Tag Archives: mosque


Oman (officially the Sultanate of Oman) sits at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. It shares land borders with Saudi Arabia and the UAE (west) and Yemen (southwest), while sharing maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.

It has a population of a bit under 5.5 million.

The Rub’ al Khali or the Empty Quarter is the desert portion of Oman but also encompasses parts of the UAE, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It is 1,000 kilometres long, and 500 kilometres wide and has sand dunes with heights of up to 250 metres 

Our early research had us a little more excited about Oman as at first glance there seemed to be plenty to see and do. We were a little terrified coming into it as our Aussie dollar exchange rate came in at 25 cents. This meant that one of their real was worth $4 for us. Jill put us right in the heart of tourist land.

Our hotel room was not a shadow on our one from Abu Dhabi. It was the width of a bed and this was the door.

As I am a touch taller than Jill, I sconned myself on this door (and others around the hotel) on several occasions.

One of these has given me a gash to the head, concussion and likely brain damage.

The seaside area of Mutrah was to be our home for the next few days. Sadly the room paled in comparison with the luxury that we had in Abu Dhabi but the location was fantastic. Looking straight out of our window we had direct views of (and about a 300 m walk to) the Mutrah Fort.

At the bottom of our hill (250m), we were on the Mutrah Corniche. This is a 3km long promenade along the waterfront, which of course is lined with cafes, restaurants, and markets. You have views of the Oman Port and harbour (including the Sultans Yacht) and the Hajar Mountains with its Portuguese watchtowers on the other side.

Our first task was getting up at 6 am and walking along the Corniche to the fish market and dhow harbour before breakfast. Even the dodgy, smelly fish market was impressive. Stainless steel troughs. mosaic tiled walls and of course the freshest of fish that you could find.

As finding food in the Middle East had proven a touch challenging at times we have taken to getting breakfast included in our hotel. And so far, Oman is winning.

After our breakfast, we climbed the hill, paid our admission and hit the fort. Now this was a first. There was nobody there. We had the entire fort to ourselves for about 30 minutes. We roamed and explored and took our photographs with absolutely nobody else to contend with. When we were finished and were walking out the door, we passed the baton to two German guys who then also had it to themselves. Hitting the bottom though a group of about 10 arrived, so their solitude would have been short lived.

Having finished at the fort we hopped the local bus for a 4-5km ride to the National Museum of Oman.

Along the way you see a bizarre space ship looking thing on the right.

Apparently to celebrate the 20th National Day of Oman in 1990 this monumental incense burner was built on top of a prominent hill at Riyam Park. 

Getting off the bus was a bit of a catch all as within a short walk of where the bus drops you off, you have the Museum, the Al Alam Palace (the official palace of the sultan), two Portuguese forts of Al Jalali and Al Mirani and some major government buildings.

But the Museum was first.

The palace was the next obvious place to head as it was only a few hundred meters away in a straight line. But it was also in full sun with no shade and no respite.

The next was the forts, which were basically each side of the palace. Unlike the Mutrah Fort, these were unable to be entered and climbed upon. But they were kind of big enough and obvious enough to get some nice photos.

At this point we had melted. While the actual temperature of Oman is lower than places like Saudi Arabi, the humidity raises the “feels like” factor considerably. While walking around at 1:30 in the afternoon we got our own personal record when we hit the “feels like” temperature of 52 degrees centigrade. We were cooked.

The last stop before running away to hide from the heat was the Muscat Gate Museum.

Having got our gate photos we grabbed drinks (melting) and were waiting the 5 minutes for the bus to arrive. At this point a taxi pulled up and beeped (a common thing-touting for business). But this guy already had a customer. He was already being paid and was going past the Souk (our get off point) and took us for free – just to save us waiting in the sun. Now that was a first.

So after hiding through the afternoon (after showers and attempts to wash the sweat from clothing) we waited for early evening and made our way down the hill to the Mutrah Souk. This is one of the oldest markets in Oman and was right on our doorstep. We had briefly wandered through during the afternoon but it is the evening when the Souk really takes off.

The next day, another amazing breakfast and on a bus back towards town to see the things we had passed on our way in. Stop number one, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It was officially opened in 2001 and has become Oman’s most important spiritual site. It was closed on the Sunday that we tried to visit. While we did not get to enter the mosque we still had access to wander the grounds outside and get some happy snaps. The mosque was built to hold 20,000 worshippers and is home to the world’s biggest 1-piece handmade Iranian carpet and the second-largest chandelier in the world.

Directly opposite the grand mosque is the Omani Parliament building. It was built in 2013 and sits on more than 100,000 square metres. It has more than 5 km of facade and the centrepiece is a 64 m clock tower (the highest in Oman) with each of the clocks having a 4.8 metre diameter. The building is known locally as the Majlis Oman.

According to the blurb the Parliament building has been equipped with a range of well-paced spotlights, with modern LED technology and underground lighting fixtures. This means that at night the whole 38-metre high wall is illuminated with a controlled washing effect over almost all of the surface.

The Royal Opera House area which is an event in itself. The building is imposing and our first glimpse of it was in the taxi on the way in (mosque and parliament too), which prompted us to get back here a few days later. It isn’t just the opera house but more of an entire precinct for the arts and cultural pursuits. It is regularly used and has the capacity for 1,000-seat concert and opera theatre. But with 15,000+ square metres, over six levels with three basement floors, it can easily change its configuration to cater to most events.

So Oman is our favourite so far. It is authentic. It has actively resisted the current trend (looking at you UAE) of advancement at all costs and has maintained those things that make it special. There are tons of forts all over the country and deserts and oases worthy of exploring.


Qatar occupies a peninsula of land (100km wide and 200 km long) that juts into the Arabian Gulf. Since its independence from Britain in 1971, Qatar has emerged as one of the world’s most important producers of oil and gas.

It shares a southern land border with Saudi Arabia and maritime borders with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. Qatar includes several islands the largest of which are, Halul, Shraouh and Al-Asshat.

Before we get into the Doha post a special mention has to go out to the Flynas Airline. This is a Saudi budget airline that actually have their seats set at reasonable distances apart. Jill and I got on the plane and actually had legroom (something that Qantas had done away with decades ago). This was only a short flight (about an hour) but that little bit of extra space made it very comfortable and pleasant.

