The Gateway to Petra – Wadi Musa, Jordan

People travel from all over the world to enjoy the marvel that is Petra, and there is a lot that is written about this site. However there is more to the UNESCO World Heritage Site than just the city that lies behind the canyon. There is a whole city on the edge of it that is a wonderful location to set up camp before exploring all that Petra has to offer. It is called Wadi Musa and for a gateway town it does a good job inviting people in and preparing them for the adventure they will have in the park.

Of course, there are plenty of gift shops, and a few Turkish bathhouses, but one of the best places to unwind after hiking around the park is the Cave Bar. It is a short walk away from the entrance of Petra, and the prices on the drinks are a little higher than other places you will find in Jordan, but the atmosphere makes up for these small problems. It was built in an ancient tomb that used to be a part of Petra, and it claims to be the oldest bar in the world. There are plenty of cozy little corners in the bar to find a place to relax, but if you would rather sit and enjoy the company of a larger crowd, they do have an outdoor patio, and a larger room where you can watch a game or talk with other travelers.

Right up the hill from the bar, and the bigger tourist shops is the Petra Museum. This is a good place to visit before heading into the park to see all of the sites. It will take you through the history of the ancient city, and how it developed over the centuries. There is also a large collection of artwork that once graced the outside of many of its buildings, but were taken down when iconoclasts, or Christians who did not believe in icon and worked to destroy as many as they could. It is amazing that many of the statues survived because it depicts a civilization that was influenced by both the Greeks and Egyptians.

There are also many comfortable and affordable hotels nearby. We stayed at the Petra Boutique Hotel. It was a five minute walk from the entrance to the park, and served a nice breakfast in the morning. The only problem was that it sat right next to the main road of the town. At night the traffic disappears completely, but this allows for the packs of wild dogs to take over the street, and they are not very quiet. They did keep me up during my first night’s stay there, but I was so worn out from the long hike on the second night that they did not bother me anymore.

Also make sure that you have at least one of your meals at Mom’s Secret Recipe. It is a local restaurant that has really good food, and great atmosphere. It looks like the inside of a bedouin’s tent inside, and you can tell that the recipe comes from a mom who has spent many years perfecting her food.

Overall, the main attraction is Petra, but the town is a lovely place to stay as well. It is well worth staying there for a night or two because it makes the trip to Petra a little more relaxing. You will still find yourself on long hikes to amazing spots, but at least at night, you won’t have to worry about driving back to Amman or Aqaba because you will have a comfortable place to rest your head.

The Second Indiana Jones – Petra, Jordan

I know that I have a lot of readers screaming at me right now. They are all looking at this photo and they know that this image comes from the third movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yet, I titled this post, the SECOND Indiana Jones. You are wondering if I know the difference, and by the mere fact that I acknowledged the difference in this post, I obviously must know that Petra is part of the better installment in the series, and I should not have referenced one of the lesser adventures as the title of my post.

To those people, I must acknowledge your movie brilliance, and at the same time, hope that you have stuck with me so far, so that I may defend my choice of title for this post. For those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that this is the second time that one of my adventures has made me feel like I am a part of an Indiana Jones adventure. The first one took place out side of Hua Hin, Thailand as I hiked to the Phraya Nakhon Cave. My visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra, in Jordan, would be the second time that I have had this feeling. This is where the title of this blog post comes from. I hope that clears up any confusion you may have experienced from reading the title, and I also hope that you continue to read to learn more about this exciting place.

Though there are many exciting places to visit in Jordan, Petra is the one that the country promotes the most, and the one that tourists make sure that they see while out here. It had remained hidden for many centuries and it wasn’t until 1812 when Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt let the rest of the world know about it. He claims that he discovered it, but considering many people still lived in the buildings hollowed out from the mountainside, and he was shown where it was from a Bedouin, it is hard to say that it really needed discovering. Soon afterwards, people would come to see the site, and eventually those people were removed so it could become the tourist destination it is today.

The site itself sprawls all over the hills in the southern part of Jordan. There are some trails that have been created from the visitor center that allows for easy access to some of the more impressive locations, and most people who visit stick to these trails. For people that struggle with hiking, donkeys and camels can be rented and there are even options for select people that they can take a golf cart, but that will only take people to the Treasury, the location that was used for the Indiana Jones movie.

