January 16, 2019

Discover Beautiful Bahrain

Bahrain is a fascinating travel destination for those who are willing to venture a little off of the beaten path. It features beautiful architecture, warm hospitality and rich culture, as well as natural beauty including glorious beaches. Visited Bahrain in December 2018. Weather in December is excellent.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island nation located off of the coast of Saudi Arabia. It consists of one large main island, as well as several smaller, outlying islands.

Saudi Rials (currency) is accepted in Bahrain, exchange rate differs.

It is a very multicultural place, with four official languages: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and English. Due to its large expat community, Bahrain is a blend of many different cultures. Plus, as Bahrain’s is one of the few nations in the Middle East where alcohol can legally be purchased, it is a popular getaway for those in neighboring countries.

History lovers will also love visiting beautiful Bahrain. Bahrain has been an important trading post for centuries, so there are many ancient and historic sites to explore. Some of the most well-known include the Barbar Temples, the earliest of which takes from 3000 BC, and Souq al-Khamis, a stunning mosque that dates back to the eighth century.

TIP: Bahrain can be expensive. My hotel room was $100 a night, USD.
Airport to hotel was 5 Bahraini Dinar, about $15 USD.

Bab Al Bahrain
Bab Al Bahrain
Bab Al Bahrain, the main entrance to the Manama Souq. Manama Souq has a lot of shops selling souvenirs and Arabian lamps and artifacts. There is also other excellent shopping, from small bazaar stalls through to high-end luxury designer boutiques. One of the largest and most luxurious malls is the Moda Mall, however, if you are looking for Bahrain’s famous yellow gold, you should head for Gold City in Manama. Just FYI, I rarely shop, just went to see the glitter.

One of the main cultural attractions in Manama is the stunning Al Fateh Grand Mosque. The architecture of this mosque is absolutely beautiful, and it is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims. You are welcome to take a tour which will show you the most beautiful parts of the mosque, as well as share some information about the Islamic faith.

If you’re looking to relax or perhaps escape the hot sun, Bahrain also boasts several beautiful beaches, such as glamorous Marassi Al Bahrain, with its calm water and many beach parties.

All in all, Bahrain is a beautiful and underrated travel destination. Whether you’re hoping to enjoy the many fabulous restaurants and bars, or perhaps to discover the historic sites, you’re sure to be fascinating and enthralled by this amazing country.

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January 13, 2019

Things to do in Beirut Lebanon

Byblos Lebanon
Byblos Lebanon
Visited Beirut Lebanon in December 2018, days are nice and pleasant and evenings and nights Get cold during December in Beirut Lebanon. The winters are quite mild.

Airport immigration is quick and easy, have you hotel arrange for airport pickup to avoid any taxi scams. Airport to downtown the cost for a taxi is about USD 15. The ride is less then half an hour.

Safety: I found Lebanon to be very safe and did not have any issues at all.

Stay: I stayed at a hotel close to downtown, awesome location, close to several eating places, walking distance to Beirut souk and tourist attractions. The cost was USD 35 a night. Check booking.com for some great hotel deals.

Food: Lebanon is one of the best countries for awesome cuisine. Here is my recommendation 'Le Chef', Gouraud Street, Beirut. Tabbouleh salad there is amazing, I paid under USD 10 for a beer, fresh bread, olive oil, Salad and a main dish. Mar Mikhael and hamra street are another great location for food and clubs.

Transportation: I used minibuses to travel outside of Beirut, and within Beirut did a lot of walking and used shared cabs.

Money: 1 USD equals to 1500 Lebanese pound at the time of writing this post, there are ATM's everywhere. I use XE app on my smart phone for currency conversion.

Language: Most people will speak some English, I used google translate twice.

Travel Guide book - check out Bradt's Lebanon.

One of the first things that every traveler will want to do when they arrive in Lebanon is visit the National Museum of Beirut.  Inside, there are archaeological artifacts that share the history of the country and the people that have lived there over the years.  The two most popular exhibits are the Phoenician gilded bronze figures that were found buried near the Obelisk Temple at Byblos and the Phoenician marble statues of baby boys from the 6th century.

After seeing those exhibits, everyone will be ready to venture over to the Byblos Castle, which was constructed during the 12th century by the Crusaders.  This castle was constructed, dismantled, and reconstructed, a couple times, which makes it a unique piece of history that is thankfully still standing.


One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Beirut, I took a minibus, paid the bus driver 2000 Lebanese pound one way or $1.50 USD. The minibus dropped me on side of a main highway, from there I walked through open-air bars, souvenir shops, and outdoor cafes to the historical sites. From Beirut to Byblos it took about half an hour by Minibus.

