Dubai’s zoo wasn’t really worth visiting because the whole place isn’t sheltered. You have to animals in cages under the hot desert sun.
The animals seem that they are too hot too move and you’ll have to contend with visitors who do not have zoo etiquette. Nearly all of them were banging on the cages of the animals as if it would animate the prisoners inside. I kept wishing the tiger would jump up and bite their hands or something.
One of the exhibits was a lioness who was just lying around doing nothing.
On my blog, I focus on the good things about travel because I love travelling and I wish that more people will travel.
One of the excuses people give for not travelling is that they do not have anyone to go with.
Rubbish. If you travel alone, you can travel anytime you want.
While I love solo travelling, there are times that I wish I was travelling with someone else. These occasions are times when I did not feel safe.
I always take care to be back in my room before sundown. I feel like Cinderella with her midnight curfew, only my curfew was well earlier.
But despite all the precautions, sometimes scary situations still happen. Today, I want to share two of such tales. Thank goodness the situations were not majorly disastrous situations so you don’t have to feel too uncomfortable reading them.
Failed stalker in Istanbul
After I dropped off my mom at the Istanbul airport, I was back to being a solo traveller. This meant that there is no one to ask me if we’re walking in the right direction and that I can go wherever I want without any reason.
So I got off at the Coach Station stop on the metro. I remember seeing IKEA not far away from it. I really like visiting IKEAs of the world so I thought it was a good chance to add to my Local Things in IKEA list.
The Coach Station metro stop was a mess. It seemed like there were 50 bus companies around and each had a shop facing the metro exit.
I walked around to see where IKEA was. It looked quite far away but I decided that I should go nearer and find a path.
While I was walking, I heard someone talking really loudly. Thankfully, I have mastered the art of ignoring anyone that wasn’t talking directly to my face. Often, I see people over-react to voices on the streets and I don’t think that is very street savvy.
As I was walking to IKEA, I saw a short slim man in a blue polo shirt walking about 5 steps away from me. I thought he was heading to the same direction as I was.
I slowed down to let him walk ahead. Then, I realized that he kept looking back, as if to see where I was going.
By then, I decided that IKEA was too far and I wanted to head back. So I turned around.
Then I saw that the man turned around too. I walked faster, hoping to reach the metro station ahead of him.
While I was walking, some other person walked to me and asked me where I wanted to go.
The direction-giver pointed to the metro entrance and said “Metro. Metro.” I thanked him for his kindness.
I did not check if the blue-shirt follower was still with me but I suspect that seeing me talk to the direction-giver probably scared him off.
Thank you, good man.
The creepy note and persistent delivery man in Dubai
I didn’t mention receiving a note under my door on my first night on in my blog posts because it felt too scary to write about it at that time.
My plane arrived in Dubai quite late at about 10:30pm so I checked into my AirBnb close to midnight. The area from the metro station to the house didn’t seem like the best place since there were many men loitering.
My studio apartment entrance was in a dark lane. I had to take a lift to the house as it was above some shops.
After checking me in, my AirBnb host (a guy) left my studio apartment at past midnight. I took a shower and when I got out, I saw the note under the door.
I thought it might be from the laundry person who came by to drop off my sheets and pillow cases. However, he did not leave a company name so it was unlikely.
I sent the AirBnb host an e-mail to ask if he knows the person. The host didn’t know and said he would take care of it.
I didn’t know how he took care of it but the incident left a mark on me.
Some nights after… There was a knock on my door. I thought it might be the host but I still asked, “Who is it?”
A man whose voice I didn’t recognized said he was delivering groceries. I tensed up and went behind the door.
After the note incident, I had tied up my door knob to something sturdy with laundry string. No amount of pushing will open the door.
I stood behind the door as my heart raced. I shouted back at the “delivery man” that I DID NOT ORDER ANYTHING.
The man was persistent. He asked if my friend had ordered any. I thought it would be bad to tell him that I was alone so I said that my friend was not in.
The delivery person was silent. I was still behind the door. Then he banged the door again, saying that he was delivering cigarettes.
I was angry. I spat out, “I DO NOT SMOKE! NO ONE ORDERED ANYTHING.”
I could still hear the person behind the door. He made a call on speakerphone but no one picked up. I wondered if he was pretending to check if the phone who called for the delivery would ring in my room.
It wasn’t after a long while when he finally left. I was still in shock and e-mailed the host.
The host didn’t get back until days later since he was out of the country. He said that it was his friend who made the delivery call and said the wrong floor.
I felt really really pissed off that the person did not even bothered to give the right door number and caused me such anxiety. Still, there was nothing I could do.
I would still travel solo
Not everybody is pleased that I travel alone.
Someone once threatened me that “A girl travelling alone is not alone. She is with the Goddess of Death.” [I am sure that line was totally made up.]
Another person made a face and said, “What sort of parents let their daughter travel alone?”
Funnily, it is men who say such things to my face.