We were not in business and did not pay extra, they just had their seats set at reasonable intervals. So much so that I had about 3-4 inches of space between my knees and the seat in front. It even meant that when that person reclined, there were no issues. And all of this from a budget airline. Take note Qantas, one or two less rows of seats in a plane greatly increases comfort and customer satisfaction.


We had transited here once before on our way to Greece, but never made it out of the airport (but we did enjoy the platinum lounge) and got to take some happy snaps around the airport. This time we got off and got to experience the friendliest and most helpful airport (possibly) on the planet. Granted it is not as efficient as places like Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, but it is much more friendly and welcoming.

We were approached (which is all too commonplace at foreign airports) as soon as we had cleared customs and hit the outer terminal. But this time it was not by a tout, a taxi driver or a sim card seller. It was by a paid information officer. He wanted nothing, other than to help us with the smooth transition towards what we wanted. In our case, this was to find the metro and buy tickets to take us to our hotel. He was one of many, was super friendly and super helpful.

The metro was stunning, clean, air-conditioned, cheap, easy to decipher and a pleasure to ride on. I immediately loved Doha. Hopping off the Metro we were still a way from our hotel so we then hopped an Uber to take us the rest of the way. This too was clean, cheap and efficient. Doha was such a refreshing change after Saudi Arabia.

It was hot, seriously hot. We had lost 5 degrees in actual heat (from 44 to 39) but had picked up 60% more humidity. This has the effect of increasing the (feels like) component of the weather.

Souq Waqif ( سوق واقف) is the old marketplace in Doha – dating back to the late 19th to early 20th centuries. It is the Middle Eastern experience that we had been hoping for from the beginning. It is a traditional market selling garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. It is also full of (overpriced) cafes, restaurants and shisha lounges.

We came early in the afternoon – before it had really opened – so got to experience it before the true bedlam set in (typically around 5 pm). Stunning buildings with narrow alleys and the sights and smells of spices were all amazing. We of course were spotted as tourists and drew the throng of touts offering sightseeing trips.

Fanar Mosque towers above the area of the Souq Waqif and the Corniche. It is unique due to its spiral design. Until 2009 it was the largest mosque in the country but still remains the tallest.

It performs as a mosque and also as the Qatar Islamic Culture Center.

The Corniche is one of Doha’s most iconic attractions. It is basically a seven kilometer stretch of waterfront promenade. It has a crescent shaped walkway around Doha Bay and offers the best views of the skyline (if you can see through the smog). We walked along the Corniche for a while but the almost 40 degree, high humidity day precluded doing the full stretch (obviously).

Dhow Harbour is the area that offers the best views of the city (smog permitting). The thing that we weren’t expecting was the abundance of Dhows. Dhows are the traditional Arabian wooden boats that have been used in the region for centuries. Originally they were used in the fishing and pearl diving industries, but today they are almost solely used for nighttime dinner cruises for tourists.

Our research identified an amazing space ship looking building that ended up being the National Museum of Qatar. So the metro once again got a run for our happy snaps and then an Uber home as it was getting seriously hot by now.

The next thing that I wanted to see was the Pearl. It is one of the largest real-estate developments in the Middle East that sits on 4 square kilometers of reclaimed land. Once fully completed it was expected to create over 32 kilometers of new coastline and increase housing for up to 45,000 residents.  We got off the free transfer bus from the metro in the qanat quarter which is a Venice-like community complete with an extensive canal system, pedestrian friendly squares. piazzas and beachfront townhouses.

While we looked at the Qanat quarter we did get to drive past the numerous high-end residential towers and malls that make up the rest of the Pearl Island development. To get a real idea I had to grab one of their promo aerial shots from the tourist website.

Museum of Islamic Art is at one end of the Corniche and obviously holds a collection of historical Islamic Art.

Katara Towers is a seriously bizarre circular style building looking a bit like pincers. It was allegedly inspired by the national emblem of Qatar, which features traditional scimitar swords. I grabbed the first photo from the tourist website just to show the difference that the smog makes in real life.

The Torch is a hotel that stands 300 meters tall beside the Khalifa International Stadium. It was built for the Asian Games in 2006.

Zig Zag Towers is an apartment building in the West Bay Lagoon area. They are the highest and largest residential zig-zag twin towers in the world.

It is also connected to the Lagoona shopping mall. The idea of major shopping malls has been huge throughout the middle east so far. As two people who hate shopping malls our only real entries have been to hide from the extreme heat at times.

Qatar was lovely. We were here at the worst time of year for weather purposes, but if we had picked our timing better, I am certain that we would love this place. The food was great, the people welcoming. The only detraction was the air quality.

Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula and is most famous for its oil and the fact that 85+% of the population worship the ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam.

Because of this there are some fairly strict rules in place, particularly when it comes to dress standards. Local laws require both men and women to dress modestly covering shoulders and knees in public. They should also avoid tight-fitting clothing or clothes with rude language or images.

Most men still tend to wear the traditional Saudi Arabian dress (Thobe) on a daily basis.

This is a long flowing (mainly white) robe and a ghutra (a white or red and white checked headdress, held in place by a double black cord known as an iqal

For me it meant in extreme heat I had to wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt the whole time.

Since 2019, it is no longer mandatory for female travellers to wear the traditional robe or abaya (a loose-fitting, long robe that covers the entire body save for the face, hands, and feet) and veil. This eased the pressure on Jill to fully cover up (although she had already bought the scarf just in case).

Saudi Arabia is bordered by the Red Sea (west), Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait (north), the Persian Gulf, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (east), Yemen (south), and Oman (southeast). It has the third most valuable natural resource reserves in the world (petroleum and natural gas) making it one of the top twenty economies in the world.

The country is home to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. Mecca is 70 km inland from the Red Sea, in a narrow valley 277 with a population of around 1.5 million.

The first thing that strikes you about the place is (obviously) the heat. We got off our plane in Riyadh at 3 am to be greeted by 31 degrees. Jill had arranged with the hotel for a driver to pick us up which took away any potential airport drama (specifically the money exchange and taxis) in the middle of the night.

The second thing to hit you is that at that time of the morning the place is busy. Not just the airport, but the whole place. I guess as a symptom of debilitating heat during the day the work pattern has shifted and the evening and early morning hours are where stuff gets done.