The entrance fee to the main historical site is 6 or 8 thousand Lebanese pound, I cannot remember. The whole Complex and the museum is worth visiting, it dates back to 8000 BC.

Pottery found in Byblos from 3000 BC - 1600 BC

Beirut can seen by walking to most places, I did take the cab twice to Cola bus station to take the mini bus to Baalbek and back to downtown. The cost of the shared cab was 3000 Lebanese pound or $2 USD.

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If you anywhere close to downtown you cannot miss the above Mosque and church.

I visited Beirut during Christmas Holidays, the whole Downtown Beirut was decorated with lights and Christmas decorations. Beirut Souq, was all decorated. Now this is nota  traditional middle eastern Souq, its very modern with all the designer brand name one can think of.

People in Beirut are very friendly. One does see some army presence in Beirut due to close proximity to Syria, overall its very safe.

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January 7, 2019

Layover in Newark Liberty International Airport

7 Hour Layover in Newark Liberty International Airport and How to get to New York NY from Newark NJ Airport

 I had a 7 hour layover in December 2018, December in New York/New Jersey is cold, dress according. My flight arrived at around 10 AM and my departure was at 5 PM to Denmark.
At the Newark Liberty Airport, I asked information about going to New York, they told me to take the skytrain to Amtrack trains. The trains and way to Skytrain is clearly marked, at the AMTrack station I bought a train ticket to Penn Station in New York, the cost is US$12.25 for one way ticket. The train ride is 45 minutes approximately. I arrived at the Penn station and there were people selling tickets to the ball game and to the Hop on Hop off bus for sightseeing New York.

From Penn station I walked to 7th ave Macy's.

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From there I walked to Time square, and back to Penn station after a roughly 2 hour walk around New York. I got back to the airport with 3 hours to spare. I leave you with a few photos.

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Now the show on Amazon prime 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' is a great show.

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November 10, 2018

Tikal Guatemala Visit

Visited Tikal in September 2018, its hot and humid in September dress accordingly.

I had booked a tour online, they had canceled on me as they didn't have enough people for the tour. I headed to Belize border town with Guatemala called San Ignacio. There are several tours that leave everyday and I was able to book a tour to Tikal easily in San Ignacio.

The tour van was comfortable and had A/C. They took care of all the border crossing fees, entrance fees to the Archeological site, came with a guide and they took care of lunch.

The cost was $135 USD, which I thought was a bargain. The starting time was 6:30AM and drop off around 5PM same day.

Get a tour company and avoid all the hassles of doing it yourself.

Although everything for the trip was paid for, I did change 10 USD at the border to Guatemala Quetzal, in September 2018, 1USD = 7.5 Guatemala Quetzal. The reason being I'll need local money for water and drinks on a hot day full of hiking. I did buy 2 bottles of Gatorade for 30 Guatemala Quetzal.

From San Ignacio to the Guatemala border is 20 minutes ride and about an hour to Flores Guatemala. The van drive stopped by the lake in Flores. And a coffee restroom break at a roadside souvenir shop.

September is low tourist season and once we arrived in Tikal National park, there were very few tourists. The group I was in spent the hot day exploring the Mayan pyramids. The Pyramids with a room on top is a temple, the Pyramid which is flat on top is an Observatory.

Some of the Pyramids are still covered with dirt and have trees growing on them, the guide explained the issues that could arise by taking the trees out could cause damage to the structure. With all the technology we have, I thought it was the cost involved in restoring and upkeep as Guatemala is not very rich, I could be wrong.

The Tour van stopped on the road and everyone got out to take pictures of the monkeys on the trees.

Above Picture National tree of Guatemala 'Ceiba'

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September 8, 2018

Belize Guatemala Border Crossing

Benque Viejo del Carmen Belize to Melchor de Mencos Guatemala Border Crossing

From San Ignacio Belize the border is about 20 minutes drive along the beautiful Mopan River. At the check point one walks into the Belize immigration,  there are 2 windows you'll need to go through. The first one is to Pay an exit fee, When leaving Belize you will have to pay 40 Belize dollars as an exit fee. Next window is where they stamp your passport. There is an Exit forum everyone has to fill out.

There are unofficial money changer there, to change money into Guatemala Quetzal. Most of them will give you a good rate. I used the money changers in central America before, so basically changed small amount to get me by.

Belize Side of the Border Immigration office

After getting your exit stamp, you'll walk through no man's land a few meters to Guatemala Immigration, this is hassle free for me as I have a US passport. There were other European and Asian tourists, they didn't have any issues either.

