Monthly Archives: February 2009

Daily Travel Photo – Solomon Islands

Posted by on February 18, 2009

Old Port, Rennell Island, Solomon Island

Old Port, Rennell Island, Solomon Island

This is the old “port” on the island of Rennell where the boats used to land to bring supplies to the island. It is really nothing more than a beach near an opening in the reef.

Getting to the beach is about a 300 foot climb down very steep steps. The new boat landing has a road which allows for trucks to carry supplies.

When I asked to go down to the old port they thought I was weird, but agreed to take me. No one had been down to the beach in years. Me and two guides equipped with nothing more than machetes (to open coconuts).

People have a fantasy about desolate, pristine beaches. Unfortunately, those two things are impossible to have together. The beach was really cluttered with driftwood, seaweed, and sea shells. Most beaches are cleaned up by people beachcombing. Remove all the people, and a beach will get dirty pretty quick.

Daily Travel Photo – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Posted by on February 16, 2009

Elephant painting, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Elephant painting, Chiang Mai, Thailand

I went to an elephant show in Chaing Mai where trained elephants did all sorts of tricks. The most impressive trick was when they let two elephants create paintings. I gathered from what was being sold at the gift shop they could only do the exact same painting over and over. I’m also sure there was some sort of trick to it as a trainer was on the other side of the elephant that the audience couldn’t see, probably prompting the animal at the right times.

Nonetheless, it was pretty impressive.

The Kuwait Is Over

Posted by on February 14, 2009

My brief stay in Kuwait is almost over. I screwed up and accidentally booked a flight to Cairo at 11:00pm not am, so I’m here for 12 hours more than I had planned.

There isn’t a whole lot to see in Kuwait. It is a small country, it’s mostly desert, and there isn’t a lot in the way of ancient history here. That being said, Kuwait is probably the most livable country in the Gulf. I’d describe Kuwait as an American suburb that was populated by Arabs. You can find almost every chain restaurant you can think of in Kuwait and much of the layout of streets and houses has a similar American feel to it.

Kuwait is also probably the most liberal of the countries in the Gulf. I’ve seen some Arab men and women dressed in western clothing. Much of that has to do with the area I’m staying in, but it does exist. The internet here is censored, but the quality of the connection seems better than anything else I’ve had in the Gulf.

Kuwait is also expensive. 1 Kuwait Dinar is US$3.42. It is about US$5 for a McDonald’s value meal. There are lots of westerners here for business, but it doesn’t have anything like the vibe that Dubai does. Kuwait is building and growing as needed, not trying to create its own demand.

I had the pleasure of exploring around Kuwait City with Bader, a Kuwati blogger, who I met via Twitter. He took me out to for a Kuwati lunch, to see the Kuwait towers and a drive around Kuwait City. I was nice to meet an actual Kuwaiti who knew the region as well as someone who had spent significant time in the US (he went to college in Seattle).

With that, my time in the Persian Gulf is over. I’ll have more to say, but as for now, it is on to Egypt!

UNESCO World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

Posted by on February 14, 2009

World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

World Heritage Site #54: Bahla Fort

From the World Heritage inscription:

The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of the immense fort, with its walls and towers of unbaked brick and its stone foundations, is a remarkable example of this type of fortification and attests to the power of the Banu Nebhan.

Getting to the Bahla Fort is pretty easy to do. It is a short drive from Nizwa, which is itself an easy 90 minute drive from Muscat. However, the view you get in this photo is about as much of the fort as you are going to see for the time being. They are renovating the fort so you can’t go inside. There are no signs or anything set up around the fort for tourists. If you are in Nizwa it is probably worth taking a look as it is so close, but a much better experience can be found at the Nizwa Fort.

Currencies I Have Known

Posted by on February 13, 2009

I was going through a bag of coins and small bills I’ve collected over the last several months. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all the currencies I’ve had to deal with since my trip started. The conversion rates are all listed as the amount of the currency which can be purchased with US$1. The rates are also as of today, not when I was there. Exchange rates have gotten better in Australia and New Zealand, but have gotten worse in Japan.

Countries in italics are places I’ll be in the next few months. Cambodia is listed twice as the US Dollar is the common form of currency, but the Cambodia Riel is used in place of coins.

CurencyCodeConversion Rate
US Dollars
– United States
– Guam
– Marshall Islands
– American Samoa
– Federated States of Micronesia
– East Timor
– Cambodia*
USD 1.000000
Pacific Francs
– French Polynesia
– New Caledonia
XPF 94.59758
New Zealand Dollar NZD1.91531
Fijian Dollars FJD1.84575
Samoan Tala WST3.12600
Tongan Pa’anga TOP2.07469
Solomon Dollars SBD 7.63359
Vanuatu Vatu VUV120.100
Australian Dollars
– Nauru
– Kiribati
– Australia
Philippine Peso PHP47.30832
Taiwanese Dollar TWD 34.06717
Japanese YenJPY90.23698
South Korean Won KRW1,402.52
Hong Kong Dollar HKD7.75201
Macau Pataca MOP 8.14741
Brunei Dollar BND1.52931
Malaysian Ringgit MYR3.61745
Indonesian Rupiah IDR11,919.0
Papua New Guinea Kina PGK2.72808
Singapore DollarSGD1.50995
Thailand Bhat THB35.33876
Cambodia Riel KHR4,204.92
Vietnam Dong VND17,643.9
Laos Kip LAK8,702.74
UAE Dirham AED 3.67394
Oman Rial OMR 0.38619
Qatari Riyal QAR3.64444
Bahrain Dinar BHD 0.37840
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD0.29325
Egypt PoundEGP5.59453
Jordan Dinar JOD0.71244
Israel SheckleILS4.06134
European Euro EUR0.77762
British Pound GBP0.69981
Iceland Kronar ISK114.952
Canadian Dollar CND1.24451

Daily Travel Photo – Dubai, UAE

Posted by on February 12, 2009

Fish in Mall Aquarium, Dubai

Fish in Mall Aquarium, Dubai

This is one of the only daily photos I’ve posted that wasn’t taken with my SLR. This was taken with my pocket point and shoot at the Mall of Dubai.

I have no idea why this turned out as well as it did. The background wasn’t black when I took it. I think the flash caused that effect and the glare in the eyes of the smaller fish. Because of the high ISO, this is a photo which doesn’t look better in a larger version.