Given our early arrival off the flight and 3:45 arrival at the hotel it took another 45 minutes to wind down before we could sleep. We set an alarm for a few hours later so we could get up for breakfast, and then went back to sleep. Avoiding the heat of the day at all costs (in reality everything is quiet during the heat) we hid in our room until after dark before heading out for dinner.

Stepping out of our hotel at 7:15 pm we were punched in the face with a 38 degree hot wind. Clearly, our decision to avoid the afternoon heat had been a good one. A check of temperatures later on when we got home showed that 46 was on the cards but the wind (breeze) kept it down to 44.


Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and is the main financial hub. It sits on a desert plateau in the centre of the country and is home to almost 7.7 million people. The physical layout was designed and structured to be uniform with 2km x 2km city blocks running along a north/south and east/west axis. Within this grid are more than 4,000 mosques and numerous busy (air-conditioned) shopping centres.

The next thing that hits you is the sheer size of everything. All the roads from the airport to town were a minimum of 3 lanes and up to 8 in parts. Add to this the buildings that you drive past that are all very large and imposing.

Our hotel choice was almost perfect. It was the little cheapie (comparatively) on Olaya Street, directly across the road from the Kingdom Centre (RHS of this picture).

The Kingdom Center is one of the city’s major tourist icons.

It is a 99-storey skyscraper that was built in 2002 making it the tallest building in the country. As you would expect, it has been surpassed several times since then. The building features a 300 meter high sky bridge that connects the 2 towers. And of course, of an evening the lights cycle through a range of colours changing the appearance every 20 seconds or so.

Once you have paid your entrance fee there are two lifts needed to get to the bridge. The first will take you to the 77th floor, and then another to the 99th. Arriving at the 99th floor you immediately come out onto the skybridge with amazing views north and south. And if you are super keen you can lean over and get a photo looking down.

Dinner at the Kingdom Centre was a failure (something that became commonplace in our time in Saudi Arabia) and ended up being an overpriced, bland meal from a shopping centre food court. In fact all of the meals that we had in Saudi Arabia were fails, with the exception of the hotel breakfasts.

We had high hopes for the food but each attempt failed. It was virtually impossible to find a restaurant (other than chain store junk food). Maybe home cooking is the go, maybe we were just in the wrong spot. But our culinary exposure in Saudi Arabia was less than stellar.

The next day we once again hid from the heat of the day, not venturing out until 5 pm. As we walked out of the air-conditioned hotel we were once again hit with 41 degrees while we waited for our Uber to take us to the historical Deira district. The aim of the journey was to visit the Masmak Fort and its museum.

The fort was built in 1865 and is made almost entirely out of wood, straw and mud. The fort is made up of six distinct parts: the gate, the mosque, the majlis (sitting room), the well, the towers and the courtyard.

Just like the building opposite us, after dark they light up the fort in a rotating set of colours too.

Along the way, you do pass some fairly interesting buildings and architecture. Some of these include the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, the National museum, the Al Murabba Palace Museum, and the Al Rajhi Grand mosque. But these tend to all look and feel the same. They are all 2-5 storey, yellowish, sandstone blocks (which seem to be pretty much everywhere in town.

Who would have thought that in the middle of a desert, there would be sand, sandstone and yellow-coloured buildings? The broad, flat, low profile of the buildings probably relates mainly on the base (sand) that they are built upon. This is all very logical and sensible, but in terms of visual appeal, it is all very much the same.

The amazing thing to us was the traffic. With 3-8 lanes of traffic available everywhere, it was almost always in gridlock.

It took us about 40 minutes to travel the 12 km to the fort and about the same to get back. The next day (while hiding from the heat and looking out the window) it was considerably worse (and this was Sunday afternoon).

The car is king here, there is virtually no such thing as public transport (but there is a plan). The “King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport” is underway to develop and deliver a public transport network (metro and buses) that will eventually move 3.6 million passengers daily. The finished product is supposed to have: 6 metro lines (with 84 stations), 180 bus routes (with 2860 stops and 842 buses).

But, today there are no metro lines and only 24 of the proposed 180 bus routes are in operation. There is no cycling (that we have seen) and in the heat, the pedestrian traffic is virtually non-existent. So you drive, take an Uber or taxi or stay put. An all of this in a city of over 7 and a half million people.

Needless to say, this level of automobile use comes with a pollution issue. The place is shrouded in a constant haze. This was a real surprise to me, as I expected clear desert skies and not a constant smog film. This obviously wreaks havoc on our photographs.

At the other end of our little strip of road you will find the Faisaliyah Tower. This and the Kingdom Centre kind of bookend this strip of Riyadh. I have seen them described as the bottle opener (Kingdom Centre) and the Pointy one.

Faisaliyah Tower (also called the star dome) is at the other end of the strip and was the first high-rise built in Saudi Arabia.

The round bit at the top is a three storey, fine dining, restaurant called “The Globe” that offers 360 degree views of the city.

As you would expect, the Globe is one of the most sought-after restaurants in Riyadh, with a price tag to match. The website dictates a minimum consumption of SAR 288 (about $120 aussie) per person. This doesn’t seem ridiculously steep, but when you look at the menu, finding something that cheap may be a challenge. The cheapest tasting menu starts at $170 and the 7 course kicks in at $320, each.

For what is on offer the numbers are not crazy, but sadly they were outside of our budget (photos from their Facebook page).

The edge of the world is the name of the 1,131 m height cliff that lies about 100 km from Riyadh. It sits at the end of the 800 km Tuwaik Mountain range. Given its distance from town, the expense of tours, the warnings about remoteness and the major hike required to get here we did not even entertain going.

The one thing that absolutely disgusted me was the attitude of the Saudis (predominately the men). There was an overwhelming sense of arrogance and entitlement that the rules did not apply to them. We were treated fantastically at every interaction. But we witnessed some of the most atrocious behaviour and treatment of others that we had ever seen.

Example 1: While leaving the country we were waiting in the airport line to check in and get our boarding passes when a 13 (ish) year old Saudi boy was verbally abusing, talking down to and berating a porter (non-Saudi adult). This immediately rubbed me up the wrong way and if he had tried talking to me that way the would have received quite the attitude adjustment.