Guatemala Immigration

Guatemala Immigration there are no entry exit fees.

Entry Back into Belize, the only question the immigration officer asked me where I was going, I replied San Ignacio, there is no entry fee back into Belize.

When flying out of Belize city there is no exit fee.

Hope this helps any fellow traveler, feel free to ask any questions
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September 6, 2018

4 days in Belize

Visited Belize in September 2018, September is hot and humid, not the best time to visit. Everyone speaks English though locals speak Kriol among themselves.

Day 1                            

                                           Belize City Airport to San Ignacio 

I had booked a shuttle online to take take me from Belize City airport to San Ignacio, for $55 USD. They canceled on me as minimum 2 people are needed to take the shuttle or I could pay double. I took my chances as I coudl not find an online company to take me from Belize Airport to SAN Ignacio, so basically arrived around noon and immigration is quick and easy. Once outside the airport, cab drivers approached me, the price was $160 to go to San Ignacio, I declined and asked the taxi drive how much to go to the bus stop in Belize City, the price is $25 and I agreed. I had already searched the online forums and knew that to be a fair price.The taxi drive tried to convince me to go to San Ignacio, he kept saying the buses will be full.

At the Belize City bus stop I waited for 15 minutes and was on a Bus to San Ignacio. There are no AC in the bus, the ticket was 5.50 USD or 11 Belize dollars. And the bus was full, though I got a seat. Roughly 3 hours later I was in San Ignacio.

Belize City main bus terminal

                                                     San Ignacio 

 Small little border town, just a few city blocks, one can walk anywhere. Cayo welcome center is where you can get all the tourist information from. Its by the main bus stop, now in San Ignacio there is no bus terminal, just a stop by the road side. Locals are friendly and will help you directions if needed. Hot and sweaty from the bus ride, I headed to my hotel that I had booked though booking.com for $25 a night. Private room with attached bath.

Cayo welcome center

After a refreshing shower, I was off to explore the town. Found a place that sells organized tours, booked a day tour through them to Tikal Guatemala, for the following day. Price was $135.

Day 2 was spent in Tikal

First day in San Ignacio, I had dinner at Erva's, its on Far West street. A dinner of fish, rice and beans and a side salad with a beer was around 10 USD. The next night I ate a Chinese restaurant called Maxim's. There is also an Indian restaurant call Tandoor. There are no shortage of eating options in San Ignacio.

Day 3 and DAY 4, I headed back to Belize City, again at the bus stop in San Ignacio cab driver approached me, to take me back they wanted $75 this time. I took the bus back.

                                                                    Belize City

My hotel in Belize city was located between the main Bus stop and down town. The price was $60 a night for an A/C room with breakfast included.

TIP -  if you want to use ATM to get local currency, there is an ATM in downtown from Scotia bank, its near the Broadies supermarket.

Belize city is divided into 2 main parts, north side and south side. South side has extreme poverty. Broken down shacks with more than one family living in them, Belize city has 35% unemployment as per my cab driver. A lot of houses are on stilts due to flooding from the sea. North Side is the richer and nicer area with a lot of ex-pat and retires calling it home.

I made my way in South Side to St. John's Cathedral. Its the oldest Cathedral in the Caribbean built in 1812, made by bricks used to balance the ships that came from Europe and Africa.

The first picture is the Cathedral and the 2nd picture is what is left of a wall around the Cathedral, the slaves had to be on the other side of the wall.

I did go inside the Cathedral, it is beautiful.

Behind the Cathedral is an old governors mansion by the ocean. I had a cab drive me along the south part of the city. We drove past old cemeteries, the graves are above ground due to sea water in the ground. We went past government buildings, museum's, schools - kids in Belize wear white uniforms. Then we went to the nicer part of the city the north side. Beautiful drive along the ocean, beautiful colonial houses, sea side bars. Embassies and casinos and the cab driver gave me an commentary as he drove along. The hour and a half ride along Belize city in the Taxi cost was 25 USD.


The first picture above is an old colonial house on barrack street, back in the 1800's there was no A/C and the houses were built with all those windows to ventilate and keep the house cooler.
The 2nd photo is of Brodies supermarket, they have a deli for cheap eats. Downtown, though rest of the stores were Chinese and Indian owned as far as I could tell.

Due to lack of time I plan to visit Belize again to see the Belize Cayes (Islands)

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August 7, 2018

Things to do in Bogota Colombia

Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar Bogota

I Visited Bogota in July 2018, I had a direct flight from Quito Ecuador. A round trip Air ticket was cheaper than a one way ticket from Quito to Bogota.

