Are You a Massage Lover?

There are two different types of people: the massage lovers and the others. I belong to the first group and admit having tried almost every kind of massage one might have heard of…yes, wherever my wanderlust bug took me I thrived to indulge in my favorite pastime.

While the “Razzie award” belongs to the Inca massage in Agua Calientes, Peru (it triggered pain in my neck i.e. Brufen was my best friend for quite a few days ), some of the best experiences were in :

Siem Reap, Cambodia – 25 February 2003 : advertised as “massage by blinds”, all the employees in this center were professionally trained visually impaired masseurs and masseuses.

Sri Lanka : Ayurveda treatments

Spice Gardens in Matala, Sri Lanka – 24 February 2004

and the star of them all, the Shirodhara – oil dripping technique 27 March 2017

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29 March 2017

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-Bali – 22 August 2012 : yummy treat(ments) i.e. coffee scrubs, chocolate massages…

Maldives – 10 July 2012 : the outdoor picture perfect spectacular setting

Shanghai, China – 4/5 September 2011 : relieved me from a chronic back pain in only one session…like magic!

Chiang Mai, Thailand – 15 November 2007 : Sleep inducing reflexology

– Chiang Mai, Thailand – November 2007 : the 2-hour body massage felt like seconds

Bagan, Myanmar9 February 2005: Room-reflexology

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Madagascar: much needed pampering between hikes

Reserva Forestal Los Santos, Costa Rica – 22 March 2018 : excellent “surround sound system” reaching us from the surrounding rainforest…chirping birds, cascading waterfall… live, no CD.

However, the one treatment that left me with the strongest impact was closer to home…Yes, here in Abu Dhabi where I enjoy an established yet dynamic routine.

Honestly, I went to the spa at the Emirates Palace out of curiosity…understandably, it’s the most luxurious spa I’ve ever been to. I suspected the tag price to be associated with the lavishness, the splendor of the surroundings.

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I found out it wasn’t exactly true: the treatment was above my expectations…pure bliss is a cliché! Words fail me… I can’t describe the burst of emotions I never knew existed and caused my eyes to well with tears towards the end of the treatment, once I felt, inch by inch, a warm blanket descending on my back before being left there and covering me like a warm cocoon.

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Heroin! It’s like heroin! Yes, well suddenly this particular article came to my mind…I read it twelve years ago in a Glamour UK issue while visiting my daughter Sara in Beirut. It was the addiction journal of a young teenager who revealed that the first time she tried heroin it felt like she was being enveloped in a warm blanket. I still remember that I thought then and there why wouldn’t she simply envelope herself in a warm blanket instead of letting herself be sucked into the downhill spiral that could have cost her her life?! Strange how our memory works.

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Anyway, back outside sipping on my minted tea in the relaxing area, a smooth transition before exiting the enchanting “realms of the senses”, I inquired about the “heroin effect ” treatment.  They don’t have it on the menu, it was bespoke! They came up with it when I asked for a “brain teaser”, a relaxing and energizing treatment.

Still under the spell, I left the premises with the feeling that the treatment I just experienced could really lead to a habit, a guilt free and harmless habit.

Men in Uniforms

Men in uniform – and women- have a certain appeal..whenever I notice one, well.. I have never managed to reign my desire to immortalize those encounters…always with a smile, a knowing smile, a smile acknowledging the ludicrousness of my impulse

Checkpoint Charlie, a vestige of an unhappy period for pre 89 Berliners Berlin, Germany –5 June 2016

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Who is he? No clue. A passerby in uniform…et voilà Moscow Russia – 9 May 2016

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With the guard at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V- and his two sons Rabat, Morocco – 6 April 2016

 

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This Mayan site has some of the best-preserved stelae and those vigilant men in uniforms are making sure it stays it that way Archeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua, Guatemala – 4 November 2015

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Alpha female in uniform Todos los Santos, Guatemala ­– 1 November 2015

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Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK – 1 June 2014

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Notting Hill, London, UK – 24 August 2014

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With the of our Paris➡️Havana flight aboard a Cubana Airlines’s Ilushin II-96 – 25 November 2013

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With the “eyes” watching over the weekly Sunday march Huancayo, Peru ­– 30 October 2011

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During a demonstration, probably a minor one as the Riot Police officers didn’t seem slightly worried, considering that one of them lent me his cap and the other one his shield Arequipa, Peru ­–18 October 2011

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Police officers in longui, Bali, Indonesia- 27 March 2010

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Historically responsible for safeguarding the Crown Jewels: a Beefeater, Tower of London UK ­–15 August 1989

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The closest I could get to him behind the chain, Tower of London, UK­– 15 August 1989

 

Peru, October 2011

//Part 5 of 8 //

In almost every single town we visited, the streets were abuzz with some kind of event.