Example 2: On the plane, we were seated in row 2 directly behind business class. One person was in row 1 (who had clearly paid extra) but the Saudi man (about 50) opposite us berated and was rude to the flight attendants because he was not allowed to sit there. When she explained that the other guy had paid for the privilege this was not a good enough answer and pointed to his outfit and claimed that this should override the lack of paying for the business class seat.

Example 3: On the next flight we were further back the plane when a Saudi Male (about 25) reclined his seat while still at the gate. The flight attendant asked him to put his seat back up and he objected. She pushed the button and sat him upright. As soon as she turned he reclined. She saw this and sat him upright again. This pattern recurred a further 12+ times until she finally just gave up.

Example 4: On every one of these flights, after the don’t use your phones announcement Saudis (both male and female) kept talking on their phones right through the takeoff and landings.

Saudi Arabia itself was okay, but for the most part, we were unable (or unwilling) to get out and about to see the sights due to the heat and poor transportation system. So this meant that much of our time here was spent waiting around the hotel room for a time that was suitable to go out and explore.

In reality, this is probably our failure in not resetting our travel patterns appropriately. The people were lovely to us, but had an overwhelming demeanor that the rules just did not apply to them. While we can now say that we have been and spent some time here, I probably would not put this on the comeback list.


Kosovo lies landlocked in the centre of the Balkans, With a population under 2 million. It is bordered by Serbia (north and east), North Macedonia (southeast), Albania (southwest), and Montenegro to the west.

Its capital and largest city is Pristina.

In about 1950 the Serbian/Albanian population mix in Kosovo was about 50/50, today it is 5/95. Kosovo is the newest country, having declared its independence from Serbia in 2008. The day of that declaration it unveiled the newborn monument. At the unveiling the monument was signed by the President and Prime Minister of Kosovo, followed by 150,000 citizens celebrating their independence.

By the time we had arrived the shine and gloss may have worn off the idea of being a sovereign nation for some. Somebody had come in late at night and moved the letters around so that it now read No New BR with the words broken republic printed an the letters.

The earliest historians can trace back evidence of settlement in Kosovo to the stone age. There are indications that cave dwellings might have existed, such as Radivojce Cave (Drin River), Grnčar Cave (near Viti) municipality and the Dema and Karamakaz Caves near Peja.

The strategic position of the nation coupled with the abundant natural resources has made the area favorable for the development of human settlements throughout history. There are hundreds of archaeological sites identified throughout Kosovo.


Pristina is the capital and it is a safe and easy place to travel in and around. There are not a lot of attractions and activities to see and enjoy but the ones they have are ok. The public transportation is frequent, cheap and reliable with majority of buses air conditioned.

As we came in fairly late in the afternoon and there was not too much to see and do in town we decided to cool off in our hotel before heading out to dinner. We picked a local Italian joint nearby. This was our first introduction to just how cheap this place was. I ordered a pasta and a small (22cm) pepperoni pizza while Jill just had a Margarita pizza. And these were washed down by two beers each. Total bill was 13.80 euros which is $23.17 aussie. $23 for two pizzas, 4 beers and a pasta. That is just crazy.

The next morning we were up, breakfasted and on the bus to town to see the sights. The bus fare was 50 cents for a one way or 80 cents for a 24 hour ticket for as many trips as you wanted. We rode the bus getting off on Bill Clinton Boulevard near the statue of Bill Clinton. This was done to thank former U.S. President for his help during their struggle with the government of Yugoslavia.

From here we wandered up the hill towards the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa. It was opened in 2010 on the anniversary of her death. This is about the 4th country in a row that is claiming a great affinity to Mother Teresa. She was born in Skopje (hence their claim) of Kosovar/Albanian descent (that’s them covered) but she took off at 18 and was never seen again in this part of the world. So the attempts to claim her throughout the Balkans seems a bit of mystery.

From here, the road was blocked off for a festival leading its way down to the park and the incredibly odd and controversial National Library of Pristina. The current building began in 1982 and consists of a total 99 domes of different sizes and is entirely covered in a metal fishing net. It has been described by many as the ugliest building in the world.

After this you find yourself at a long pedestrian mall, full of the usual shops, businesses, statues, restaurants and cafes. Nothing really to see and tourism hasn’t really kicked in yet. But it is neat and attractive and a pleasant place to stroll.

Following the end of the Kosovo conflict in 1999 and no longer under Serbian rule, Kosovo Albanians in 2001 erected a monument within the centre of Pristina to Skanderbeg. He was a medieval Albanian who fought against Ottoman forces in the 1400’s.

HEROINAT is a statue opposite the Newborn statue that depicts the face of a typical Albanian woman using 20,000 pins.

Each pin represents a woman raped during the Kosovo War from 1998 to 1999. The pins are at different heights, creating a portrait in relief.

That pretty much did it for Pristina. There were a few mosques around the traps, the odd statue and a church. We did find one local beer and managed to sample another couple of new ones but they were from elsewhere.


Bulgaria is a southern Balkan country bordered by Romania (north), Serbia and North Macedonia (west), Greece and Turkey to the south.

Bulgaria is renowned for its diverse terrain that includes the Black Sea coastline, a mountainous interior and rivers, including the Danube. Based near the European crossroads it has long been a cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences.

Before I get into the exploring, I need to talk about first impressions. This place is fantastic. We got off the plane and onto the Metro for a run into town for our hotel. A slight mishap with the ticket scanning saw me through the barrier and Jill stuck on the other side. Seeing the dilemma some random woman came up and swiped her card, letting Jill through and just wearing the cost.

We then got to our hotel and were met by the friendliest and most helpful dude that we have come across thus far (and that bar has been set pretty high). This friendliness was genuine and extended the entire time through our stay. So much so that on the morning that we were due to leave he even offered to wait around for us (after his overnight shift) and drive us to the bus station, so that we didn’t have to lug our heavy bags.

Our room had a fridge so we popped out to the shop on the corner and bought 4 large beers (2x500ml and 2×1 litre) and a soft drink each and got change from $12 Aussie for the lot.

I’m really gonna like this place.


Sofia is the capital of the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. It’s in the west of the country, below Vitosha Mountain. The city’s landmarks reflect more than 2,000 years of history, including Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Soviet occupation. When doing our early research it looked a bit light on, but on arrival we were happy to see that there was much more on offer than the tourist blurbs suggest.

