#24 Reminiscing PB88: Doha (Port 5)

Assalamualaikum! (Hello in Arabic)

  • Date: 2015/9/14
  • Port Name: Doha
  • Country: Qatar
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?: Super long welcome reception the Qatar government had prepared for Peace Boat, then a full day tour of Doha City and a UNESCO-registered fort on the Northwestern coast of the country about 1 hour away from city center.

What I learned / remember about Dubai:

Wow I think I learned lots of things about Qatar because my local tour guide was such a chatterbox. I remember interpreting every single waking minute until I had to tell the tour guide to them our passengers (and me) rest on the way to the fort as it was a 1-hour journey. It was funny because there were three buses on the same tour and one of the other buses had a quiet and not-so informative Chinese tour guide (who probably lived there for 5 years + or something) causing my friend to have to check her guidebook herself in order to entertain the tour participants on the bus.

But first, the welcome ceremony that the Qatari government prepared for Peace Boat. So, the monarchy had spent tons of money in order to welcome Peace Boat’s first time in the country, on a lunch banquet for 1,000+ people (plus some dinner events too but I was away on tour). Us translators had to interpret at some booths introducing Qatari culture to the Japanese participants. There were things like perfume, henna painting, traditional fishing tools, snacks, etc. What struck me as “culture” more than these booths could ever teach was that all the women were unsurprisingly wearing fully covered hijabs (or more specifically, niqabs). I was in the traditional hunting tools booth where I had to keep repeating “This is a slingshot (in Japanese, ぱちんこ or pachinko, but not to be confused with the noisy gambling arcades in Japan),” “This is a fishing cage,” etc. to every passenger walking by the booth.

Here’s us taking a break in our stylish red polos. The extravagant chandeliers and beautifully draped curtain ceiling you can see in the picture are all temporarily set up in a big parking space (I think?) near the port with oil money. After that, there were also cultural performances by the Qataris and taiko, Japanese choir (Hell yeah, I joined in and sang the 2011 Tsunami sakura song, too) from the Peace Boat side.

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Then, of course there was food. TONS OF IT. TONS OF yummy Middle eastern food. Hummus, Tabouleh, and I’m sorry but I don’t remember the names of the other dishes but YUM.

 

After presenting fishing tools, singing in the choir, and eating a stomachful of good, tasty food, I couldn’t believe I had to set off for a full day tour in the hot, blazing, desert city. We started off with visiting the Museum of Islamic Art museum, an architectural marvel which I did not have time to take a picture of (but good for you, less travel spoilers). I did, however, photograph the inside of the museum while waiting for the participants. Nope, interpreters didn’t have enough time to look at the exhibitions sigh.

Such an amazing skyline. And these, just like Dubai, also only appeared over the last 20 years.

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Another quick snapshot of the skyline atop the Museum of Islamic Art building. This is how oil has changed what used to be a community sole depending on natural pearl diving for their economic livelihood. Did you know that Qatari native citizens don’t have to pay income taxes with their average monthly salary of US$20,000 (RM80,000)? They even get paid government scholarships to go to the best universities in the world. I asked, “what do people do with the money?” -“They switch phone models and car models every other month, etc.”

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Then, we drove to the north western tip of the country the size of Akita prefecture in Japan (11,000 square kilometres, one-third the size of Malaysia) to visit the Al-Zubarah Fort. This fort was built in the 1930s and it was used as a coast guard station and to spy on Bahrain’s coastal borders to the west but now it is open to the public as a museum and has been declared as Qatar’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. They were still renovating it when we were there, and there wasn’t much to see.

Oh, and on the way there, we saw lots of skid marks on the road and the tour guide told us they were Qatari boys aged 14 onwards driving and doing car stunts on the road. Of course, one of the Japanese passengers would proceed to ask, “Do they use Japanese cars??” When the tour guide replied Yes all the passengers were so beamed with pride. This self-centredness is kinda cute (in moderation).

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I guess that’s why they posted some camels outside for tourists to entertain themselves. Although Peace Boat passengers were strictly told NOT to ride on camels due to diseases and the risk of infecting everyone else on the ship, some passenger was seen riding on one of the camels and after that some of the staff had to face the repercussions of it (complaints from other jealous passengers, blah blah). They were still photogenic although I couldn’t touch them.

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To end, we were sent off by a beautiful sunset in the desert on the way back to town for dinner and to visit one The Pearl-Qatar, an artificial island reclaimed to build a luxurious community of homes to sell to foreign buyers. If I remember correctly, I think the tour guide told me Janet Jackson has bought one of the properties there. I didn’t take any pictures, but I remember getting off in front of the mall in the island and walking through the harbour where the rich people parked their private boats.

