Happy May Long to all of our Canadian friends. We love all the pics as you blow the dust off of your trailers and fire pits to get out camping with some cold ones. And also a Happy Birthday weekend to Junior and Glenice, as we understand you are celebrating together in Calgary! Tip a couple back for us.
Thanks for checking out our latest update. We just returned from two weeks in Greece so will share stories and pics from there and will also update you on what we've been up to this spring.
Before we jump into the travel, things sure are changing in Saudi Arabia. Last year, they allowed ladies to drive and brought back movie theatres.
This year, they've started bringing more entertainment to the Kingdom. There have been many concerts and Russell Peters, the comedian is coming in a couple weeks.
We were very excited to go see Pitbull in Dammam, only about 10 minutes from our house. Unfortunately, we got to the event and found out he had plane troubles in Iceland and had to delay the show until the next day. We had plans already in Bahrain that day so just got our money back. We were that close to our first Saudi concert...and our first one without drinks!
We have spent many weekends in Bahrain this spring, popping over the causeway to get away and enjoy time with friends having some drinks. Here are some pics from some of the hotels, brunches, as well as the Spring 2019 Tribfest, which has become a tradition for us and a great day out with live music.
We were very excited to visit Santorini and it did not disappoint. It looks exactly like the images you get in your mind when visualizing the island.
We didn't know this, but the island is the remnant of a volcanic caldera, and was formed from one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever, about 3600 years ago.
Santorini is officially called Thira or classic Greek Thera. The crusaders named it after a chapel of Saint Irene - Santa Irini, which then came to be Santorini.
The population of Santorini is only about 15,000 people but it gets very busy with tourists, especially with the many cruise ships that stop by daily.
We stayed in a cave called Aura Caves. These caves were excavated and inhabited in the late 18th century after the explosion of a volcano in 1707. After the earthquake of 1956 the front part were destroyed and ruined. In 2016, it was reconstructed by architect Stogiannidis Grigoris and a team of builders and then converted into a small hotel you can stay in.
We stayed in Fira, which is the largest town on the island. There were tons of shops, great restaurants, and many bars with patios overlooking the Aegean Sea to view the amazing sunset!
We spent our first full day doing a 'Best of Santorini' private tour:
- Imerovigli and Oia (pronounced "ee-a") - small towns that offered unique buildings and amazing views
- Monastery of Profitis Ilias - built in the early 1700's, this monastery is built on the highest location of Santorini, 1860 feet above sea level
- Megalochori - traditional village and shops
- Lunch at Forty One 41 in Agios Georgios. This was a very cool beach restaurant and bar built in an old tomato paste factory. It is located on Black Beach - yes, the sand is like real sand, but only black...from the volcanic ash.
- Wine Tasting at the Estate Argyros - they have some great white wines on the island
We stayed at the all-inclusive Cactus Royal Resort in Stalis on the north side of Crete. It is a great resort and located right in the beach town so it is easy to walk out and right onto the tourist street to visit shops, bars, and restaurants.
We love buying the authentic greek spices for souvlaki, greek potatoes, greek salad, and tzatziki. We found some great restaurants along the water to go for lunches and dinners - so cheap...pita, tzatziki, greek salad, 2 large beers, and 2 shots of ouzo for less than 20 euros.
We also sampled a few shots of Raki, which is a famous 'moonshine' originating in Crete.
Love Crete! Beautiful island, beautiful people!
Athens is definitely a city full of history and stories. We checked in and went venturing out down one of the many 'walking streets'. We will never forget turning the corner and looking down the street to see the famous Acropolis and both dropping our jaws in awe. What an amazing piece of architecture. We stopped for pictures of it down the narrow street (pics are below).
Acropolis is the name of the ancient citadel on the rocky outcrop in the centre of Athens. It is the home of the famous Parthenon, built in 438BC. It was heavily damaged 1687 Great Turkish War and restoration didn't begin until the late 1980's. We decided to continue onto a few rooftop bars to enjoy the view of the mighty Acropolis and then to visit it on day two.