There are many other smaller hikes that will take people to the lesser visited locations, but it is recommended that you hire a guide to take you to these place. The mountains out there can be deceiving and it is easy to get lost. Plus, there are so many places where things are hidden, so it is helpful to have that person that knows what to look for so you can find those hidden little gems.

The two major sites at Petra are the Treasury and the Monastery. The Treasury is pretty crowded because it is the easiest to get to. It is about a kilometer hike all down hill from the visitor center through an idyllic canyon called the Siq. I would recommend going early in the morning because it got really crowded in the afternoon, and it made it hard to navigate through the people. The Monastery is not as crowded but takes a little more effort to get to. It is an uphill hike on a series of stairs that have sometimes been worn away by heavy rains. It is hard to tell how many steps you have to take to get there because they are not always organized, but the rule of thumb is somewhere between 850 and 900. Both locations are awe-inspiring, and are worth the trip, but it can get cold up at the Monastery, especially in the months of fall and spring, so I would recommend taking layers of clothes.

There are many other places to view along the way including the Royal Tombs and the Great Temple. Some of these locations had been lost to the desert and are only being uncovered at this time. Archeologists from Brown University were at the site and discovered the Great Temple buried underneath the sand. They have been spending the couple of decades slowly digging it out and restoring it to its original glory. There are a couple of amazing corridors that you can walk down, and there is a small theatre placed right in the middle, but the most impressive part of this location is the rows of columns that are on either side of what would have been the huge foyer.

There is also the large amphitheater in what would have been the center of this hidden city. It made me wonder what the bustling atmosphere of this place would have once been like as people made their way up and down its various streets. They would have been covered with merchants selling their wares, and to an extent they still are, except now they are different variations of the same collection of souvenirs. The amphitheater is also quiet now, as in the past, I am sure that it would be filled with great speeches, and amazing performances that would be overheard by everybody that happened to pass by.

To travel to Petra is to travel back in time to a place and a culture that could have easily been swept under the stiff wind of the Jordanian desert. It truly feels like you are an archeologist that has come to find s great treasure among its many buildings. It is an adventure, and I can see why George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg chose it for their third installment of the storied franchise. If the theme song isn’t playing in your head as soon as you step foot on the dusty paths, it will soon play because there are always people singing it or humming it, so everybody else can join in. It makes you feel like you are a part of the movie, but in the end you marvel that there is so much more to it than what little they showed in that full length feature.

Petra should be on the top of everybody’s bucket list. It is an amazing place to visit, but not enough people know about it to add it to the many places that they need to travel to before they die. I am glad that I have added it to the places I have been, and I doubt that I will quickly forget its grandeur. Considering I am also currently living in Jordan, it is a place that I will go back to. I covered the more touristy part of the site, and I want to go back to travel the less explored areas. It makes it one of those places that you will always be happy to go back to, and I hope you have the opportunity to make it out there at least once.

A Lazy Vacation

As the sun set over the distant hills in Egypt, and I sat on the beach in Aqaba watching it go down, I thought about the close on another vacation. It was not one of my typical vacations where I would go out and try to see as much as I possibly could. Instead, I spent a lot of my time sitting next to a pool, and reading a book. Are there things to do in Aqaba, and could I have gotten out of my seat to do them? Of course there are plenty of things to do. I could have visited the castle that was once built to fight off any invaders that might have shown up to this shore. I could have explored the Roman ruins that are being unearthed here as they are in many other places in the area. I could have booked a snorkeling trip to check out the sunken boat or crashed commercial airplane. They would have made for an adventurous holiday, but it is not what I needed at this time.

I needed a vacation where I sat around a pool and relaxed on the beach.

I will always enjoy those trips where I go out and see and do a lot of things, and there will be many that are coming up where I will do exactly that. But there also comes a time where I need to recoup, and that is what this vacation was all about. Things have been a little crazy at work, and when I get back in a couple of days, they will pick up right where they left off. There are a couple of trips thrown in there as well, one with students of mine, so I needed to make sure that I was up for the challenge of this next run.

So am I going to remember a lot from this trip? Probably not.

It is okay though. I still had the sunset. I still had the beach. I still had the couple of days of complete relaxation. And all of this allowed me to keep my sanity.

Thank you, Aqaba for the wonderful vacation. I am sure I will be back again soon since you are not that far away, and during that time I hope to see more of what you have to offer.