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No postcards due to the hectic day 😦

Next up: THE SUEZ CANAL!!!

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#23 Le Moucherotte

More hiking! Because this is what you do in Grenoble when sumer’s here: Climb different mountains every weekend to look at the city from different angles.

So previously I have climbed the Chartreuse, which is behind my house in the north. This time, we went to the Vercors mountain range on the left side of the city to look at it from the West! This is my first time setting foot on these mountains; none of my previous ski trips were on this mountain range.

Schedule
9:55 Left the main Grenoble bus station on the TransIsere Bus 5010
10:25 Got off at Pariset Station
12:30 Lunch at (what remained of) the ’68 Winter Olympics Ski Ramp
14:45 Reached the peak of 1901m
15:30 Start of descent
18:10 Pariset Station
18:40 Milkshake at Mcdonald’s
19:00 Home

Total Hike Time from Pariset Station: 4.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down

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Interesting Checkpoint #1: Les Trois Pucelles (The Three Virgins)
Legend has it that three virgins were in love with a man, but the man died and the three girls wouldn’t stop crying that they turned into three huge rocks, lol.

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Interesting Checkpoint #2: Ruins of the ’68 Winter Olympics Alpine Ski Ramp

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It was hard for me to imagine what was what, but I think the part in the middle lined with lampposts was the track, the structure on the left was the judges’ booth, and the one on the right was the audiences’ stand. So I googled it and found this picture:

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Source

Pretty cool! And look, the skiers had to carry their own skis up the stairs to the top of the piste. These are the stairs today:

Which picture’s going up and which is going down?

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Interesting Checkpoint #3: The peak, and where Le Moucherotte Hotel used to be

There used to be a famous hotel up here in the 60s only accessible by cable car and people could ski into town in winter! But all of has been demolished so what’s left is a huge patch of empty land on the top of the mountain where dandelions and other mountain flowers grow.

View of the mountain ridges continuing into the south

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View of the city to the northeast. And we can see the Fort of St. Eynard on Chartreuse below us in the middle of the picture!

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Flowers and Birds:

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These three ravens were being friendly to us because they wanted our food. Luckily for them, I had some over-ripe parts on my apple so I threw some at them and they so effortlessly flew around us to pick up the pieces. We contemplated to throw the apple core right off the cliff to see if they would dive headfirst to catch it but we didn’t because that seemed a bit mean lol.

#22 Reminiscing PB88: Dubai (Port 4)

*6 months later and I’m only at Port 4!! #procrastinator

Assalamualaikum! (Hello in Arabic)

  • Date: 2015/9/12-9/13
  • Port Name: Dubai
  • Country: United Arab Emirates
  • First time there?: Yes!
  • What did I do?:
    1st day – explored the city in the morning, interpreting for a desert safari tour in the afternoon.
    2nd day – walked around the souqs (markets) with Yen Wei and Meg!

What I learned / remember about Dubai:

Sandstorms in Dubai are very comman. And on the day of our visit, it actually rained and even though that could have hampered our tour activities (driving in the desert) the tour guide made us feel special because we brought the rain with us.

This massive city is so new; everything appeared within the past 20-30 years all built from oil money as well as money made from Emirates Airlines, YW(whom I visited)’s former employer. The large-scale skyscrapers were impressive but a little bit too overwhelming for me. Especially with the heat (although the insides of buildings were powerfully air-conditioned) and the cars and the sand and the eerie pristine-ness and new-ness, I didn’t feel at ease at all. Some parts of the city strangely reminded me Sunway Pyramid lol.

The only mode of transportation I took was the taxi, which kudos to them were inexpensive and safe, but if you didn’t know already, my stand on the automobile is one that could be described as a love-hate relationship. Oh, and I think all of the taxi drivers who drove me were Pakistani. And one friendly man even showed me a picture of his family waiting for him at home. It was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.

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Although, the Burj-Khalifa was effing awe-inspiring. 828m!!! Bucket list half-checked – The area directly below it was under construction so I didn’t get to look up at it from as close as I’ld liked and also I didn’t get to see it at night.

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Just a 15 minutes’ drive from the city, we reach the highway flanked by nothing but sand. Check out the ominous clouds. Our desert safari tour went well although I remember getting stuck on some words like animal names and random desert vegetation.

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All in all, I mostly had to テンションを高くする (get everyone excited) as it was a 4WD driven across the desert, speeding up at slopes and dips like a roller coaster. Then for dinner we stopped at this huge outdoor venue with restaurants, camel rides, henna booths, shisha and a large floor for a belly dancing performance in the middle. Oh gosh, I miss Middle-eastern food.Can’t say I’ve had hummus since that night!!