A procession for Damas Descalzas, Arequipa – 18 October

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The 20th anniversary of the School of Civil Engineering at Universidad Andina Nestor Cáceres Velásquez, Puno – 20 October

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A night procession, Cuzco – 25 October

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The School of Fine Arts at Universidad Nacional de Bellas Artes “Diego Quispe Tito” del Cusco has taken over the streets, Cusco – 28 October

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Sunday’s morning weekly parade at the Plaza di Armas, Huancayo – 30 October **

30 kms from Huancayo and about 40 minutes drive, our afternoon visit to the Convent of Santa Rosa de Ocopa was delayed because we came across a procession we couldn’t bypass … and then the procession and our big bus were slowed down due to the closure of some roads in order not to damage the flower carpets that have been laid for the occasion on the tarmac of some streets. The sand carpet in the photo was at the entrance of the Convent.

Lima – 31 October: national day of the “Canción Criolla” (Native Song) is celebrated with native waltzes, polkas, Creole music; for us it was another celebration, the last celebration but I didn’t take any photo…well, it was our last day, we arrived to the capital city towards the end of the day after a 10 hours train journey. I was tired, running out of space on my camera’s memory card, running out of time before dinner, and practically running to cross the piazza where our bus was waiting for us. All these reasons and another factor, I call it “BTFAW” – Been There For A While – having been accustomed now to all these streets happenings, we tend to get selective regarding the scenes worth shooting and so refrain from rushing with the camera at each single flash of colour or every sound of music…

 

Let the Party Begin

// Part 1 of 8//

Traveling in itself is a rewarding experience, and the icing on the cake is when you witness a particular celebration during your stay. If you do your homework properly, you can time your trip according to annual happenings in your planned destination. We did it when we visited Laos 🇱🇦 for the Boum That Luang Festival, worked it out to be in a Guatemala 🇬🇹 celebrating All Saints Day and next day’s colourful Day of the Dead …and while in Bhutan 🇧🇹, we ended the Druk Path Trek with a big celebration:The Thimphu Tsechu Festival.

However, you might stumble upon such events unknowingly and that’s even better…forget the anticipatory hype and the build-ups, the surprise factor doubles the pleasure and is truly the cherry on top of the icing on the cake..Talking from experiences, twice in Myanmar and 5 times in Peru !!

 


Noviciation Ceremony known as Shinbyu, Pagan, Myanmar – 8 February 2005

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Nat Festival, Mt Popa, Myanmar – 9 February 2005

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Boun That Luang Festival,Vientiane, Laos – 24 November 2007
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The 20th anniversary of the School of Civil Engineering at Universidad Andina Nestor Cáceres Velásquez, Puno, Peru­– 24 October 2011

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All Saints Day, Todos Santos Cuchumatan, Guatemala – 1st­ November 2015 

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The Day of the Dead  Zunil, Guatemala ­– 2nd November 2015

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The Thimphu Tsechu Festival, Thimphu, Bhutan – 12 October 2016

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde Sans The Evil Streak …a Woman of Many Contradictions

My sister once said to me, you are like Lebanon, the country of contradictions…

You are devout and a party animal… you endeavor to practice your 5 daily prayers and more, the beautiful voice of one specific muezzin makes you stop everything to listen to his beautiful call for prayer, but again certain songs can pull you to the dance floor with shameless abandon…

Your friends? Social butterflies and literati. You are equally pleased in the company of the younger in their 30s as well as the older with experience in their 80s.

What else? I love a good workout as much as I love farniente. I enjoy living in the fast lane, enjoy the adrenaline that helps me cope with a hectic lifestyle but equally enjoy a relaxing morning just catching up on the world or reading a catching book, staying home and not having any planned outings…

In the morning, I look forward to the peace and quiet of the night and the rituals preceding the “machine switch off” while at night I look forward to the morning “waking up process” and its routine – a warm shower and coffee in the garden listening to the chirping birds.

These contradictions must be explained by the following: my yin and yang DNA is probably the “joint account “of 2 extremely different ancestors.

Knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoy the luxury of 5* hotels as much as I enjoyed the overnight homestay in Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca in Peru , the shared sleeping accommodation – we were 12 – of a wooden boat during a Mekong cruise in Vietnam, the rudimentary comfort of a traditional yurt in Uzbekistan, and camping in Bhutan under torrential rain  i.e. muddy terrain.