Hopping off the Metro we landed right on top of one of the listed landmarks, the Lions Bridge.

Well that was easy.

It is a bridge over the Vladaya River that was built 1889–1891 and connects the Central Railway Station with the city centre.

It has 4 very large lion statues on it.

Just around the corner from our hotel, we randomly happened upon the Church of St Paraskeva which is the third largest church in Sofia.

It is a Bulgarian Orthodox church dedicated to Saint Paraskeva,

We were aiming for something else but sure enough this popped up and was pretty cool.

StAlexander Nevsky Cathedral was what we were actually aiming for. It is one of the 50 largest Christian churches in the world taking up an area of 3,170 square metres and being able to hold 5,000 people inside. Construction started in 1882 but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. The cathedral was created in honour of the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 when Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.

Virtually across the road, you find the Saint Sofia Church which is the oldest church in Sofia. The floor of the church is covered with Early Christian flora and fauna-themed mosaics. 

Just down the hill a bit and you come across Saint Nikolas Russian Church (Tsurkva Sveta Nikolai).

It was built in 1882 on the site of the Saray Mosque, which was destroyed during the Russian liberation of Bulgaria from the Ottoman Empire.

Having ticked those boxes we hunted for dinner but were rejected from the first place (Armenian) as I was dressed like a grotty backpacker. They claimed that they were full but really they didn’t want the likes of us in there. So we went somewhere else, got online and made a reservation for the next night, where we dressed similarly. Having done all of that, their snootiness did not translate into good enough food to justify the price (it was OK) and as a protest, they made sure that their service sucked.

A later check of reviews from other people found many similar experiences.

On our walk back from dinner (the first night) we stumbled upon the Opera House that we had walked right past and completely missed on the way up the hill (it was tucked around a corner).

Also on the walk home, we came across roving packs of teens and 20 somethings in the park looking for things to do. Some were drinking, but for the most part, they were just hanging out and discussing the issues of the day. Not protests as such, just exchanges of ideas.

National Museum of History is Bulgaria’s largest museum and was founded in 1973. Set at the end of a very nice park with some lovely fountains it was worth the short journey to get here.

St. Nedelya Church is an Eastern Orthodox cathedral dating back to the 10th century. It has been destroyed and reconstructed many times through the ages. 

The Rotunda Church of Saint George is buried in a courtyard behind other buildings. It dates back to the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.

It was originally built as Roman baths. It is the oldest surviving building in Sofia.

The Regional History Museum is another landmark in the centre of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. It was built in the early 20th century near the former Turkish bath and was used as the city’s public baths until 1986.

Almost across the road you will find the Banya Bashi Mosque. This was built in 1566, during Ottoman control of the city. It was built over natural thermal spas and at times you can see the steam rising from vents in the ground near the mosque walls.

The mosque has a 15m diameter large dome and prominent minaret.

The Sofia Synagogue opened in 1909 in the presence of King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria.  Buried away in a backstreet it is tough to get a good camera angle for better photos, sorry.

And just down the road and around the corner you will find the Gypsy Markets. The description that we got from our hotel dude was it was a bunch of gypsies selling the things they had stolen or found in the trash that day. He also suggested not eating there as the meat was likely to be cat or dog.

We were here on a Saturday and Sunday and for the most part, the place was closed. Shops and restaurants worked normal hours, none of this I must be open the whole time. It was an interesting throwback to when people had lives.

A little inconvenient at times but hey.

The only places that were always open were the alcohol and tobacco shops.

As with everywhere, the place had a bunch of statues dotted all over the place. But these ones seemed funkier and edgier than the usual ones that typically haunt big cities.

This is the Eastern Europe that we had been hoping for all along. The place is fantastic, cheap and friendly. The food is good and the sights are worth seeing without being mind-blowing. But mostly it is about the atmosphere. The place feels right. You could happily settle in and spend a month here just soaking up the culture and getting a sense of the place, and importantly you can do so without destroying the budget.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a Balkan country bordered by Serbia (east) Montenegro (southeast) and Croatia (north and southwest).

It has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea around the town of Neum.

The 1990s saw the breakdown of the former country of the Yugoslavia into several smaller territories. But the separation wasn’t peaceful and the Bosnian War raged between 1992 and 1995, leaving this beautiful country in ruins.

Well getting here was quite the experience. We were leaving the EU (by bus) and entering eastern Europe proper. Up until now the borders have been open and easy but leaving Dubrovnik and entering Bosnia and Herzegovina made for some interesting transits.

Our bus ride was 240km and took us well over 8 hours to complete. Leaving Dubrovnik in the morning we headed north and found ourselves at a land border crossing. So we all got out of the bus and were individually processed at the border just outside the town of Neum. What we did not know was that Bosnia and Herzegovina has a 20km stretch of coastline on the Adriatic.

So this meant that after a quick stop in Neum, we reached another border about 25 minutes later and had to all get individually processed out of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Another hour or so on the bus and (guess what) another border to get us back into Bosnia and Herzegovina. Everybody out of the bus, queue up and be individually processed back in. Drive a little further and then it was lunchtime for the driver, so we stopped again.


At least at this stop we had some entertainment. We stopped at the town of Jablanica which sits on the banks of the Neretva river and Jablanica Lake. But most importantly it is a common meal stop for those driving. Which means that it caters for large numbers of transiting passengers.

And it seriously caters to large numbers. Our first hint was when we passed a roadside stall that was spit roasting 3 whole sheep. About 100m down the road was another, with about 10 sheep on the spit. And restaurant after restaurant we passed all with 5-10 sheep rotating over fires and embers.

Sarajevo is the capital and largest city (under 300,000) of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is on the Miljacka river. Sarajevo is well-known because it is where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated thereby pushing the entire world into conflict (WWI). The Latin Bridge is the site where the murder happened and therefore became a must-see.

Baščaršija is the historic center and old town of Sarajevo. This part of the city was built in the 15th century, and it quickly expanded.

Sebilj, the symbol of Sarajevo, is at the very heart of Baščaršija.

It is a wooden water fountain dating back to the Ottoman era.

There were hundreds of these fountains all over Sarajevo. However, only one remains to this day.