No woman has ever told me that we womanfolk should stay at home and knit. Usually, women tell me that they do not dare travel alone but they do not make threats. I give some encouragement in the form of, “Just try it.”
Despite everything, I would not give up travelling solo. It gives me peace and less anxiety when I am able to follow my own itinerary that is made up as every minute passes.
What was the scariest situation when you were travelling alone?
I spent 2 days in Egypt with a tour group, visiting Giza and Cairo. Unlike Chinese tour groups, we were brought to local restaurants for our lunches (dinner was not included in the package).
I fell in love with Egyptian food when I took the first bite of a well seasoned barbeque meat at our first restaurant.
Egyptian bread is fluffy and has an empty air pocket in the middle. I love tearing off bits of bread and stuff them in my mouth. Mmmm.
At one of the stops, we had vine leaves with something inside. I couldn’t remember what it was, it could have been meat but it might have been something else.
i also ate falafel for the first time in Eypt (yep, I didn’t have any in Paris or Dubai). It was nice but I do prefer my balls of food to contain meat.
The honeydew that we were served at lunch was pure sugar.
The roast chicken that we had was delicious. Even though I was stuffed with bread and falafel, I tore through the well-seasoned poultry and gobbled its tender meat. (I’m very hungry just remembering it.)
I first heard about this exotic drink on a Jamie Oliver cooking show. He was preparing a meal in under 20 minutes or so and whipped up a batch of bright red hibiscus tea from tea bags.
Location: Cairo, Egypt Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 12]
Since we reached the hotel late last night, I only got the chance to take a good look a Mena House Hotel in the morning while I was rushing for breakfast.
The hotel was previously a palace for King Faruq. The wing we stayed in was newly built. The original wing, which was also where the check in counter and restaurants were, is really gorgeous.
Outside of the entrance hung a huge oriental-looking chandelier. Inside the building, some of the walls were covered with cool marbles and reception area had many parts gilded in gold.
Breakfast itself was alright with the normal western food. I did drink three short glasses of hibiscus juice. When made right (meaning lots of sugar), hibiscus juice tastes like cranberry juice and even looks like it with its bright red color.
It’s a really rare chance for me to stay in a 5-star hotel while travelling on my own. I think it’s a combination of a drop in the number of tourists and being in a tour group that allowed me to live luxuriously for a night.
We left at 7:00am and headed straight to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din. From afar, the mosque reminded me of the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I didn’t dare voice that out loud in case it looked completely different and I look like a fool.
It turned out that the mosque was indeed a copy of the Blue Mosque and was made by the same architect.  We had to chance to take gorgeous photos of the mosque.
Persistently wrong souvenir seller
When I exited the mosque, I was approached by a souvenir seller. I waved my hand next to my face while saying, “No.”
Then the seller said, rather fiercely, “I know you are Japanese by the way you wave.”
I was kind of stunned. Is that how you determine nationality? By the waving of hands? I replied in Japanese and English that he was wrong.
He was persistent about his answer but guessed again, “China?”
I said, “No. Two dollars for answer.” I stretched out my hand for the money.
I suppose he was taken aback but he replied, “I don’t want your answer.”
“I don’t want your souvenirs neither,” I retorted and continued taking my photo.
A while later, he came back and said, “You ARE Japanese.” With a dramatic turn, he walked off which kind of reminds me of the crazy drunk in Paris.
The Old Papyrus Museum
Among our stops today was the Old Papyrus Museum which I loved.
Inside, we were shown how papyrus paper is made.
Peel off green skin of papyrus for the flesh inside.
Take strips of papyrus flesh and soak in water. After 7 days, you will get white strips. For darker strips, soak for 10 days. (Remember to change water everyday to remove the suagr).
Line up de-sugared strips horizontally and vertically. Put the strips between two piece of cloth to soak up the water.
Put the papyrus/cotton burger in a press to get rid of water.
Change cotton burger everyday for 10 (?) days.
The sugar and natural chemicals in papyrus will stick the strips together.
Voila! You have papyrus paper.
The papyrus paper I touched was a lot thicker than regular paper. I heard that you can even wash the paper.
The shop also has “royal paper” which allows you to crumble up the paper but it will bounce back to normal. There are also caps and vests made from papyrus.
In the end, I bought a few souvenir papyrus drawings to use up my Egyptian pounds.
The highlight of today was the Egyptian Museum. We could not bring our cameras inside so I am not able to share with you the goodies.
The museum is only 2-storey high but it was packed with antiques. Rows and rows of mummy coffins; tiny pendants all in 15 rows (!), dried up mummies, wall carvings and so on.
The highlight of the museum is King Tutankhamun’s gold mask. It is so SHINEY! (Yes, I’m speechless and adjective-less.)
Many of the galleries featured wall carvings chiselled off ancient walls. Hieroglyphic is really cute.
On our way back, we were caught in a traffic jam. For a while, it seemed that we might miss our curfew to get back on the ship. Thank Amun-re that we made it on time in the end.
Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 12] Location: Giza, Egypt
Once I had my data SIM card two days ago, I signed up with Memphis Tour, a local tour company, for an overnight trip to Cairo. I’ve overheard many others on the ship who have signed up with the same company.
Usually, I like to travel independently but I only had two days in Alexandria. It would be easier going with a group than figuring out how to head to Cairo by train on my own.
There was a hiccup during pick up. Many tour members got different timings: 6:00am, 7:00am and 8:30am. Mine was 7:00am so I was not too early or too late.
We did leave before 8:30am and zipped off to Giza. Along the highway, we passed many plantations with produce such as dates, oranges, grapes, wheat and olives (not that I could tell them from my seat on the bus).
I didn’t realize there would be so much plants as I thought it was like Jordan with its expanse of desert.
When our bus rolled into Giza, everyone was excited to see the tips of the pyramids peeping from the top of buildings and trees.
When we got close, I was stunned to find how humungous the Great Pyramid was. It’s HUGE!!! One block of stone was about the height of my waist.
We were given photo opportunities outside of the Great Pyramid but our guide told us not to go in because of the low ceiling and having nothing much to see there.
Beware of conmen around the Great Pyramid. No one can be trusted.
When we were going back to the bus, I witness one of the conmen outside the pyramids. He stuffed a blue chip into the hands of one of our passengers. When the passenger returned the chip, the conman asked him for money. He followed the poor passenger around until he was given money.
Camel ride with view of pyramids
Next stop was our camel ride through the desert. I paid US$10 for it but it was worth 2 times the money. It’s a fun ride from the top of a dune to about 2km way where our bus picked us up. I did smell like camel poop afterwards though.
We headed to the Sphinx near the pyramids. I was very disappointed that the Sphinx wasn’t as big as I imagined. I sound like a spoilt tourist, don’t I?
A quick summary of happened between pyramids and evening Nile dinner cruise: Lunch, another pyramid which we can go in to gawk at the carvings in the tomb, some other pyramid with view of other pyramids, check into hotel (previously a palace
Nile dinner cruise
Only two other travelers from our tour group went with me to the Nile dinner cruise. We had the chance to be in a small car and in the crazy Cairo-Giza traffic. I think that alone was worth the trip.
We got on a boat and sat in the airconditioned dining room. The food was “tourist food” which meant few spices, although the rice pudding was nice.
While we ate, two singers sang. The man sang Arabic songs while the women sang French songs.
After a long wait, the belly dance lady finally arrived.
The belly dance lady was very nimble but the highlight was the whirling dervish. Live, the man with long skirt twirled so fast that I became dizzy. The colors of the skirt merged into almost one (I kept thinking if he wore the colors of the rainbow and if that would turn into white when he twirls.)
Our journey back from Cairo to Giza was pleasant. I saw mosque with lighted towers like Christmas trees, something I don’t see in Malaysia or Singapore.
Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 10] Location: Sharma El Sheik; Na’ama Bay, Egypt
After a day of R&R on the ship, I was ready to conquer Egypt, or at least the tourist town of Na’ama Bay.
I booked a shuttle transfer from the ship to Naama Bay since I desperately needed to buy a 3G SIM and a razor.
Na’ama Bay is a tourist town, meaning the streets were lined with shops that have English signs. It also meant that stall owners prey on the tourists.
While walking around in the hot sun, I was called out by stall owners. I usually use my umbrella to shield myself physically and visually from them.
One man shouted at me after I shook my head when he invited me to see his wares. I made a loud noise as well. I’m not sure if that managed to scare him off or not.
Another tout shouted at me when he saw me approaching the square. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. He stopped as well. I had to return to the square because it led me to Carrefour, the tout walked to me, saying something loudly. I shielded my eyes with my umbrella and went on to Carrefour.
At Carrefour, I was very happy. I got the thing I need and other groceries. I found mini face loofahs and a natural hair remover. I also bought a box of hibiscus tea.
[I am not kidding about the women’s razor. It’s unique selling point is that it’s small enough for women’s hands. Whaaat.]
3G data shopping
After the satisfying grocery trip, I stumbled upon a Vodafone shop and bought my data SIM. I tell you, buying that SIM is the best thing that has happened to me that day.
The shop assistant, Mohammad, said there was a cheap 3G package. For 60 Egyptian pound, I could get 4GB of Internet. I almost foamed at my mouth when I heard that. That is about S$10 for 4GB! (I later found out that it’s actually 4.5GB. Hurray!)
I happily Whatsapp and called my mom with my SIM. While I was happy with my data plan, one of the text messages from the mobile operator mentioned 500MB. I got paranoid and thought the sales person might have accidentally signed me up for a wrong package. I had to go back and ask again. (In the end, I found out online that the package was correct.)
With my groceries and 3G SIM card, I hopped on the shuttle bus back to the ship. The rest of the day was tame, compared to my 3G SIM card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get signal out in the sea.
At dinner, I was reminded that we will reach the Suez Canal at 2:00am. I retired early, setting my alarm to 2:05am, so I can catch our entry into the canal.