On our second day in Athens, we boarded the Hop On, Hop Off bus. These are one of our favorite ways to see the highlights of a city, all while listening to the history of each site.
It first drove us past the 'Runner Statue', and incredible 12 m tall structure built from thousands of pieces of jagged glass.
Our tour stops included:
Overall, Athens is a very old city with some incredible history and views. Be sure to check out the sights at night, as all of the ancient architecture is lit up and looks amazing. And you can't go far to find a great greek taverna for a meal. Love greek food!
Oh yeah, and what is the Greek fascination with wooden penis carvings and threesomes?
As you can tell, we loved the Greek vacation - so much history, so many beautiful places! Pretty amazing to think that we are just a 4 hour flight from this amazing country!
It is starting to warm up in Saudi now, with humidity rising and temperatures closing in on 45 Celsius, dropping to about 27-28 at night. It's Ramadan for a couple more weeks, which means there is no public eating or drinking in Saudi. This also means we will take advantage of less traffic on the Causeway to Bahrain to go to the rugby club a few times, just to enjoy some cold beverages!
Eid starts the beginning of June to celebrate the end of Ramadan. We get those Eid days off and will be going south to Uganda and Rwanda for some adventures. Trekking with chimpanzees, gorillas, and lions/leopards through the jungle. Send your safe wishes as we venture out on foot to observe these beasts!
Lisa will be back in Canada for a week in late-July and will fly out to meet Jeff in Portugal for 3 weeks as we tour across Europe. Lisa is also excited to meet our friend Anita in Ireland in September!
We will update the blog with Africa pics and stories once (and if) we return.
Until then, here are a few pics to close off...
Hey everyone, it's been a while since we posted anything and we've had a busy fall.
We had quite a few weekends in Bahrain with friends, a great weekend getaway to Dubai, and the highlight was our first trip to Thailand in November.
Many of our friends have visited Thailand several times and had raving reviews, so we thought we'd check it out to see what all the hype was about.
We were even more excited to hear that Anita, Dennis, and Nicole were joining us from Canada.
Read below to hear all about our fall season and see some pics and videos.
A couple of tips -it is easier to read on a computer than a cell phone. Scrolling the cursor over photos may show some captions. Click on photos to enlarge them.
We flew into Bangkok early on Monday, November 19th. We enjoyed that day, Tuesday, and Wednesday there until flying off to Phuket.
What can we say about Bangkok?
It is definitely busy - roads were very congested so it was easier to travel via tuk tuks. With so much exhaust from vehicles getting on us, the shower sure felt good later in the day.
They were just coming out of the rainy season so it was super humid! Jeff was loving it!
Food and drinks were so cheap! Often you could get authentic pad Thai for less than 50 baht (50 baht is $1.50 US). Our first night we saw a Tony Roma's and Lisa went crazy, wanting to go for her favourite pork ribs. Gotta admit, they were damn good. But we didn't come to Thailand for BBQ food.
We stayed at the JW Marriott which was in a great location with an easy walk to many bars, shops, and restaurants.
What to see in Bangkok?
Daytime - many amazing temples and buddha monuments! We took a Hop On Hop Off Tuk Tuk ride, which is like the Uber of Hop On, Hop Off buses - it was amazing...even included a portable wifi router and all the places you wanted to visit for $20! Highlights were the incredible Grand Palace, Wat Pho (with the massive Reclining Buddha), and the Golden Mount (a tower on top of a hill with incredible views of Bangkok). There are also many huge shopping malls, often 6-8 stories high with shops carrying everything you could imagine!
Nightime - Bangkok comes alive at night!
Night 1 - we went to the famous Soi Cowboy street which is nothing but bars, most of them strip bars (among other things). There are ladyboys all over so you have to be careful who you are talking to before touching. You also see many old guys picking up the young Thai women. Great people watching! We met a fun Welsh couple, Ian and Nikki, who coerced us into drinking many Jack & cokes and Gin & tonics. We hit a few strip clubs and then finished off the night at Nana Plaza (again, more bars) and then watching Nikki and Lisa try their best at bull riding at Hooters.
