ages ago, he has been a good presence in my life. (I still call him my stepfather.) So I called him and he was on the road with his wife, driving down South for Xmas vacation. I told him what was up, he immediately said “Okay”, and I bought the ticket.

“Merry Xmas, Happy New Year, happy birthday, Happy Father’s Day, Happy every holiday.”😐

I was so excited, I didn’t sleep for about 24 hours after that.😐

I booked accommodation and a couple major attractions over the next few weeks. 02.18.2015 approached quickly and soon, off we went. We had a layover in Chicago for about 90 minutes, then a 13 hour flight from Chicago to Abu Dhabi – crossing many time zones and not arriving until 02.19.2015 in the evening. Since we arrived late, I didn’t take many photos that evening, but I took some beginning the next day. Check them out below.

After our first 2 nights in Abu Dhabi, we headed to Dubai for about 36 hours. Stay tuned for my Dubai post, then Abu Dhabi again, next…

Trip teaser – United Arab Emirates.

I’m back stateside since Thursday morning 02.26.2015. I’m dealing with severe jet-lag (happens anytime I go overseas), so it’ll take me a few more days to return to normal and type a proper blog post (or two) about this trip. But in the meantime, here’s a taste of what it’s like out there. I’ll be back soon.

United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi part 1