Weather in July - evenings and nights get cold, pack some warm clothes

Airport to Hotel taxi, I got a cab from outside the airport, and the price was U$D 15.

Hotel - I stayed at Hostal Casa Cubil, Private room was $40 a night, I loved my stay there, check booking.com for discounts

Day 1 in Bogota

I met up with a friend through Couchsurfing and we went exploring around town, mostly Zona Rosa area. After walking all afternoon/evening we ended having dinner at a empanadas street food place, I had some kind of a egg cheese empanadas for under a dollar.

At the time of writing this 1 U$D = 2900 Colombian Pesos.

Taxis are everywhere and have meters, not too expensive.

Above Pictures: Juan Valdez café, there are over 100 Juan Valdez cafés in Colombia and 2nd Picture is BBC Bogota beer company, there are several of those in Bogota as well.

Day 2

I did 2 tours, the first one was a walking tour of Bogotá and the 2 one was a street food tour. Both tours met in front of the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum)

I highly recommend these tours, the first one started at 10 AM and the 2nd at 2 PM, after the food tour the group ended up at BBC, and I was back at my hotel by 10 PM.

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Bogota one of the best cities in the world for street art. Above picture I took during the free walking tour of Bogota at La Candelaria district, walking toura are the best way to see a city with a good local guide.La Candelaria district, the walking tour stopped fora alcoholic corn drink called 'chicha' it is sweetened with brown sugar.


Another tour, this time a history tour, we met at plaza Bolivar and talk about the history, walk to presidents house or palace. The tour guide talked about the FARC and the drug wars. The tour ended with lunch at a french cafe.

After lunch the group decided to go to Monserrate Mountain in Bogota for some great view of the city from the top. So we walked till the cable car station, to take the cable car to the top of the mountain was about 10USD going and coming back.

Day 4 time to catch a flight.

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August 1, 2018

Things to do in Quito Ecuador

Explore the Fascinating Quito, Ecuador

Quito happens to be the capital city of Ecuador, the highest capital in the world as far as altitude goes, and it can be found tucked away in between the breathtaking beauty of multiple mountain peaks.  The streets are always busy, but there is still a calm in the air, as the locals prefer a relaxed atmosphere at any hour of the day and night.

I visited Quito in July 2018, evenings can get cold. Pack a jacket with your clothes. Its in the same time zone as Texas, no jetlag.

Airport to City Taxi will cost $25 USD one way.

Stay: I stayed at Hostal L'Auberge Inn for about $12 a night, private room with shared bathroom. Loved my stay there, check booking.com for discounts.

Food: My Hostel was half way between the Old town and the New part of the town, walking distance to both. New part of the town is where all the clubs, Bars and fancy restaurants are, though street food is everywhere. Most of my time in Quito was spent in the old part of the town. 

Transportation: Taxis are cheap in Ecuador, I did a lot of walking in Quito also

TIP: Learn some Spanish, its hard to get by with just English

Basilica del Voto Nacional
Basilica del Voto Nacional Quito
Those who choose to visit Quito will be amazed at how much history can be seen and experienced without even stepping foot in one of the museums.  Everyone will love wandering the streets as they stop to admire the treasures that can be found within spectacular plazas and historical buildings and churches.

Here are the best things to see as people are exploring the fascinating Quito, Ecuador:

Old Town

Old Town is the historic district of this capital city and it is easy for everyone to wander around on foot as they look at every inch of it.  While in Old Town, there are plenty of museums to venture into, but most visitors will be more impressed with the plethora of old churches.  La Compania de Jesus was constructed during the 17th century and it is covered in gold, while the Roman Catholic San Francisco Church has been around since the 16th century and contains the Virgin of Quito.


Because of the high altitude, I was out of breath and didn't end up going up there.

The Teleferiqo is the cable car that takes visitors up twelve thousand feet so that they can see panoramic views that go on for miles.  This is the best way to see the nearby volcanoes, especially Cotopaxi, which is one of the world’s tallest ones.

Basilica del Voto Nacional

A 10 minute walk from my hostal, went there twice. There is a 2 dollar fee to take the elevator to the top. Once you exit the elevator you can view the city from the top or go even further higher by stairs to get to the tower, not an easy climb. The Basilica is a  must do/see in Quito.

El Panecillo

El Panecillo is a large hill that has a statue of the Virgin on top.  While everyone can see the Virgin from different vantage points within Quito, many people prefer to take a taxi to the top to see the statue up close.  It is also possible to walk to the top to see the fantastic views of the city below.