A Beach on the Red Sea

The thing that strikes me as being the most strange with my time in the Middle East is visiting these place that are in the Bible. I grew up with these stories from such an early age that I couldn’t think of them in any other capacity other than tales full of fantastical places that couldn’t possibly be real. Now that I see these places for myself, the first thing that pops into my head is, “This place really exists.” I have had this experience with the spot on the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the top of Mount Nebo where Moses was able to look on the promised land before her died, and now I have travelled down to Aqaba in Jordan, and can sit on the Red Sea looking over its waters to Egypt, and the place where Moses parted the Red Sea so he could bring his people over to freedom.

Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan, and give the citizens of this country 32 kilometers of beach front property to play around in. It is a tiny sliver of land situated in between Saudi Arabia, and Israel with a clear view of the Sinai Peninsula within clear view of its coastline. The Jordanians have made the most out of this little stretch of land. Not only have packed it full of resorts, and places where people can go out to enjoy waterskiing, scuba diving, and lounging out on their boats, but it is the only port city in the country. Anything that comes in or out of Jordan has to pass through Aqaba first.

A certain amount of history can be found in this city as well beyond the stories that are told in the Bible. Aqaba was used by the British during World War I as a base to help the Arabs in their fight against the Turks. T. E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame would retreat back often to Aqaba to resupply or just collect himself before going back out to gather together forces or blow up train routes. It was the one place that they were able to hold on to and may be the reason that they were able to push the Turks out of the area, and is probably one of the big reasons that the Middle East is shaped the way that it is today.

Despite all of this that is offered, the thing I looked forward to the most was finding a beach chair next to the warm waters with a good book to keep me company. It is a nice weekend getaway place from Amman, and I am glad that I can take a quick four hour car ride down here to unwind a bit. I did get a chance to explore a bit of the town, but for the most part, it was all about relaxation this time around, and Aqaba is the perfect place for that. After I collect myself more, I will go explore more, and even if I don’t get it all in this time around, I can always make my way back here. That is the nice thing about living in a country that offers places like Aqaba, you don’t have to squeeze out every moment you are in the place to make sure you saw everything. Instead, you can take your time and savor what it has to offer. So thank you Aqaba for these days of relaxation, and I hope to dive deeper into what you have to offer soon.

The Street Art of Amman

When I first moved to Jordan, there were a lot of things that I was expecting to see, beautiful mosques, markets on busy streets, and a stark landscape that is hauntingly beautiful. There were a few sights I did not expect to see, but after further thought, it made perfect sense such as the important places that are mentioned in the Bible, old Roman ruins, and buildings all different variants of the color light brown, but that still have their own unique style because of the architecture. What came as a total shock was the government’s partnership with the hip hop community in Amman and the street art that has been left behind all over the city.

About a month ago, I went on a walking tour of downtown Amman to check out some of the street art that can be found all over the place in the city. Ever since arriving, I always knew that it existed. It is hard to walk anywhere and not come across some of the pieces that are found on various walls all over the city. But what I learned from the tour is that these pieces are partially subsidized by the Jordanian government and some of the most famous artists in the city are the ones that leave these wonderful pieces of art behind. The most prominent of these artists is a man that calls himself Sardine. I had seen his pieces here and there in Amman, but I had no idea now much he had contributed to the culture of the city. His art always features a paper boat in it somewhere, and now that I know what to look for, I see his art all over the place.

And like all great art, some artists try to push for certain causes that are dear to their hearts. Yara Hindawi is one of these artists. She will paint her subjects with missing eyes and clouds floating in the background. Her characters are depicted this way to bring the issue of mental health to the spotlight, and to demonstrate the missing piece in a lot of people’s lives who suffer from these problems. I had come across her art a couple of times, but it wasn’t until this tour that I was able to understand the message behind it.

The prestige of the city with its embrace of this culture became so widespread that other prominent street artists were asked to come and contribute during festivals that happened before the Covid years. My favorite one was entitled Blue Boy. The haunting look in his eyes was highlighted by the fact that a couple of years after it was painted, the city came in to repair wall and covered up his mouth. I don’t know what it looked like before the city came in and did this, but I think it is one of those happy mistakes. I believe that this makes the piece say more than whatever the original smile might have been. It is the picture I return to more than any other that I saw on the tour.