Night 2 - we met Ian and Nikki for round 2 at Soi Cowboy and decided to go to Khao San Road, which has a different vibe. It is a younger crowd, has more shops, restaurants, and many bars. This was our first chance to see a bug food truck where you could sample scorpions, tarantulas, worms, beetles, cockroaches, and who knows what else. Nikki was the only one brave enough (or drunk enough) to sample anything...she went for the worms. Jeff has trouble getting Lisa to try rice or stir fries, let alone a friggin' insect!
Wednesday the 21st - arrive in Phuket
We would say that Phuket (we stayed at Patong Beach) is like the "greatest hits" of a vacation. Amazing weather, great beach, nice pools, tasty & cheap food, tasty & cheap drinks, amazing people watching, shopping, as well as many excursions available on land and water!
We check into the amazing Burasari Hotel and quickly find that it has a great location - half a block from the beach, a block from Hard Rock Hotel and Hooters as well as shopping, and right next door to a great Irish bar called the Drunken Leprechaun....and yes, it has Drunken Leprechauns!
Our hotel has a nice swim up bar as well as a sit down bar, free pool table, and our room has a patio with a walk out into the pool. Awesome!
Night one kind of goes like this - we check in at 5pm and go to find Anita who has flown across the world from Edmonton to Vancouver to Hong Kong to Phuket. Yep, she's a bit tired but that won't stop a tough Saskatchewan girl from trying to stay awake to greet Nicole and Dennis (who went Calgary/Edmonton to Vancouver to Beijing to Phuket). Anita, Jeff, and Lisa hit the Drunken Leprechaun and quickly we can see why they call it that, as we all succumb to the invite of Captain Morgan (see photo below). It did allow us to stay awake to greet Nicole and Dennis around 1am. Beers in the lobby until we all pass out.
Welcome to Phuket!
Thursday the 22nd
This is kind of a 'chill out in the pool and go discover Patong Beach' kind of day.
Amazing pool combined with Chang beers got us hungry so we hit the beach and went for some Thai food (well, Lisa had a Whopper!)
We went down to the beach at night for a nice sunset and to celebrate the annual festival, Loy Krathong ("to float a basket"), where you could simply buy one of many types of flower baskets and set the candles on fire to float into the ocean. This sounds really nice and we had images of how beautiful it would be but the waves had different ideas as most of the baskets were extinguished before they could float too far. Pretty cool anyway!
We then settled into Bangla Road for drinks and people watching - you can see some of the goofy things you can buy in the pics below. There is also a pic of the "menu" of what you can see at the famous ping pong show. We didn't go this night but would go before the week was over. A sight to see, like a train wreck!
Friday the 23rd - Lisa's birthday
We did a boat excursion to celebrate Lisa's birthday. Dennis had a great idea that we should bring 48 cans of Chang beer for the trip....because, why wouldn't you?
We went to 5 islands (not sure of the names):
Island 1. went to enjoy the beach and nice water
Island 2. went kayaking through caves
Island 3. James Bond Island
Island 4. Koh Panyee - a fishing village built on stilts (pretty cool)
Island 5. an island with a cave that looked like ice cream
The islands were beautiful and we had a great time on the boat...except for Jeff's swimming trunks. We noticed minutes into the trip that there was a big rip right in the crotch area so he had to seat strategically so there was no free peep shows for the rest of the people on the boat. Luckily, by the time we hit the 3rd island, he found a market shop that sold trunks, even though they looked terrible.
We got back to the hotel and had a nice evening out, listening to live music at the Hard Rock Cafe and then having cocktails in the shopping market.
A great day on the water with great friends!
Happy Birthday Lisa!
Saturday the 24th
We decided to sleep in a bit and hit the beach for some sun and Changs.