Important TIP: I Visited Panecillo in the evening, everyone I asked advised me not to go in the evening as its not safe, I wanted to take some night photos and went anyways, nothing happened to me. Besides I had less than 20 bucks on me, if someone was to rob me, no big deal. Now my advise, if you go there late in the evening make sure you have transportation both ways prearranged.

El Panecillo
El Panecillo

Carolina Park

This is the best place in the city to go and relax on any day of the week, but it is busiest on the weekends when the locals do not need to go to work.  Inside the park, everyone will find an exotic botanical garden, a planetarium, museum, and a reptile house.  Those who wish to participate in one of the many sports inside the park can play soccer or they can try to learn how to play Ecuavoli, which is volleyball with specific rules and three people to a team.  There are also paddle boats that people can take out on the water.

Middle of the World

I hired a private Cab to take me to the Middle of the world Monument where the equator is, in Ecuador, the cost was $30 dollars round trip, the cab drivers told me for an extra 15 U$D he would also take me to Pululahua volcano and Crater and I agreed. My Hostel had arranged for the private cab.

Calle de la Ronda

This unique street in the area of Old Town is covered in cobblestones for visitors to walk over as they venture in and out of the interesting art galleries and artisan shops.  No one will be able to resist making a purchase or two when they are there except me as I don't shop, and most people will stop in one of the little cafés for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee when they need a little break.  The best time to visit this area of the city is when they are hosting heritage and cultural events, and there are many of them throughout the year.

Now I on my 2nd day in Quito did a free walking tour of Quito that one through the old town, the tour is not free its based on tips, I tipped the tour guide 10 USD.

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco
Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, Quito

La Compania church in Quito
La Compania church in Quito

Both these Churches have beautiful gold work done inside and are a must see. Stay tuned for more videos from Quito coming soon.

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July 28, 2018

5 hour Layover in Denver Colorado

Another layover, this time in Denver or 'the mile high city' as its known as. So basically I was catching a flight to Panama City and the cheapest price I could find was on Copa Airlines, which flew from Denver, so I took United from Austin to Denver and Copa from there, I had a 5 hour layover.

Now I am not a big fan of airport food, so decided to take my chances and leave the airport and head to the city. So from arrival's, you'll need go down to departures and exit the airport and you'll see the train once out side the airport. There is a 9 dollar ticket you'll need to buy for the train ride. The last stop is Union Station.

IMPORTANT TIP: See the time on the ticket, you might be able to use the same tickets to get back to the airport.

Picture below taken at the last stop Union Station.

airport train denver

The train takes 40 minutes one way.

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Picture above The Union Station

Picture below: Several eating options inside the Union station and outside around the station.

So after a meal and a drink, I walked around the area, one can also take a pedicab, you'll see the pedicabs outside the station.

I was back at the airport with time to spare and was on my way to Panama city.

FYI There is no TSA Precheck at Denver airport, there were no long line on a Saturday evening.

Anyone from Denver or has been there, please leave your recommendations for a layover in the comments below.
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May 4, 2018

3 days in Barcelona

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família
Visited in Early March 2018 - First thing first, Why did I go to Barcelona. I was looking for flights from Marrakesh Morocco to India and checked skyscanner and google flights, among others like Wego, most flights were over 800 USD one way. So I checked destinations in Europe and onwords to India and voila, got a cheap flight. for around 400 USD to India, So basically took a  3 day / 2 night break or stopover in Barcelona.

The first day I had arrived late, I was staying at the Generator Hostel, checked in and went to see Sagrada Família. It was walking distance from my hostel. The Sagrada Família was about to close and took a few pictures and headed back to the hostel. On the way back to the hostel, there was a rally by women, it was international women's day.

Barcelona is overrated

Just another big city in Europe with a cathedral under construction, not much else. Some other buildings with tiles and they call it Art and a beach which I didn't visit in Cold March.

People in Barcelona are rude, or atleast that was my experience. So basically I was trying to get to  the cathedral from my Hostel, I tried to ask for directions and people just look through you, not even a simply reply as I don't know or no English. So instead of walking I was taking cabs to go just a few blocks as no one would help me with directions.

Next day I took the Hop on Hop off bus, it so happens that there was a strike that day and the buses didn't run as expected. The bus cost was 30 euros, which I have no problem paying, just that I was stuck at a stop for over an hour waiting for the bus to show up.

Anyways, here are few pictures and some places I saw while in Barcelona.

Shop selling souvenirs outside the football stadium.


Above Las Ramblas, Barcelona, famous for its pickpockets, just don't have anything in your back pockets and you'll be okay.


Above Plaza de Cataluna, First and last stop for the Airport Shuttle just outside the plaza. 

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