Towering over the city is the Sarajevo Clock Tower. It sits next to the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque. It is estimated that Sarajevo Clock Tower was built in the 16th century.

It is the only public clock that shows lunar time and is set manually. There used to be more than 20 similar clock towers all around Bosnia and Herzegovina during in the Ottoman Empire.

Gazi Husrev-bey mosque is the main mosque in Sarajevo.

Built in 1531, this mosque is the perfect example of the Early Istanbul Style. It is the largest historical mosque in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the best representative Ottoman structures in the Balkans.

Bezistan is a covered market that was quite common in the Ottoman Empire. Sarajevo has a well-preserved Bezistan, just a short walk away from the Clock Tower. Gazi Husrev Bey built the marketplace in 1540 while he was the governor of Sanjak of Bosnia.

Baščaršija Square is the main area within old town and gives you ready access to the wide array of mosques, bazaars, Jewish temples, cathedrals, cafes, restaurants and bars.

Sarajevo City Hall known as Vijećnica, is in the heart of Baščaršija. Designed in 1891 it was the largest and most representative building of the Austro-Hungarian period in Sarajevo.

One bit that I was not expecting was the heavy Muslim and Turkish influence on everything. This mostly has to do with my lack of knowledge about this part of the world as this is my first time visiting the Balkans (and Eastern Europe more generally). The country is more than half Islamic and the coffee is more along the Turkish lines, strong, rich and with the telltale sludge on the bottom.

Sacred Heart Cathedral is the big catholic church in town. It was built in 1887 in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The two bell towers are 43.2 m high. Above the portal is an octagonal rosette and a statue of the Sacred Heart.

The prices were good and the food was fantastic. We were very pleased to see that the regional love of lamb had also translated to the city. This meant we were able to get beautifully cooked lamb and veal and have eaten more slabs of meat than we had done in almost a year.

The central part of Sarajevo is very nice. But the drive into town reveals a country still trying to rebuild after war and conflict. It is clear that rebuilding efforts are well underway (the tram tracks were ripped up and being fixed all over town when we were here). But there is still much to be done. Almost every building (outside of the tourist heart) looks like it is either being built up or falling down.

I would happily come back to Bosnia and Herzegovina and spend more time here exploring. The countryside that we drove through was magnificent and there is enough to keep you amused.

Brunei Darussalam

Leaving Labuan we hopped the ferry to go to Brunei Darussalam. The main reason for this was to tick up another country…we were only a 90 minute ferry ride away so why wouldn’t you. The first thing that must be said is that Brunei is strictly Muslim and is dry…the whole nation…no alcohol to be bought…anywhere. It would be a short visit. The next most important fact is that Brunei has the largest oilfields in Southeast Asia…so Brunei hasn’t turned its rainforests into palm plantations. Darussalam in Arabic apparently means ‘abode of peace’.

So we hopped a ferry and headed to the capital Bandar Seri Begawan or BSB for most. The ferry ride was fine and clearing customs and immigration was a relative breeze…other than the visa cost was 4 times that which was quoted in the travel guide…but hey it was about $20 each so no real damage done. We hopped off the ferry and headed to the bus stop for the shuttle to take us to town. We knew that this was an infrequent service but talking to the locals it had not run for the last 2 days. No reason given…it just didn’t turn up.

We decided to cut our losses and caught a black list taxi (the only guy nearby offering to take anyone even near town). And $35 later we arrived at our accommodation. This place was GOOD, VERY GOOD…and the staff were possibly the nicest we have encountered in all of our travels thus far…this is high praise after a year of hotels. For those planning a trip you honestly can not go better than the Capital Residence Suites which are a 300 metre walk from the Royal Regalia Museum and 700 metres from the mosque.

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As we arrived in the late afternoon we hit the road walking to the main tourist spots. Stopping at the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque cruising along past the Kampong Ayer (the water village) and stopping for icy cold (non-alcoholic) beverages as this place is hot. January is Brunei’s coldest month when it gets down to a frigid 30.4 degrees. We zipped around and made it back to the hotel for its nighttime free shuttle to the Tamu Kianggeh (food night market). We cruised the market where almost everything cost a dollar. We ate, we looked and happily sampled the local delicacies.

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On the drive to the market we passed the Jame’asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque which is the largest in Brunei and was built to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sultan’s reign. It is massive. On the way back we conned the shuttle driver into stopping for photos. Upon returning to the hotel we then got the hotel staff to tell the driver to take us to the Istana Nurul Iman which is the residential palace of the Sultan. Alas you can only really get decent aerial photos of the palace but the hotel was happy to allow us to use their driver and van as our own personal tour guides…at no cost.

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The next day we would leave but in the morning we headed to the Royal Regalia Museum (Bangunan Alat Kebesaran Diraja) which displays the royal accessories used during the coronation, and the various gifts received by the Sultan from all dignitaries etc from around the world. Now this is a fascinating concept…what do you give to the man who has (or can afford) everything. The entire museum is filled with gifts and trinkets from all over the world along with the carriages, uniforms, and regalia used during various official functions.

From here the hotel once again offered us the shuttle bus to take us back to the ferry terminal…at no cost. These guys were lovely, every staff member from the desk, driver, restaurant and the cleaners were incredibly nice and were genuinely interested that we had enjoyed our stay. Luckily I met with the general manager of the hotel over breakfast and was able to tell him how good his staff were. We have not previously recommended anywhere to stay as this trip is not about that…but these guys were so far and above everything else we had encountered that we had to give it the wraps.

Oh…and all this was for about $50 a night…breakfast included.



We arrived back in Malaysia for about the 5th or 6th time during the last year. Up until now we had not made it away from KLIA2 (the airport)…add to this two previous times and we had been to Malaysia about 7-8 times without ever having been outside of Kuala Lumpur. Alas we arrived at a time when smoke from Indonesian forest fires shrouded Singapore and Malaysia in a thick haze. We spent a night at the airport hotel then headed to Penang.

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I immediately fell in love with this place. I had always held Malaysia relatively high on my list of nice places but this early foray has placed it VERY high on my list of favourite countries. Based in no small part to the excellence of the food available here…you can get anything you like here…add to this the happy and friendly nature of everyone you meet…how could you not love the joint.