There are many other hidden gems throughout the city, and now that I have been on the tour, everywhere I look I see another one. It is a part of what gives the city of Amman its charm. I am sure that many people that travel to Amman would not consider this as part of their trip when there are the Roman ruins, and Rainbow Street that attract so many visitors, but it is one of those tours that are really worth the time. They are run by an organization called Underground Amman and the tours are conducted by a man named Alaeddin Pasha. I would call it a must see if you come to Amman, and it is one of the most surprising experiences I have had since I have moved out here.

Where the Lost Dogs Go to Play

Many of you tuned in to my post, A Short Love Story, a post about a puppy we adopted off of the streets of Jordan, and the tragic end of her life. It was a tough experience, but it did not end in Jordan. I like to think that there was a little bit more to her story that ends in Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon. For many of the dogs I have known, this is the place where their stories end, at least, the part I know.

My in-laws have a house that is hidden in a corner of the forest in Central Oregon, not far from Black Butte. Before I moved overseas, my wife and I would load up the car, and travel from Denver to here with our dog at the time, Bear. It is a great place to unwind and relax, and Bear loved it. There were plenty of places for him to roam, the wildlife always kept him on his toes, and it smelled of fresh pine. In other words, it was the perfect place for any dog. It was fun to watch him on the car trip over. He hated being in the back of the car, and would mope about the whole time, but as soon as we would get close to Black Butte Ranch, he would sit up and start to sniff at the air. I could easily say that it was his favorite place in the world.

When he passed away in 2014, there was only place that we could think of to spread his ashes. We took one more car ride across the country with him in the backseat, except this time he did not raise his head up to sniff the air as we got closer to Black Butte Ranch. We found a nice tree to spread his ashes at, and I like to think that he is now running through the forest that he loved so much.

Since then, I have been a part of spreading the ashes of other dogs from other members of the family. The backyard of the house has become a playground for all of these dogs and for most of them, this was their favorite place to be, so why shouldn’t they spend the rest of eternity frolicking here.

I was never able to bring Suji out to this special spot because she was not given that much time on this earth, but I would like to think that she would have really loved it if she was ever given the chance. So when we were thinking about a place to spread her ashes, this was the obvious choice. We could have found some place in Jordan to spread her ashes, but the places that came to mind did not lend themselves to a place for her to jump around and play with other dogs, so we started the long process of carrying her ashes halfway around the world to lay her to rest. It caused some fun moments at airports, but we eventually were able to make it, and introduce her to a couple of friends of ours in the process. I am happy to have done it too, because it gives Suji the happy ending that I know she deserved.

Rest in Peace, Suji, and have fun playing in the place where all the lost dogs go.

Roman Ruins in Jordan

Just like moving to any country or new location there have been a lot of adjustments to make and a lot of surprises, but I think the biggest surprises I have seen have been the Roman ruins that are all over the place throughout Jordan. I know logically thinking about it now, it makes sense. The presence of the Romans was always in the background in the Bible, and historically, they control this part of the world for a long time in history, so of course, their mark should be all over the place. But it is one of those things that did not hit me as being a part of my life now until I actually lived among those ruins for a couple of months.

I know that I have not hit the most important of these ruin in Petra, and I have plans on visiting that in April, but that does not mean that I haven’t seen some more of the impressive sights. There are some that jump right out from the first moments that you arrive in Amman, and smaller ruins that you have to travel to by the Sea of Galilee, and a truly impressive collection that creates its own city in Jerash. Each of them have their own flavor, but each is also a great way to spend a day in you make it out to Jordan.

The easiest of these ruins to access is in the heart of Amman. You can easily get to them with a thirty minute cab ride from the airport, or even better, with a ten to fifteen minute ride from most hotels in central Amman. They are really hard to miss. From many vantage points from this hilly city, they can be seen if you just look down. Look for the amphitheater in the heart of the city, and sitting right above that is a collection of ruins that overlooks this iconic location. Both sights are worth visiting, but they have separate entrance fees, so beware. There is a pass that can be bought when first arriving in Jordan that will reduce the cost a bit, but it will only allow you into a limited amount of sights in the country. Make sure to save one of those for Petra because that will be one that you really will want to see, but the two in Amman are also nice additions.

The other sight that I would suggest that you visit is only a short hour drive north of Amman. It is in the heart of the city of Jerash. This city got its start many centuries ago from these ruins and there are some impressive sights to see within the grounds. There are two smaller amphitheaters than the one that can be seen in Amman, but they are nestled on an old Roman road that gives them a more authentic feel. There is a long field that once was used for charioteer races with the stands still intact on one side of the field. There are old temples dedicated to ancient Roman gods even though they still used the Greek names. And there is a huge circular courtyard that was once was used as the gathering place for all who lived there, and those who had travelled many miles to get there.

There are many other places where the sights of Roman ruins can be found in Jordan. I have just shared my few favorite ones that I have witnessed so far after living here for a few months. It makes Jordan one of those places that should be on everybody itinerary for world travel, and it surprises me how few people want to make the trip to this little corner of the world.

But if you do make it out here, you will not be disappointed by what you will find. Jordan is a place rich in history and culture. The people are warm and friendly, and not enough people know about its spectacular views making it the prefect vacation destination for those in the know.

St. Regis Hotel – Amman, Jordan

It has been awhile since I have taken a night away from home. Usually, when I have a four day weekend, I take the opportunity to get out and experience the world, but last four day weekend I was stuck at home because I had just adopted a new dog, and it was not fair of me to leave her behind while I went out and had fun. This did not mean that I did not itch to get out, and my friends had been telling me about this wonderful restaurant at the top of the St. Regis Hotel on the fifth circle in Amman. I was excited to try it out, so on a weekend when I could find a dog sitter that Zoey would be comfortable with, I booked a room in the hotel and got a reservation at Zenith, the rooftop restaurant that was the talk of the break room.

It is a beautiful hotel nestled on the edge of downtown Amman. When we first arrived at our room, the attendant that was showing us around, opened up the blinds to our room, and said, “Welcome to the Concrete Jungle.” It is hard to argue with him when you look out over the city and see the brown building all over the place, but at the same, that is part of the charm of this city. It is also nice to have this bird’s eye view of Amman. Most of the buildings do not go over the five story limit, so when I get to see the city from the sixteenth floor, it really highlights the continuity of its design.

Besides the view, the room was already comfortable. I have spending a lot of nights on Asian style beds, and they like to sleep on firm beds. I have grown accustomed to this, and in fact, enjoy it, but the beds at the St. Regis were fluffy and soft. I sunk right into the bed and instantly fell asleep. I don’t think that my back could handle sleeping on something so soft all of the time, but for a night or two, it was heavenly.

But the real reason that we decided to stay at the St. Regis hotel for a night was the restaurant on the roof, Zenith. This is a fancy spot with the same incredible views that we were able to see from our hotel room. It serves American inspired cuisine with many dishes that come from other parts of the world, but have that twist from the States. We started off with some poke, and then moved on to ceviche and a hearty steak with Roquefort sauce on top of it. I wish I had taken some pictures of it, but I had starved myself during the day in anticipation of this meal, and when it finally arrived, it couldn’t help by digging in. When I remembered to take a picture of the food, it was more than half way gone. The point being, it was that good, and though pricey, it was definitely worth what we had paid for it.

What I did take pictures of was the drinks. These were just as fancy as the food, and Zenith boasts a cocktail menu with a variety of drinks, none of which disappointed. They also come in fun mugs or glasses which makes the experience even more memorable. Despite the drinks being good here, I would say that the bar on the ground level made the best cocktail of the evening with a cognac old fashion. It would be a good place to start before going upstairs for the bigger event at Zenith.

The best part of the evening was being able to leisurely make our way back to our room after a hearty dinner. There waiting for us was a big bathtub and a comfy bed. It was a nice way to spend a weekend night. I don’t know if I will head back to stay another night at the hotel, but considering the St. Regis is so close to my home in Amman, I will be back for a dinner at Zenith. It has easily made the mark as my favorite restaurant in Amman so far.

The Best Posts of 2021

2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.

#10 – Hindsight

This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.

#9 – The Dead Sea, Jordan

I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.

#8 – Rain on a Work Day

I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.

#7 – A Desert Feast – Wadi Rum, Jordan

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.

#6 – Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.

#5 – Elephants in the Morning Mist – Khao Sok, Thailand

One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.

#4 – Problems and Possibilities

Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.

#3 – Elk in the Backyard – Black Butte Ranch, Oregon

I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.