The evening took us back to Bangla Road for more drinks and people watching.
The ping pong show was something else! Got to see everything the menu in the pic listed. The shocker was the hamster coming out of her kitty kat. Unreal! Something to see!
Dennis and Jeff hit the famous Suzy Wong's strip bar while Nicole and Lisa played "Jackpot", which is a very fun game played with dice. They are at all the bars and available to buy as well.
The night ended listening to some live music and watching Nicole get accused for stealing a $1 bracelet. Haha. Didn't know Lisa had it in her to say "I'm gonna cut that bitch!". Long story...just ask.
The night ended with a drunken tuk tuk ride rockin' out to Bon Jovi taking us to the Drunken Leprechaun for some tasty Guinness and Beef pie.
Hey, where is Anita?
Sunday the 25th
We woke up and went to Tiger Kingdom, which was a nice tiger sanctuary where you can get photos with baby, mid-size, and full-size tigers. Many places like this actually drug their tigers for people to pet them but we were able to get in there with them and be safe because they have been raised by the tiger handlers and they felt safe with them. They're also nocturnal so are pretty dopey and tired during the day, just like house cats. Very cool experience!
The day ended with pool cocktails and more shenanigans on Bangla Road.
Monday the 26th
We went to the Green Elephant Sanctuary Park to hang out with some elephants. It was a pretty cool experience - you feed them, then put mud on them, and then bathe them and wash the mud off. They really seemed to enjoy being cleaned and hanging out in the water pools, as they were going under water and rolling around. They had a newborn baby who was very cute!
The day finished off with some dinner, shopping, and playing some games - Connect 4, Jackpot, and another interesting game where you hammer nails into a log.
The week went by quickly and it was our last night with our Canadian friends. We said our sad goodbyes and flew off to Bangkok for one last night.
Oktoberfest in Bahrain
We went over to Bahrain for the October 12th weekend with Luc & Tracey and unexpectedly ended up at an Oktoberfest party at our hotel. Massive German beers, a huge buffet, an oompah band, and also ran into friends Wayne & Hayley from our compound. Fun night! Rested up the next day in the pool.
Bahrain Tribfest - October 19
The fall edition of Bahrain's Tribfest was another great day. This was the first Tribfest we've been to where it hasn't been blazing hot sun so it was quite enjoyable. We also planned a new strategy...hang at the pool hotel and get there for 3-4pm instead of going for 11am. This proved to be an effective game plan, as we were finally able to stay awake until the last band. Guns n' Roses was AWESOME!
Jeff's Birthday weekend in Bahrain
Decided at the last minute to head over to Bahrain to celebrate Jeff's birthday. We will let the pics do the talking on how this ended up...
Yacht Day to Jarada Island
We planned another weekend in Bahrain November 1st & 2nd with Luc & Tracey, Jeff & Sara, Dave & Nicky, Hayden & Christy.
It coincided with Luc's birthday so another great reason to celebrate. Thursday night was some food and live music at Texas BBQ and Friday was a full day on our friend Robin's yacht. The marine is on Amwaj Island so you can see "Floating City" in the pics - almost like Venice. We spend a full day (and much of the night) on the yacht with lots of singing, drinking, and laughs. We went out to Jarada Island, which is a sandbar between Bahrain and Qatar. What an amazing weekend!!!
Funny story about the video of Lisa singing Shoop...to post videos onto this blog, we have to upload to Youtube. We didn't realize that anyone can see the videos there. Some random dude leaves a comment "I'd kill myself if I had to spend 30 minutes with her!". Haha, if only he was that lucky!
A few random shots for you before we go. We had a ton of rain in November. Yes, rain in the desert! Check out the video of the joker in Bahrain.
We wish all of our friends and family a safe and Merry Christmas...wish we were there to celebrate with you! Hope Santa is good to you!
We will celebrate Christmas here, as Jeff is working that day. Our compound puts on a great buffet that night so it will kind of feel festive.