Malaysia has been recorded as a major trading hub on the spice route going back as far as the 1st century AD. It seems to have had for almost all of its time a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society…which continues up to this day. Malaysia’s foreign policy and apparently the populations policy is “officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system.” This means that they pick no fights and generally try to resolve issues pragmatically. As such there is very little disharmony and the place is a pleasure to be in.

We set up camp in the old town section of Georgetown which is the heart of the tourist district. On our first day our hotel owner sat with us for about 30 mins and on a map pointed out all of the tourist sites and identified the lesser known ones that were not to be missed. For the ones with a bit of distance he added the bus numbers, where to catch them, how long it would take and how much it should cost. All of this at no cost and with no benefit to him other than making sure that our stay was as pleasant and fulfilling as it could be…WOW…

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The main thing you see when you hit the old town section of Penang is the street art. It is everywhere. It started from small beginnings in an attempt not to lose the history of the neighbourhoods but has grown a life of its own. Every street, every corner, any spare bit of wall is fair game for what has become roaming gangs of artists. Not graffiti…actual art. And some of it is incredibly clever and it adds a whole level of character to old crumbling buildings…so much so that the crumbling etc is incorporated into the art. The street art here is a beast in its own right so I will do an extra sideline for this alone.

On the first night we migrated into little India in search of a feed and a beer (which we thought may be a little challenging in an overtly Muslim country). No issue. We wandered through typically (sort of) Indian streets and markets with spices, trinkets, saris, tailors, food and gram everywhere you looked. I say sort of…because it was clean here…no urine and faeces (human or cow) on the road. The water was clean and running (not in a rusty, filthy drum) and all the scary bits about India were removed leaving only the best bits.

With this knowledge we happily settled in for a meal. Alas it had been too long between curries for me and I went crazy with the ordering. I absolutely love the concept of having a bit of everything…thali style…but for two of us spraying orders across the menu is less than ideal. Either way I ordered about 6 mains for the two of us…plus breads and beers. What was delivered was authentic Indian…it was good. I however have been reminded of the two dish ordering rule…in my defence…we ate it all…and it was fantastic.

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The next day we hit the road following the map suggestions of our hotel owner which were spot on. The first port of call was the local Yum Cha (Dim Sum) joint about 150 metres down the road. We then wandered up “Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling” commonly known as harmony street…why harmony street…Because the Kapitan Keling mosque, Kuan Yun Chinese temple, Saint Georges church, Hindu Sri Maha Mariamman temple, Cathedral of Assumption, Acheen street mosque, Nagore shrine and the Khoo Khongsi clan temple are all located side by side within a 5 minute walk. As they have done for the past 180 years.

So we wandered the street hitting the end where we found Fort Cornwallis, town hall, city hall, and a bit further on and around the corner the Cheong Fatt Tze mansion for the guided tour. All of this was on the recommendation of our little dude and it was all awesome. The only detractor of this was that the town was still choked with smoke from the Indonesian fires, it was about 34 degrees and high humidity…and we both had bellies full of curry and yum cha making it a touch uncomfortable.

We hid In the air conditioning for a few hours before heading out to the red garden food court which is a brilliant food court style eatery surrounded by almost every type of hawker stall you can think of. We got our seat, ordered our beers and off I went in search of food. Alas I completely forgot (or disregarded) the 2 dish rule…I cannot be trusted with so many delicious food options. We had Chinese roast duck, Syrian schwarma, Asian braised pork belly, some Malaysian noodles and German beers and got change from a $20. Oh my…we would be back.

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The next day we got up late and missed our yum cha and had to settle with coffees and scones for Jill. We then hit the art trail using the well appointed map supplied by our little hotel dude. Another high temp high humidity day but 4-5 hrs of walking and checking out and photographing the street art…followed by another night at the hawker stall for another spray of delicious goodies from across the region.

The next day was day 365…our 12 month anniversary since departing Australia. We had a day in…blogging, this and our 365 post followed by a revisit to little India for more curries. My god I love this place. The next day was sushi train, some assignment prep for Jill and back to the food court for our last meal in Penang as we would be leaving early in the morning to head to Borneo.

Colombo – Sri Lanka

While travelling through China we met a lovely Sri Lankan couple who spoke highly of the place and our visiting. We had kept in touch through Facebook and when we decided to come they could not have been more helpful.even to the point of getting cricket tickets for us for the second day in town. Alas our journey to Sri Lanka started with disappointment before we even arrived. The original plan was to attend a ODI cricket match in Colombo between Sri Lanka and Pakistan but weather set in and they moved the date forward and changed the venue meaning that we missed out.

We arrived in Colombo after a 22 hour transit from Beijing via Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Air Asia X provided a good cheap flight option that was very enjoyable but sadly was ruined by Jill’s bag being all but destroyed, when she went to complain she was told it was minor damage that they would not even take a report for…and that she should claim it on travel insurance. After a rant about customer service she left unsatisfied and ignored.

We got in to Sri Lanka and were immediately struck by how unlike India this place is. It is clean, tidy and people have pride in their surroundings and the environment in general. We were picked up, driven to the hotel, got our local phone, had a meal and some local beers and met up with Ruwan (our Sri Lankan mate from China) all within 90 minutes of being in country. A bunch of tuk tuk rides later and a foray into local street food (shrimp including the shells and heads etc mashed into a paste, made into a rissole, deep fried, smothered in chilli, topped with onion) we had seen Colombo by night and plans were made for the next day.

The day started with meeting up with Ruhan outside Town Hall near the Buddha statue and a walk through Viharamahadevi park which is opposite. This was a really pleasant walk in the shade. Sri Lanka is hot but not excessively so…Colombo is blessed by awesome sea breezes almost all day so the heat is immediately bearable. We hit the National museum which was ok content wise by museum standards but the building and the grounds were spectacular. There were massive Banyan trees throughout the grounds that must have been many centuries old and even for a botanical heathen like myself they were the highlight.

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Having headed out we did the tourist schlepp chauffeured by our mate and hit Independence Square, Beira Lake, slave island, the lighthouse, Sambodhi Chaitiya dagoba, a market for some shopping and a massive lunch, Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, old Dutch hospital, Hindu temple, grand mosque, Parliament House. We stopped for cold drinks and fresh juices throughout the day and generally had a really pleasant time. No harassment, no filth, no drama.

