Friday, April 9, 2010

11 ways your Cat will punish you for traveling.

Let’s all assume:

A Dog is your Slave, a Cat is your Master

And when you, human little mortal being, decide to travel alone without the company of your beloved feline friend… Master becomes upset.

And angry.

And when Master is angry, he’ll show it and punish you for leaving him behind. Oh and do not worry…. Master has many tricks in his bag:


1- Peeing in your suitcase: So you’re all excited about your travel and you are packing up, you didn’t notice Master sneaking in that open suitcase lying open in your bed. Heavens! What a perfect spot to nap! It’s so comfy with all those nice smelling pile of clean clothes. Makes Master so happy he just want to pee everywhere and make it stink for the next decade. How thoughtful! A souvenir-perfume of your cat every time you want to change your clothes! Your fellow traveler friends will love you!

2-Throwing up everywhere: Have you ever faked you were sick when you were a kid to get attention? Or avoid going to school? Cat’s do that too.. Suddenly, that healthy looking Master is suffering from an unknown tropical disease and starts throwing up everywhere. I mean, not everywhere, only expensive everywheres, like on that 700 year old Iranian carpet that your great-great-great-great Grandmother bought in Persia.

But you were clever, you didn’t fall in his traps. You tried to clean up everything and finally left the house.. alone.

Now Master is really pissed, that’s when the fun begins..

3- Ruining your plants: Now how on Earth did that cat get a fake tropical disease? Probably because Master was on a scientific expedition, Experiments consist in chewing all the different plants in your house, analyzing the leaves by shredding them to pieces and fertilizing the soil by peeing and pooping in it. How nice of him!


4- Obliterating stuff: In order to keep exploring jungles and hidden corners, Master has to exercise and stay fit. Suddenly your little house becomes a Paris-Dakkar circuit. Master starts running everywhere, jumping on tables, knocking down chairs, glasses.. everything! And when he’s tired? He’ll just lean against something to recover.. Not a sturdy furniture or a wall of course, but against that expensive porcelain vase on the table.

5- Hiding stuff: Have you ever hidden what you have broken when you were a kid? You sure did! Well cats do that too! Only difference is Master does not hide what he broke.. He hides other random important stuff, like your keys… In places impossible to imagine or reach of course.

6- Scratching everywhere: Hey, the pitiful mortal is not here to give the evil-bad look when Master starts scratching that expensive sofa. So why not experiment other places too? Table legs, curtains, sheets, tapestry.. The Shredder is loose and no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to stop him!


7- Spilling all the Water and Food: Somehow, when you go on holiday, Master seems to fall back into childhood and is unable to eat or drink without making a mess in the whole kitchen.. I meant apartment. Yes that includes cat food under your pillow in your already locked room.. Don’t ask, Cats can do incredible stuff.

8- Losing hair: Being alone stresses Master. And when he is stressed, he loses hair.. a LOT. So Master needs to rest and sleep to forget his loneliness. And your betrayal. Best spots to sleep on are, of course, anything black, especially black expensive clothing. And he’d sleep on it so long that his hair becomes one with the fabric.

9- Torturing the person catsitting: Of course you are not a heartless person, you have assigned a friend to come and check on Master, feed him, entertain him. But Master does not like that other person. Scratching, hissing, biting, leaving a mess.. Everything is acceptable to make that friend’s life a living hell.


10- Alerting the whole neighborhood: You thought Master had a cute little “meow” to express himself? Well wait till you leave. Suddenly Master will start reaching impossible decibels and alerting the whole neighborhood that you are an animal abuser. It’s of course preferable to start meowing late at night and early morning.

11- Ignoring you: So you are happy, you come back home fresh and all tanned. You kind of miss your little kitty. You reach home, wondering why your friend keeps insulting you on the phone and why the whole neighborhood suddenly hates you. And while you’re at the doorstep, staring in disbelief the mess in the apartment, Master will unleash upon you his last punishment: Ignore you for the next few weeks!

“In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him”

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Shhhh - My 3 best kept travel secrets

Thank you Catherine (, Sabina (Solo Female Traveler), Nick (Delicious Chaos) for tagging me in the Tripbase Best Kept Travel secrets. I have been a bit lazy and forgot about it until I was tagged again so.. no escape this time!

From time to time, while traveling, we discover new things, places, food, stuff that don’t appear on most guidebooks. So it becomes a little secret, a place still untouched, or a food still kept authentic.. I have discovered a few little secrets along my travels since the past 2 years, sometimes I want to keep them for myself, so it doesn’t spread too much. But Life’s all about sharing right? So here are 3 of my little best kept travel secrets worth discovering!

1- Jabal Shams & the Wadi Nakhr - Oman:

Rising 3048m above sea level, “Jabal Shams” (Mount of the Sun), part of the “Jabal al Akhdar” (The Green mountain) range of mountains is truly one of the jewels of The Sultanate of Oman.