Anyone like me?

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Four Seasons Hotel Anahita, Mauritius –3/6 December 2014

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Le Negresco Hotel Nice, France – 14 June 2014 

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Lake Palace Hotel Udaipur, India –15 February 1998

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Riads, Morocco – 6/14 April 2016

Les Jardins de Shehrazad Fès 7/8 April         Riad Nashira Marrakech 10/12 April

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Shwe Inn Tha Floating Resort, Inlay Lake Myanmar – 10/11 February 2005

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Beach bungalow Hotel Vanille, Manakara Madagascar – 8 May 2009

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Local’s casa, Amantani Island Peru – 22 October 2011

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Wooden boat, Mekong Vietnam – 22/24 February 2003

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Yurt Campsite, Nurata Uzbekistan – 8 May 2008

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Campsites between Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan – 8/11 October 2016

Dressing up

Dressing like the locals gives you a feel of the place, whether for:

-a photoshoot: India, China, Peru and Japan

-modeling the outfit for your travel companions: Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan and Guatemala

-going out for dinner: Cambodia

-dressing up as an empress for dinner in a “palace turned restaurant”: Vietnam,

Or for the whole stay: Iran.

7F20F976-E068-4F14-AFD2-80A61A436855Udaipur, India – 16 February 1998

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Beijing 31 August 2011   China   25 Cheng Du April 2012

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Lake Titicaca, Peru – 21 October 2011

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Kyoto, Japan – 2 April 2015

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Sri Lanka – 24 February 2004

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Uzbekistan –7 May 2007

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Guatemala – 30 October 2015

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Siem Reap, Cambodia – 26 February 2003

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Hue, Vietnam – 16 March 2001

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Shiraz 28, Isaphan 30 Apr 2003 Iran Kangavar 9 May 2001         

 

From Place to Place

Applying black lacquer on the teeth of young coming-of-age women was a very popular rite of passage Hoi an,Vietnam – 18 March 2001

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Madagascar – 7 May 2009

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Peru – 27 October 2011
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Xangkhong, Chiang Dao, Thailand – 17 November 2007
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Carmine or brown red teeth colour are a side effect of chewing betel nut, a very common practice in SE Asia Paro, Bhutan– 7 October 2016

It’s a Wild Wild World

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// Part 4 of 7 //

Off the Riviera Maya, while snorkelling in the waters of the second largest coral reef between the “butterflies of the oceans” – stingrays – I felt overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness triggered by the following thought… I realised I love all creatures except the Homo Sapiens found in my birth country: the rulers and those electing them…the greedy and corrupt as well as the ignorants and bigots who put them in power…

The maligned animals of prey hunt out of hunger, ONLY…if they were to duplicate those Homo Sapiens’ greedy and auto-destructive behaviour, many species would have been extinct by now…

South Africa 12 April 2009

After reflection, I realised I didn’t feel that way during the previous encounters with the animals in their natural habitat…

South Africa 12 April 2009

On the contrary, I had some of the most exhilarating experiences while scuba diving in the beautiful Great Barrier Reef ( crossed paths with a white tip shark )

The Maldives 12 July 2012

The Maldives 10 July 2012

And in Sharm El Sheikh 24 November 2015

Ditto on terra firma during our safari in South Africa – 11 April 2009

As well in Madagascar’s tropical rainforest – 3 May 2009  

And again in the Andes mountains in Peru’s Alto Plano – 24 October 2011 

And lately in the cloud forest in Carara National Park Costa Rica – 20 March 2018.

My moodiness must have been induced by the elections taking place at the time in my birth country…this charade had affected me despite the disttance…

Wonders of the World

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// Part 3 of 7 //

As of May 2018:

63 countries

6 New Wonders of the World out of 7

I hope it’s not a pattern; Brazil has been on top of my bucket list for so long! I don’t want to visit 7 more countries before I get to see the 7th.

The Roman Colosseum, Italy – 24 July 1993

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Taj Mahal, India – 10 February 1998

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Petra, Jordan – 3 September 2001

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Great Wall of China –2 September 2011

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Machu Picchu, Peru – 26 October 2011

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Chichen Itza, Mexico – 7 May 2018

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The Great Pyramid of Giza Egypt7 December 2016    Why?

Somehow I feel it belongs… I just couldn’t rule out of my “Wonders’ List” the oldest and only vestige – remarkably quasi intact – from the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World !