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At sunset we headed to Galle face green which is a magnificent stretch of green lawn directly fronting onto the beach, with sea breezes and throngs of people day or night. The place has the Sri Lankan flagpole and at sunset the military ceremony of the flag lowering, combined with the sun going down over the Indian Ocean is not to be missed. As the breeze blows permanently off the ocean the area is full of parents flying kites of all varieties with their kids.


On the food front we have been absolutely spoilt. The main dish is Kottu or “Koththu Roti” which is a Sri Lankan version of left overs in a fried rice. While notionally leftovers it is made fresh almost everywhere with your choices of fillings but vegetables, egg, shredded roti, onions and rice are the staples and you pick and add the bits you want added. This is generally done on a flat BBQ plate and the clatter of flying metal scrapers as they chop and mix the concoction is both mesmerising and deafening.

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My favourite both before I came and since being here is the egg hoppers. Wiki tells me that “hoppers are made from a fermented batter of rice flour, coconut milk and a dash of palm toddy”. The unique part is that hoppers are cooked in small “wok” like rounded pans so the dough cooks thick and soft on the bottom, and thin and crunchy around the edges. Add to this the string hoppers and the plain hoppers with some of the ever present pickles, chutneys and sambal and you have for yourself a great feed.

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We headed out to Livinia Beach for a flash feed with Ruwan and his wife. It was a Chinese restaurant (of all things) right on the sand. The setting was spectacular with the lapping of the waves but the food was trash. This may be an ongoing issue for us as we cannot go to Chinese restaurants anymore as they will not be authentic. We already have our doubts about how authentic the Australian version of Indian is…we are now adding Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand to the mix…we may be screwed on future take out options. Now the food at this restaurant was tasty enough but nothing like what we expected when we ordered.


After leaving the desert of Dunhuang on an overnight train we landed in Yinchuan having slept very little and checked into a cheapie hotel (which was about five times better than our supposed 4 star number a few towns back). On the way in we spotted the wet market directly opposite and food stalls aplenty along the way…we were clearly in the right part of town.

The place is close to the Ningxia section of the Great Wall and is yet another of our stops along the Great Wall of China. In addition to the wall, there are mosques, drum towers, monasteries, pagodas and the normal Chinese parks and gardens etc. The real reason for the stop was to break the journey as we head to Hohhot in Inner Mongolia to get our visas to go to Mongolia proper.

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We basically did not see any westerners the whole time here but the place was great. On our first night we headed out for a meal and on our walk back we came across about 1000 locals dancing in the park and guys giving shoulder massages in the park near the drum tower…a 20 minute massage for $3.40…bring it on…walking about 100 metres further we came across a free Chinese acrobatic show with all the flipping, jumping, human towers and pyramids that you would expect from a highly priced show. Watch this with a gelato from across the road and a good evening was had by all. Two days later and our Acrobatic show was replaced with free Chinese opera and all the squawking and discordant noise your ears could handle.

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The next day we were off…we had been fairly sedentary post Tibet…but apparently we needed to get moving and make up for our lazy days in one hit. So it started…a wander to the bell and drum towers, past the old gate, to the monastery and pagoda…up the pagoda…because all things with stairs must be climbed (the gospel according to Jill). The pagoda was 11 tiers high but each tier was about 2 storeys high…so we basically climbed the stairs of a 18-22 storey building…both ways…but the staircase was only one person wide, dodgy wood and the head height meant that you sconned yourself at every turn if you were not careful.

Having emerged from the pagoda we found the rain had started…so we embarked on an 8 kilometre walk in the rain to get to the museum. Needless to say I did not know that it was that far or I would have boycotted or at least got a bus or a taxi. Walking past the parks and squares was quite nice (if a little long) but the museum at the other end was worth the hike. I had never really gotten into museums etc before this trip but I am a convert…the information, displays, exhibits and histories are fascinating.

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Sanity (Richard) prevailed and we caught a bus back most of the way to our hotel. A fantastic lucky dip meal down the road next to the park…followed by another $3.40 massage (for me) and home to bed. We found possibly the best coffee shop in all of China… it is called ego coffee and has good coffee at (relatively) reasonable prices and has an awesome menu…we have slotted into a morning ritual of bao zi (pronounced bowser…which are steamed bready meat buns…dipped in chilli and vinegar) and followed by our coffee at ego. Sadly we get 20 bao zi for 12 yuan ($2) and 2 coffees for 58 yuan ($10). In fact the food that we have encountered the entire time we have been in Yinchuan has been incredible. The pick had to be the Duck Pancakes…which we have always loved…but there was a mushroom and chilli salad, that was too heavy on the coriander for my tastes, but Jill just simply inhaled while I picked around the evil weed that is coriander.

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Bao zi and Jiao zi (bowser and jowzer) are our staple breakfast foods since arriving in China…the bao zi is the bready one and the Jiao zi is the dumpling (pastaish) one…every now and then you can find these both done on a sizzling plate with beaten (scrambled) egg poured in between them…these are awesome. The bao zi in Shanghai are filled with soup so add a whole new level of difficulty to the uninitiated (as Jill found out when I bit into one sending a stream of hot soup shooting across the table and onto her…she was very happy). Each area has their own versions of both of these…but so far they have all been excellent… and are cheap. Add to this the occasional Gem Bean (Phonetic) which is an eggy thing.

We have actually found our feet when it comes to most of the foods in China…however ordering still poses the various “lucky dip” problems that it did in the beginning. Jill downloaded a child’s game that gives you the name and symbols of various meats so we can sometimes make sense of those. Add to this the rice and noodle symbols and we at least wont starve…nirvana is still a picture menu… Street food is king…it is cheap as chips and awesome tasting…we have progressed from our early meat on a stick forays to being educated pointers…Alas the key issue with china and its provinces…is that the yummy local delicacy may never be seen again which sadly has happened more than once.

The next day we found ourselves (after our breakfast ritual) riding the short bus…we hopped bus #1 and followed it to the end…then got back on and followed it to the other end…then we got on #3 and did pretty much the same thing…after arriving at the largest while elephant of a shopping centre on the planet we decided that we were feeling like special school kids…no more licking of bus windows and off we got…a cold beer and a coffee then back for a cheapie dinner. The last day was spent wiling away our time in the coffee shop as we