Set in a striking landscape of red sandstone and surrounded by mountains pierced and cracked with passages and gorges, the city of Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock and one of the world’s richest and largest archaeological sites. While many associate Petra with one iconic image of the ‘Treasury’ facade, Petra actually refers to an entire, ancient city. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and we arrived with big expectations. To our delight, we found Petra to be as incredible as all of the hype had suggested. It was a good thing that we had already seen some of the great ruins of Rome and Turkey before getting there, because it would be impossible to beat Petra going forward. Continue reading
My interest in Jordan was first sparked in the summer of 2011 after talking to another world traveler who had been to Israel, took a side trip to Jordan, and highly recommended seeing Petra and the Wadi Rum desert; we decided Jordan would definitely be in our Mid-East itinerary. Since we ended up staying longer than expected in Israel, we arrived in Jordan knowing that we could easily spend a couple weeks there, but we settled on one week. Like Israel, Jordan is not super-backpacker-budget-friendly, and it also doesn’t have very frequent or extensive public transportation. Also, camping in the desert and admission to Petra would be two big ticket items for us so our trip through Jordan was relatively short but action packed.
Jordan is a great place to travel if you’re looking to experience the Middle East; it’s a safe, peaceful, nation with neutral political relations with its neighbors including Israel and a respected, highly liked king. Continue reading
Ramallah – Ramallah was a fairly bustling city and considered the “hippest” city in all of the West Bank. We spent much of our 2 days there walking around and seeing the city, and were lucky enough to have a few interactions with some of the local people. We had a very interesting conversation with the owner of a local jewelry shop, which we happened to wander into. He told us about the astronomical prices of real estate in the West Bank and how we must always accept tea from a Palestinian if they offer it, especially the Bedouins(desert people). It was great to talk to him for a little while, drink some tea and pick up any tips we could. :) Later on, we had our first Couchsurfing experience when we met up with our new friend Sama, who was born and raised in Ramallah. Talking to Sama gave us insight into a young person’s perspective of life in the West Bank. She was also raised in a relatively liberal(compared to the conservative majority) Christian family, making her one of the smallest minorities in the territory. She showed us a really modern, hip bar which she assured us was one of several in the city. In her opinion, Ramallah was the most modern city in Palestine which provides the most entertainment options for the younger generation. We had a great evening and learned a lot. Thanks again for a great time Sama! Continue reading
Bethlehem– Bethlehem provided our first glimpse into the West Bank. To get there from Israel, we took a bus which boarded near the Damascus Gate, which is the gate people use to enter the Muslim quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. This bus station was specifically for buses headed to the West Bank. Its route went through the largely Israeli-Arab populated East Jerusalem before crossing into the West Bank and Bethlehem. To my surprise, there was no chaos or buildings on fire as one might see on TV when reporting from the West Bank occurs. There was almost nothing going on as the city was calm and much like any other small, non-metropolitan city we had been to on our trip. As we’ve said in previous posts, we know the media has a tendency to over-exaggerate but to me the city’s normalcy and peacefulness was still surprising. This was relieving and excited me even more about traveling through the cities of the West Bank.
We really enjoyed our hostel in Bethlehem which was owned by a very sweet Palestinian-Christian family. Continue reading
We made a decision early on in our travel preparation that we would head to the Palestinian territories of the West Bank while in Israel. We knew we couldn’t say we truly experienced the country without seeing and learning about the one-hundred-plus-year-and-counting Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Gaza Strip, the other territory of Palestine, is off-limits to all non-Palestinians due to its violence and volatility. It is led by HAMAS, a political group labeled as a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S., and much of the United Nations. The West Bank, on the other hand, is led by a much more moderate political group and has been recently viewed as a separate entity when negotiating with Israel. This has caused the two Palestinian territories to go in fairly different directions over the last decade. Continue reading
For many, Jerusalem is the reason for travel to Israel. As the birthplace of three of the world’s major religions, Jerusalem is a fascinating place with 4000 years of history and religion bursting through the city at its seams. Just as we had arrived in Tel Aviv, we arrived in Jerusalem with little idea of what to expect. But also as in Tel Aviv, normal daily living was going on with no visible conflict or tension. We stayed at a great hostel in Jerusalem called Abraham hostel, which was about a 20 minute walk from the old city.
Jerusalem has a very unique feel. You can sense the serious religious vibe of the city even from first glance Continue reading
Israel was a country that peaked our interests for many reasons. For me, I wanted to find out first hand the situation in the country in comparison to how it is depicted in the U.S. media, because, as anyone who has watched a news report on this piece of land the size of New Jersey can attest to, it always seems to be in a state of conflict. To some, the words Israel and conflict have become almost synonymous. Although it’s no secret the media has a tendency to exaggerate, I knew I wouldn’t be able to form an opinion until we spent time here and saw what life is truly like for the average Israeli. Continue reading
So now we’ve finished posting on New Zealand and Australia and it’s time to go back in time. Our blog skipped all the countries we visited after Malta and up to New Zealand, except for a few “Pic of the day” posts from Turkey and Israel. It’s a lot to catch up, but I know it’s better late than never. So as I sit here in our hostel in Yangon, Myanmar about seven months later, I’m transporting my mind back in time to the day we arrived in Istanbul, Turkey on September 15, 2011…
A city so big that it spans Europe and Asia, Istanbul is the world’s 4th largest city. With 15 million people this city is a bit overwhelming but we definitely saw a lot in our short time there. A blend of east and west, old and new, Istanbul is full of history, culture, and sights. Continue reading
We considered Turkey the true start of our backpacking, as we had spent the 8 days prior in Malta with Hannah’s family essentially living the dream, and the 6 days before that we were in Rome and I didn’t even have my backpack yet! (Lost by Air Canada and arrived to Rome with only a day to spare.) However, those 2 weeks prior to arriving in Turkey did a great job in energizing us for our travels to come, and they gave us one last chance to spend time with familiar faces, as the next 8 or so months would be filled with nothing but new ones.
Turkey was great because it seemed to offer something for every kind of traveler. Culture, history, religion, food, natural wonders, beaches, shopping… Turkey seems to shine in all the travel categories. The lifestyle within the country was so varied due to its size, landscape, and location. From life in one of the world’s largest cities to the Mediterranaen, Aegean, and Black Sea coasts and the vast, remote eastern areas of the country, the Turkish people are diverse and unique. Continue reading
Our last stop in Australia was on its much less traveled west coast, in the city of Perth. It was cheapest to fly out of Perth so we decided to stay there for a couple of days before heading to our next destination, Malaysia. The weather in Perth was less humid but also much hotter. It was in the upper 90s every day. It’s the biggest city on the west coast, with a population of under two million. We took some time here to catch up on our pictures and blog writing and to talk with other travelers who had come from Southeast Asia to get some helpful travel advice. Continue reading