We are off to Frankfurt, Germany for a long weekend December 28-January1 so will get to feel the Christmas spirit and celebrate New Years! Will post a shorter blog sometime in January.
Then it's back to Saudi to prep for our annual T&A escapades in February.
Safe holidays everyone!
HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!
We sure feel fortunate, having checked off another bucket list item. We were lucky enough to stay in a villa over the water in the beautiful Maldives.
What are the Maldives?
Here are a few facts...
- it is smallest Asian country by land area (298 square km) and population (under 500,000 people)
- it is made up of over 1100 islands in the Indian Ocean, located southwest from India and Sri Lanka, and lies along the equator, so the sun is very intense
- it is a Muslim country - the airport is dry and many resorts are also (luckily we did good research!)
- it is the lowest country in the world, with average ground levels of 1.5 metres (4 ft, 11in) above sea level and maximum of 2.4 (7ft, 10in). More than 80% of the country's land is composed of coral islands less than 1 metre above sea level. In fact, the Maldives are at risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels - the UN has warned that, at current rates, sea level rise could be enough to make the Maldives uninhabitable by 2100. Imagine, losing an entire country over things we had control over!
People travel to the Maldives from all over the world for their resorts, clear blue waters, and incredible diving & snorkelling. For travellers flying into Malé (the capital city) and then heading to an island resort, they have two options to get to the island, depending on where the island is located - sea plane or speed boat. Since our resort was further away, we had a sea plane take us the 45 minute flight.
Here are a couple maps to see where the Maldives are (red dot), as well as a short video of the resort we stayed at...
We stayed at the Constance Moofushi, which is a single resort that has it's own island. Yes, pretty crazy that you could walk the entire island easily within 30 minutes.
We were there with many friends from various parts of the world - Jeff/Sara from the US, Hayden/ Christy, Siddik/Yasmin from South Africa, and the rest from the UK - Wayne/Hayley, Jeff/Donna, Simon/Michelle.
We stayed in a water villa that opened right up so you could see the beautiful water. The patio had amazing furniture to lounge on and you could walk right into the ocean to swim or snorkel. The back yard had an open air tub and shower.
The island is surrounded by an amazing coral reef so we snorkelled many times and saw tons of cool animals, in fact many were right off the stairs of our patio. We saw tons of colourful fish, many sharks, eagle rays, manta rays, starfish, crabs, and even an eel. The most dangerous one was a yellow fish the resort warned us about called a triggerfish, which has teeth and is known to bite people if they feel threatened. Oh yeah, and the fruit bats were the biggest we've ever seen - they would actually shake the trees and don't like getting their photos taken...right Jeff??
There are some cool underwater shots here. Jeff is so proud of Lisa for FINALLY getting in the water and snorkelling, even to the edge of the reef where the water gets dark. She stayed until we saw the shark approach, and then set a speed swimming record to the shore that even Michael Phelps would be proud of!
Besides snorkelling, there were many beach areas to lounge at or you could simply tie up your inflatable floats and drink in the sun. The water was so incredible. We saw all the pics before and thought there was no way that reality would match up but pics taken even with an iPhone will show how beautiful it is.
The beach house offered many snacks, drinks, and also allowed you to take out snorkel gear, kayaks, paddle boards, or sailboats.
The resort had 2 restaurants and 2 bars that were fully stocked and waiting for us. We've haven't seen too many all inclusives with selections like this, including an incredible wine cellar. One of the bars had a DJ, dance floor, and a screen surrounded by people cheering on their teams for the World Cup.
We never went to the spa but a friend said it was pretty cool to get a massage in a hut over the water while looking down at the fish through a glass floor!
They even offered a private setting to watch movies on a screen on the beach at night if you wanted!