IMG_3822Located only 2 hours drive away from Muscat, this impressive 600km stretch of mountains is home to some of the most exciting activities like canyoning in the Snake Gorge (Yes it is called Snake gorge because there are snakes), trekking in the wadis or climbing up to the highest peak only to be greeted by the most beautiful canyon in the Gulf Region: Wadi Nakhr (also known as the Grand Canyon of the Middle-East).

IMG_3762Tourism is almost non-existent here, and it is a good opportunity to meet and chat with the locals in the tiny villages vertiginously hanging on the cliffs.


2- The Geghard Monastery – Armenia

Most people would never think of going to Armenia for tourism. Most people wouldn’t even be able to place it on a map! (And many never even heard of that country).

But if you enjoy authentic old culture, diverse beautiful landscapes, friendly people away from tourists and visiting old worship places (Armenia has some of the most oldest churches in the world, as it is the first country that became Christian in 301 AD)… Armenia is the place to be!

One of the monasteries that I particularly enjoyed is the “Geghard” Monastery. Geghard in Armenian means “Spear”, and it is said that the spear used to wound the Christ on the cross was brought and kept there among other relics.

800px-Geghard_monasteryThe complex was founded in the 4th Century and is partially carved in a mountain, surrounded by cliffs all around. Many prayer chambers have been carved on the cliffs and used by monks as a retreat.

It is interesting to notice the contrast between the finely detailed facades of the outside chapel and the rough cave-like interiors carved inside the rock. If you truly want to experience a magical moment, wait for a choir of young teenagers to sing inside the chapel: The acoustic is impressive and the echo inside is unbelievable (and lasts veeeery long!).

There are also many beautiful “khatchkars” all around (crosses carved on a rock in traditional armenian style).


3- Village festival in Triacastela and preparation of Queimada –Spain:

After trekking the whole day between snakes, and reconnecting with your spirituality inside a monastery, what’s better to do than.. party in a tiny village in Spain!

Triacastela is a village along the path of the “Camino de Santiago”, a pilgrimage route. On the 11th of October, a big village festival is celebrated among the locals and any guest (mainly pilgrims) is allowed to participate!

What’s the plan?

-Stuffing your face with free food like chorizos, salchichon, paella and flowing wine… as much as you want!

-Dancing like crazy to Spanish songs next to a Transformer-like truck that turns into a huge stage with laser and light shows.

-Assisting the ritual of preparing an alcoholic beverage that dates from the time of the druids: The Queimada (and getting drunk).


All photos are taken by me except the Geghard photo in the snow which is from wikipedia.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

What would you think if one day, you entered a place of worship and saw on the walls a drawing of Neo dodging bullets from the Matrix next to Superman, flying to save the day? Crazy? Well, not really!

North of Thailand, near the Burmese border, is the quiet town of Chiang Rai, famous for its jungle treks and many various hill-tribes. But Chiang Rai is also home of probably the most peculiar Buddhist temple ever built: Wat Rong Khun, also known as “The White Temple”.


Just thirteen kilometers south of town, this whitewashed glittering unusual temple is a popular attraction among locals and tourists. It has been visited by over 5 million people (200,000 foreigners) already since the beginning of its construction in 1997.

Unlike most century old temples, Wat Ron Khun is the “dream-come-true” work of art of a famous Thai Buddhist art painter: Charlemchai Kositpipat. The millionaire artist spent his own money to fund the construction of his vision without ever soliciting contributions from the government or anyone else. His creative thinking and love of Art made him return to his home town and dedicate the rest of his life building the temple as an offering to Buddha and, in the future, turn it into a national art treasure.

Under a high sun, the White Wat glitters in all its splendor. Different than the mundane and repetitive style of many Thai temples, it is covered with a combination of whitewash and tiny mirror chips that make it shine like porcelain from afar. The artist used white color to represent Buddha’s purity while the mirrors symbolize Buddha’s dhamma, teaching men to observe their own mind and reflect kindness towards others.

The whole architecture has been carefully studied and is imbued with riddles, teachings and Buddhist philosophy.

The Temple is surrounded by a pond, home of dozens of white fish guarded by dragons.


Before crossing the bridge of the “Cycle of Rebirth”, one cannot prevent getting the chills gazing upon the hundreds of sculpted hands reaching up from “Hell”, symbolizing the way to happiness through overcoming cravings.

Bridge hands_from_hell

Once cravings have been eliminated, the visitor finds himself in front of the “Gate of Heaven”, guarded by Rahu (the One who controls men’s fate) on the left and Death (The One who controls men’s life) on the right.


After crossing the Bridge, the visitor reaches the temple (called the ubosot or White bot), the Adobe of Buddha.


Although still unfinished, the paintings on the walls inside represent a mix of traditional Thai Buddhist art and contemporary scenes like a plane crashing on the twin towers, the war for Oil, many movie/comics characters like Neo, Batman, Superman and Star Wars droids. Charlemchai himself refused to be confined within the framework of traditional beliefs and Art. Too bad photography inside the temple was not allowed (I was being carefully watched with my big camera).