#2 – The Bat Cave – Railay, Thailand

One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.

#1 – Wingspan versus Everdell

Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.

Honorable Mentions

Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.

The Mythology of Thailand – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Never Forget Dachau – Germany

A Toast to the End of the Semester

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Lessons from Angkor Wat

Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

The Difference a Year Makes

Many people think of this time of the year as an ending, and time to renew our lives to push for something new and better. Though this is a great way of thinking about the year, I rather like to look back at where I was and the voyage I have taken during the year.

The year looks like it is going to end much the same way it began, with Covid being the major concern of nations. When the year began, I was living in Thailand and the government was threatening to shut down the country at any time. We were constantly keeping one eye on the news as we rode the vacation wave that we were on touring the country.

We still had to cut that trip short. There were many places we had visited on that trip but there were a couple that we were unable to go to because we had come back early. The big one was Khoa Sok in the southern part of the country by Phuket. It was the one place that did allow us to change our date though and didn’t just take our deposits as the natural consequences of making these choices during this unstable time in the world. We were able to go back in March and enjoy the beauty of that part of the country.

In April, things around the world were starting to loosen up, but Thailand was still dragging its feet on collecting vaccines for its population and hoping that tourism could save their economy. We took advantage of this sliver of time before thing really locked down to go to the very southern tip of Thailand to the small island of Koh Lipe. It was my last hurrah in the country because I had signed for a new job in Jordan the next year, and this would be my last opportunity to enjoy the beauty that this tropical East Asian country had to offer. It ended up being one of the best trips I had taken in that country, and I felt lucky to have gotten it in.

By the time May had rolled around, the country was in complete lockdown and we were back online. It made my last few days in the country seem very anti-climatic. My last moments were a mad rush to an airport as we took one of the few planes flying out of the country to make it back to the United States. It made me feel like I had left a couple of loose ends that needed to be taken care of, but for the most part, this wasn’t the case. Thailand disappeared quickly in my memory as I made the needed adjustments for my next adventure in the International teaching scene.

But first, I got to have some time in the United States visiting with family and friends who I had not seen for a couple of years due to the pandemic. More importantly, we stopped at a couple of pharmacies so we could get vaccinated. We did spend a lot of our time away from the general population until we got this done, but it was nice to be back in America and making steps to get back to what we would hope would be normalcy again.

And for a time in July, it felt like this was the case. I spent most of that month back in Colorado with my family, getting ready to take a hop over a different ocean this time, instead of my usual voyage west over the Pacific. It was nice being back in the cooler, drier air of Colorado, and I was glad that I got to spend a lot of time outside, going back to a lot of the places I had not been to for a long time.

But like all trips, it eventually had to come to an end, and I had to pack up my worldly possessions in August to move to Jordan. As far as Covid was concerned, things were looking better in this part of the world than Thailand which had shut down completely as it had just started to get its population vaccinated. It was a new challenge moving to my new school, but one that I was happy to accept, and the best part was that the school year would be in person and no longer on-line.

The school year definitely kept me busy, but it was a fun kind of busy. I enjoyed working with my new colleagues, and we had made some good friends along the way. This wasn’t all without heartache. We had a short time where we brought a new puppy into our lives, but she had come down with distemper, and we had to say goodbye quickly. It still made me realize how much I loved having a puppy around, and it made me realize that we would need to add an addition like this to our lives very soon.

In October, we were able to have our first break since we arrived, and it was fun to get out and travel again. Leaving the country we were in was still not an easy endeavor, but it was a new adventure as we got to explore what Jordan had to offer. We instantly went back to the water and took a short trip down to the Dead Sea first.

And by November, we continued to explore Jordan by leaving all water behind, and going to the set of Dune down at Wadi Rum. It amazed me to think that I had started the year in the Tropical environs of Thailand, and ended it up in this start landscape where I had to bundle up at night to stay warm.

By the time December rolled around, the rumbling of a new variant was working its way through the news, and there were threats of going back online. Countries around the world are once again shutting their doors to travelers, and it indicates that the struggle I was witnessing at the beginning of the year is still a threat. Even though, I have made an exciting journey during the course of this year, it is funny to see that the world is still in the same place. It still does not mean that I am not excited for what the next year has to offer, and I hope to see those changes that I long for so I can get back to telling you stories about the amazing places that this world has to offer.