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The second day was free-and-easy so I spent it with YW!! This is us taking the Abra boat to cross the river after visiting the souk. What did I buy? Oh yeah, perfume bottles and a tile with Middle-eastern motives for Teng.

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  • Postcard back home:

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  • Postcard to le bf:image

Yes, CAMELS ARE SO CUTE!! But the whole of Peace Boat was prohibited from touching them or worse, going on a camel ride, because of the fear of diseases and of spreading it to everyone else on board.

NEXT PORT: DOHA!

#21 Wild Flowers of Springtime France

This is going to be a very pretty post.

I went hiking at Chartreuse again yesterday and on the way down I really just couldn’t resist collecting some flowers because they were everywhere! In total I think I collected about 20-25 types of different flowers; those growing on the ground, on trees, on bushes, you name it.

I’m starting to understand now why a number of the biggest artists originated from France or decided to move here to pursue painting. It’s the countryside, the nature, the flowers, the stone buildings, the ivy. When I was young, I had a puzzle in the picture of a country house painting that looked something like the picture below. I think sceneries like that had been subconsciously imprinted onto my brain as a romantic dreamlike place, a place from Disneyland a fairy tale, and I wouldn’t have believed you that these places existed or even if it did, they were in Disneyland fairy tales.

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But THEY DO. In France and maybe in other parts of Europe I have yet to visit. On my first hiking trip to Chartreuse I remember telling E, “Wow I’m living in the region of the world that inspired the people who have created all the things I believe to be pretty. Gosh, I’m dating someone from a postcard world,” which to he replied, “Well, you’re like a character in the postcard for me, too.” #<3

So here’s my stash↓ I have no proper vase so I’ve used a cleaned jam jar and a plastic cup. The class.

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And because I like documenting and listing things, I’m going to introduce the flowers. Actually a lot of them fell apart when I tried to do the photoshoot (lol, listen to me) so I only managed to photograph some of them, sadly.

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① The KENZO Poppy

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Yesss the iconic flower by the perfume maker! These flowers were sooooo fragile it’s a miracle the four petals didn’t drop off by the time I reached home. Scentless, ephemeral, but so simple and pretty. Sometimes when I’m in the bus going to town I see some by the roadside I’m like “dammnnn I wish I could go pluck them without looking like a fool standing by the highway.” Also I think it’s illegal to walk on the highway anyway lol.

② Gold Buttons, White Daisy, Fraises de Bois

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This photo turned out so well I was surprised myself. Doesn’t it look like a realist painting?? The best part is the unintentional (trust me) yellow petal of the Golden Button, or in French, “Bouton d’Or”. There are two white flowers in this picture; the lower one is a common daisy, they are EVERYWHERE by the road; and the higher one is the flower of the red fruits you see on the right, the “strawberries of the woods”, or “Fraises de Bois”. These are strawberries a lot smaller than the normal ones and they grow on the ground. Because they’re so small it’s not profitable to cultivate / sell them and they generally grow in the wild. E used to eat them all the time as a kid. I felt like Hansel and Gretel when I was gobbling as many wild strawberries as I could. 食べ放題だよ。

③ Pretty White Flowers and Wild White Roses

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Yeah.. they couldn’t stand nicely in my jam jar so I had to lay them down like that. Haha. These white, mildly scented flowers grow on trees whereas the roses on the right were almost scentless and extremely fragile.

 

④ Moving onto the yellow flowers

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The gigantic yellow flower grew on a hedge by the roadside so there’s a possibility it wasn’t exactly “wild” haha but it was wildly beautiful so we had to pluck it. The smaller flower on the right is a dandelion that is very very wild and grows far and wide in literally every nook and cranny. You know why? Because of their frigging pollen. It was like snowing here when they started to “shed”. Seeing the pollen, my Japanese friends actually thought it was the season for the pigeons to shed and change their feathers and got totally freaked out lol. The last flower on the right is the very fragrant “Chevrefeuille” or the Honeysuckle. I would never have known this without the country boy E lol.

⑤ Red Flowers from the Hedges at the Corner

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Yeah, the extent of E’s knowledge had to reach somewhere, and it stopped at no.④. Here are some red flowers we plucked from the hedge at the roadside corner lol (it was in full bloom, nobody would miss one or two missing!)

⑥ Purple Wild Flowers

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Such unnatural colors, yet completely natural.

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And here’s my final “cup” of flowers that survived the photoshoot! ↓

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Oh and to join the pretty party, another “jar” of flowers I collected back in early March↓

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