Next to the white temple, on the other side of the pond, is also a the “Gharavasa” (the layman quarters) where an Art gallery, a preaching hall and a “golden toilet” are located. This is by far the most beautiful public restroom ever done in the world I guess. This temple-like building is supposed to represent the Body (as opposed to the white temple that represents the Mind). Charlemchai built the two bots (white and gold) in hope to teach people to let go and not cling to substance, or money, and not to perceive the physical body as an assumed identity.

gold_bot golden_temple

Whether or not his message will reach visitors’ soul, Wat Rong Khun (scheduled to be completed by 2070) remains one of the most unusual and interesting places of worship I have ever visited with a deep meaning behind every statue, corner or architectural design representing the wild creativity and vision of one gifted Thai artist.

“Money and possessions are insignificant. They are not mine but are only make-beliefs. Merits belong to me; therefore, money is of no value to me. Money is valuable only as a way to make merit for further journey of the soul”

~ Charlemchai Kositpipat ~

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fish Massage?

Thailand is the land of massage. An hour of full body Thai massage would cost you around 5$, Who can beat that? I sure am taking advantage every 3-4 days!

There are many types of massages, from Thai massage, Oil massage (swedish massage), Head, Feet (bliss!), Hands, Herbs etc.. But the strangest and most exotic of them all is: Fish Massage!


There are many fish massage centers in every big town in Thailand. Basically, You just go in, take off your flip-flops (who wears shoes in Thailand? Seriously), sit down and put your feet in big aquariums where hundreds of tiny little fish (Garra Rufa fish, also called Dr. Fish) come and nibble merrily your feet. They also feed only on dead areas of the skin, leaving the healthy skin to grow.


No worries! These fish have no teeth and they just suck the dead skin out of your feet. It does not hurt in any way, although ticklish people would feel like they are being tortured.


Fish massage apparently help get rid of smear skin, promote blood circulation and act as a type of acupuncture which helps you relax and release your fatigue. Also it keeps your skin smooth and beautiful.

My opinion? I have tried it, and although it’s fun for a while, I wouldn’t pay for another session. For a few Baht more, I can get a foot scrub with an hour foot massage which is much more pleasant and relaxing.

It’s worth the try anyway! At least once!

Now, I’m going to go have some fish & chips for dinner..

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The next step is beginning

First and foremost, It is never too late to wish everyone a happy New Year filled with joy, laughter, love,health and prosperity. May 2010 bring you what you seek.

In December, after the Copenhagen Climate demo, I decided to leave the European continent to head back “home” and spend the holidays with my family and friends. Europe is a great place to be, so much to see and do.. But it definitely is not a cheap place to be. I don’t have an income, I am traveling on my savings.

Except for my mom and a close friend, I decided to surprise everyone and arrive in the UAE without their knowledge while they think I am enjoying the warm beaches of Morocco.

After losing over 400€, getting refused boarding (because I bought a one-way ticket and I did not have an exit ticket from the UAE…) and spending about 40 hours at CDG airport in Paris (not the greatest airport to sleep in), I finally made it to Abu Dhabi with my brother on the 23rd at night.

Christmas was spend as usual with my family. The next few days were spent surprising friends and catching up with all the travel stories.

On the 31st of December, we headed out to the town of Dibba in Oman to camp on a beach under a beautiful “blue moon”. It was an amazing moment with awesome people and I thank them all for being there :)

Now, 2010.. It is time to think about my next step.

It’s been exactly 4 months I left the country for a open-ended travel to discover the world, learn as much as I can and kick start my photography business. When I look back at those last months, I had an amazing personal experience with a lot of inside growth. But I feel a bit disappointed by my lack of self discipline. I did not do anything very useful to realize my goals.

Next week, I’ll be going to the other side of the world: South-East Asia (Thailand). It is a brand new experience to me as I never set foot in Asia and the culture is unknown to me. A friend will join me a week later and we will be traveling together for a while, trying to set up a few projects we have in mind.

For this new year, I have decided to become much more disciplined, and realize my goals and dreams. I will be working on a few documentaries, post more blog posts about traveling and become much more serious about my photography.

If you feel I am not serious enough, feel free to send me virtual kicks so I could move on. I need some motivation from time to time!

Will keep you posted about all my next steps. Until then! Enjoy the New Year!

Once in a Blue Moon

Happy New Year 2010 to everyone! May it bring you abundance of Joy, Laughter, Love, Prosperity and good Health. May everyone find what they seek :)

I spent my New Year's Eve camping on a beach with some friends in Dibba, Oman. We had an amazing time together under a blue moon. What better way to end 2009 and begin a New Year guided by a beautiful moonlight?

"A dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight.. And see the Dawn before the rest of the world".