The staff here were incredibly friendly and could not do enough for you:
- "You need a cooler full of Corona for the beach?" / "Sure sir"
- "You're friend's ear is plugged and you want to pour vodka into it to unplug it?" /
"Sure sir, use the good stuff - this is Grey Goose"
- "You want a 1L bottle of Captain Morgan and 12 Coronas to your room?" / "No problem sir"
Besides drinking, there were some educational offerings - we attended a cocktail making class in the water, where we learned to make different exotic drinks. Who knew aloe vera made such a tasty addition to a beverage? Later in the week, we attended a wine tasting class in the water, where we learned to properly taste wine with breads and cheese, with the odd shark swimming in the water. Pretty cool!
One thing that blew us away was to think that this resort is unlike every other resort we've ever been to - although they grow some herbs (not the Jamaican type, mon!) and vegetables on the island, EVERYTHING else must be shipped in from or shipped out to the main island. There was a boat with two c-can shipping containers that docked one day while we were having breakfast - workers unloaded all the food, cleaning supplies, booze for hours...then they loaded it back up with garbage, torn down tree leaves & branches, and broken down cardboard to be taken away. Truly makes you appreciate the experience!
Another thing we thought was cool? The bar and restaurant floors were just beach sand - no flooring (except for the dance floor). So what? No high heels for the ladies, no shoes for the men...in fact, we did not wear flip flops until we finally left. A full week with no shoes! That kicks ass!!
We would strongly recommend this resort - maybe T&A2020??
We decided to do a professional photo shoot since the surroundings were so beautiful. Even though it was a professional photo shoot and we had a professional photographer, he was dealing with far from professional models. Oh well, here are a few of those pics...
We did an excursion to one of the nearby islands where it is common to find whale sharks. Whale sharks are slow moving, filter feeders that are the largest known fish species, growing over 40 feet long and weighing up to 45,000 lbs.
Now, you've heard the old saying "it's like finding a needle in a haystack"? That is literally what it is like trying to find a whale shark (who is moving around) in the ocean (which is friggin' huge!). Many people go on the excursion and don't see any whale sharks - we were lucky enough to see two.
You can't even imagine the rush it is to jump into the water off the boat, not knowing what is below, and to open your eyes and see this beast of an animal cruising along, not caring if you are near him or even in his path. Truly amazing...and scary!
Here are some other random pics and videos from the trip..
Inflatabull - yes, we ordered the famous inflatable bull and had a ton of fun riding it in the water. Wow! It was not only hard to stay on, but hard to mount! Haha
Sandbar island - we did a short excursion out to a sandbar that is usually above the sea during low tide and about a metre below the sea during high tide. Not sure what the tour guy was thinking, but they took us there during high tide. Oh well, the floating cooler kept us occupied while we weren't snorkelling around the reef.
Jumping fish - you could take drinks down to the dock where the float plane lands and see many jumping fish, as well as sharks and rays at night. Pretty cool.
Dubai - May 2018
We did a quick weekend trip to Dubai at the start of May - some bars, some beach, and some shopping. Hit the Mall of the Emirates that has a ski hill and toboggan hill inside it. In a friggin' mall!
Always a great time!
Bahrain Tribfest - April 2018
In April, we went to our third Tribfest in Bahrain. Always a great time, hot & sunny weather, beer-filled, and great music. We went with friends David and Nikki and met up with Waco and Tosh. Loved the Bon Jovi tribute band called Wrong Jovi.
Back to Canada
We received some sad news in April, learning that Jeff's Grandma had passed away. She lived a happy 95 years and was Jeff's last living grandparent. We flew back to support Jeff's dad and it was a great opportunity to see his brother and many relatives we hadn't seen in some time. Our path took us to Calgary and then Saskatoon, then driving up to Prince Albert. The path back was Saskatoon to Toronto to Abu Dhabi and then Saudi. Was great to catch up with cousins Ryan and Rebecca and also to see support from mom's family, catching up with Sue and Barry. Lisa also took advantage of a trip to Canada to fill her suitcase with Canadian snacks. It was a whirlwind trip, making the 24-hour one-way trip to Canada and back all in less than a week!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa