Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Underwater Maldives Part One - Feeding the fish, swimming with Turts

Behold, an underwater Maldives picture gallery - these pictures were extremely fun to take.  The snorkeling in the Maldives is so mind-blowingly good that we canceled our last few days diving. This is part one, much more early next week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Maldives - Arrival in paradise

The Maldives are a collection of sandy atolls in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Located between India and Africa, the island nation is the sandy mountaintops of a massive underwater mountain range.  The Maldives boast almost 1200 islands, though only 200 of them are settled with a population of about 400,000.  

The Maldives is one of the most luxurious places in the world, and each resort has its own private island.  We stayed on the island of Kurumba near the capital of Male, which was sort of an entry level and convenient place to stay.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Throwback Tuesday: I was robbed in Quito and all I got was this poo stained t-shirt

Last April, I went on my first real travel assignment to Quito, Ecuador.  My second day there, I was robbed.  My camera was stolen and I was covered in human excrement.  Below is my story as I wrote it for

It began like any other day in the life of a travel writer - gingerly exposing my limbs, one at a time, to the arctic water gurgling out of my hostel's shower head. It was Tuesday morning, and I had just arrived in Quito. My research had left me in a state of premature love with this UNESCO heritage city almost 10,000 feet up in the Andes. While hyperventilating in the relentlessly cold stream, I decided that I would open my Quito story with an interesting historical anecdote.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Qatar's new skyline and old souqs

Doha in Qatar is a strange Arab enclave with modern forests of glass and steel casting long shadows on its much older quarters.  It is a city in transition, where the old will stay old and the new will rise from the ground with each heartbeat of the encroaching future.  The ancient souqs of Arabia are home to narrow lanes and markets where everything has a price.  From fluorescent colored chicks to rusty old desert swords, the labyrinthine souqs of Qatar had us turning our heads around every corner.  We unintentionally bartered for things we did not want, were shouted at by parrots a little far from home, and passed droves of cloaked old men, perhaps jedis.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Al Maha Desert in the United Arab Emirates - Luxury, dune bashing, Oryx, falcons, and horses

An hour outside of Dubai, the Al Maha desert is a  sprawling landscape of shrubs, dunes, and the occasional oasis.  The Al Maha desert reserve is also home to many Oryx and Gazelles.  We stayed at the (very 5 star) desert resort in Al Maha and the animals were frequent guests at breakfast and would also amble up to the pool curious of the strange white creatures thrashing about in the water - us.  The impetus for my entire reason for going to Dubai was to stay at this particular resort and visit with the very endangered Oryx (maybe 1000 or so left in the wild).  These are very interesting animals and the access to them, whether they be staring at us about a meter away from our outside breakfast table or walking alongside us during a desert camel ride, was unbelievable.  They are not scared of people, at all. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Doha - Where Blade Runner meets Arabia

 Doha in Qatar is such a cool place.  Check out this picture of old fishing boats in the harbor contrasting with the modernist skyline.  More later.

Diving in the aqaurium at Dubai Mall

 Dubai mall is the nicest mall I have ever been to, without a doubt.  The quality of the stores is extremely high, which makes sense, because Dubai is where the wealthy go to shop.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ski Dubai

Dubai is the only place in the world where one can ski 3 different ways: snow, sand, and water.  This is thanks to a massive ski slope built into the Mall of the Emirates.  We didn't ski, but did tube down several ice slides, ride the ski lift, and tag-teamed a menacing stretch of slope called Backwinder's Stampede (name I made up).  Both of us almost broke our tailbones on that run.  Kristin also leaped into a padded ball and was pushed down a slope.

A room in the Burj Al Arab

So what does the interior of the Burj Al Arab look like?  The Burj has no stars, but some joke it is the world's only 7 star hotel.  Rooms come with butlers.  Each floor has its own concierge.  Everything is gold.  There is a pillow menu.  Here are some pictures.

Seven courses at the top of the world - At.moshere in the Burj Khalifa

One of our favorite activities in Dubai was an 8 course meal at At.mosphere in the the Burj Khalifa.  It is the highest restaurant in the world.  While I will muse about every savory bite in a few weeks on, here are some pictures of our incredible meal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Staying at the Armani Hotel in Dubai

If you knew me growing up, then you know that I was a huge follower of the Armani brand, even working for the company at one point, albeit at one if its lowest rungs.  When we checked into the Armani hotel in the world's tallest building, I was very excited to say the least.  It is Armani's first property and is fittingly stylish. After staying in the Jumeriah hotels that kick you in the teeth with glamor and shine, Armani was a welcome change of pace with understated style and monotone coolness.  

We stayed on the top floor and enjoyed every minute of it.

The Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest thing

The Burj Khalifa is an epic structure, proclaiming Dubai's vertical ambitions to the world around it.  While the world's economy receded, Dubai kept building the beast that towers at over 200 floors.  It took over 5 years, with 196 nationalities comprising the 10,000 workers that made the project possible.  By day it looks like it has been hastily photoshopped into the downtown skyline.  By night it appears as though it will shake free of the earth and take off like a rocket, bound for the furthest reaches of our galaxy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sheikh Mohammed's Peacocks

While in Dubai we visited the driveway to Sheikh Mohammed's private residence.  The Sheikh is beloved by the people and lives a very normal life, from jogging in public to casually visiting stores like an everyday Sheikh.  Keeping with this theme of accessibility, people can visit the driveway leading up to his house and admire his army of colorful peacocks.  Allegedly (not verified), further into his residence, a pack of lions patrol his gardens - probably not open to outsiders.  The Sheikh essentially willed Dubai's impressive growth and is the absolute monarch of the Emirate and the VP of the UAE.  He has 21 children and a few wives.  He is also very very rich and has exceptional taste in peacocks.

Jumeriah Mosque

As a non-Muslim, a privileged glimpse into a mosque is an eyeopening experience.  The Jumeriah Mosque, one of the only mosques open to Westerners in the United Arab Emirates, provides this opportunity several times per week.  While Kristin and I were too rushed to take in a full service, the individuals running the service let us in before everyone else to take some pictures.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A night on the Palm - Jumeriah Zabeel Saray

 In this picture, you can make out the hazy downtown skyline anchored by the towering Burj Khalifa - the tallest building known to man

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dubai - Camel burgers, waterways, and souqs

As Kristin touched down on before in Boo's corner, we were treated to a feast during our Dubai press trip at Local House restaurant.  One huge detail involved in this feast not lost on its participants was the menu offerings - everything, except the hummus, included camel meat.  There were camel burgers, camel milkshakes, camel steak melt sandwiches, camel meatballs, and camel milk.  If an award were given out for camel consumption and the contest included Kristin and I, then Kristin bested me on all counts.  She ate her burger like a champion, washing it down with a strawberry camel milkshake, after which, in a brazen display of camel madness, she also pounded a small glass of salty camel milk.  Yea, her stomach didn't fare so well.  While I was given a disinterested tour of Dubai's souqs (markets), museums, and waterways by a Pakistani businessman, Kristin sped away with our expert driver and friend, Mr. Mujeev.

She would find solace in our new hotel - Zabeel Saray.