Mars on Earth in the Wadi Rum Desert

Today we are headed to the protected Wadi Rum desert, which you’ll probably recognize as the otherworldly backdrop for movies like The Martian and Rogue One.  After a truly exhausting morning of hiking through Petra, we were picked up by our pre-arranged driver to take us to Wad Rum.  We had booked a “high end” transfer service, so imagine our surprise when a busted up taxi rolled in to pick us up.  The drive is less than two hours, so we figure we can make the best of it.  Except it gets worse. Once in route, our driver informed us that he had to get to a class at the University and that his dad would drive us instead.  We asked the obvious question – where the hell is your dad?  Oh, Dad is just at home.  So now we are making a pit stop at a random house in Wadi Musa to get dear old Dad.  When we arrived, Dad came out and informed us that his son would actually be driving us.  Not the son who picked us up.  His other son, who reeks of cologne and stares a little too long in the rear-view mirror.  We basically met the whole damn family at this point.  Stay with me here, people, because it gets weirder.  We stopped at an ATM and Drew hopped out to get some cash, leaving me in the car with Jordanian Rico Suave, who told me I am beautiful and said I could put my feet on the center console if I’d like.  I graciously declined.  He then mentioned that he does some side work as a masseuse “for women” in Petra, and said he can give me a foot massage “no problem” while he drives.  I laughed.  He did not.  I swear to you this man was dead serious. Homeboy had a legit foot fetish. He even asked me what size shoe I wore.  It was the longest ATM run of my life.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, through barren desert and large red mountains that reminded me of Utah.  At one point we passed by a group of shabby tents that looked like a desert crack den and I joked to Drew “we’re here!”.  I then asked him what he would have done if that was actually where we were staying and he responded, “I would strangle you and let the driver massage your dead feet”.  That boy is such a fucking gem.

Once we arrived in Wadi Rum, we transferred to a jeep and were driven out to our desert camp for the night.  From the back of the jeep, the stunning landscape of Wadi Rum came into view.  It really is Mars on earth.  We pulled up to Memories Aicha Luxury Camp, which is the premier fancy-ass desert camp of Wadi Rum. This place is supposed to be as good as it gets.  I don’t want to say the website lied, but their photographer should definitely get a raise.  And probably a job with national geographic.  There is a lot of new construction going on as they are building new domes to expand the camp.  I hate arriving at a hotel and finding construction is going on.  But you gotta roll with the punches on Mars.

Mars bubble tents in Wadi Rum

Our tent, however, is delightful.  It looks like Ali Baba’s brothel.  I’m into it.  The restaurant and lounge area in the back of the camp is also quite fabulous, so I’m warming up to the place quickly.  We have a few hours to spare before our sunset desert jeep tour, so I spend some time relaxing in the outdoor lounge while drew took a nap (he is still sick and feeling like complete and total shit).

A few hours before sunset we head out on a jeep tour of the Wadi Rum desert.  This tour was awesome.  It lasted the optimal tour length of 2 hours, and covered all the highlights.  Our first stop was a large sand dune with sweeping views of the unearthly landscape of Wadi Rum. It was an astounding view of the stark red desert surrounded by gargantuan monolithic rust colored mountains.  I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here…

The next stop was Khazali Canyon, a deep and narrow crack in one of the towering mountains that you can hike through, with pools of  rain water at your feet.  The walls are lined with Nabatean petroglyphs and Islamic inscriptions.  While climbing out we encountered a French couple very fond of extreme sports and going to great lengths to impress the same interests on their young child.  They were trying to teach him to rappel down a rock from a rope that his father was holding.  First mom showed him and then insisted he try.  This kid could not have been older than five.  He gave it a shot and smacked his face into the rock.  He was scolded his Lara Croft wannabe mom who yelled at him “you know how to do this!”.  Andrew speaks high school level French so we are all up this family’s business.  They were borderline bullying their own child.  As someone who has far less athletic ability than everyone else in my family, I was appalled.

The next stop was Little Rock Bridge, a bridge-like rock formation that offers more great views of the desert.  And who did we run into here?  The adrenaline junkie Frenchies, of course!  Femme fetale Mom and Dangerous Dad were urging their son to jump off a VERY high boulder.  I’m talking ankle-breaking high.  He was visibility terrified, but at the insistence of his parents he jumped.  I cringed.  At the bottom he grabbed his lower legs, crying that it hurt.  Mom told him he was fine.  Is this a child rearing technique?  Because I am not into it.   They probably made the poor kid sleep outside the tent tonight for embarrassing them.  I could practically write the script to that kid’s future therapy sessions.

Little Rock Bridge, Wadi Rum

Lastly, we made a stop at a rock formation that we climbed to watch the sunset.

Let’s talk about dinner.  It was, quite frankly, the Middle Eastern buffet of my dreams.  This was the food I had been expecting to eat all damn trip.  An amazing assortment of mezze in a beautifully arranged spread, with a chef at the end of the line serving me roasted lamb.  Finally.  Andrew was still feeling shitty with very little appetite so I had no choice but to pick up the slack.  There is no “I” in team, and there isn’t one in “fast ass” either.  By my second plate I was fully aware of the uncomfortable night I was signing up for, but I proceed eyes wide open and accepting of my fate.  Because this is food that tastes as good as skinny feels.  I brought my own wine to dinner but didn’t even crack it open because that meant less room for the food.  I’m completely serious.  I went to bed with meat sweats not shortly thereafter.

Rise and shine at 5am for our sunrise camel ride!  By the time I get home, waking up for work will just feel self-indulgent.   We did a quick fifteen minutes camel ride out to watch the sunrise, led by a ten year-old Bedouin guide.  I think this may have been the kid’s first solo mission, because he looked stoked that dad was letting him take us out on his own.  At least until one of the camels kicked the shit out of his leg.  He limped a little after that…Andrew and I both later confessed that we wondered if he got kicked on purpose to increase his tips.  We are such cynical and contemptuous pricks.

After breakfast we packed up and headed back to town for our pickup to drive to the dead sea.  I’m not going to go into too much boring detail, but suffice it to say that this tour company we used to book all our transfers screwed the pooch again.  One fuck up I can forgive.  Shit happens.  But two in twenty-four hours and I can only assume that you are either lazy or just suck at your job.  Either way, I’ve overpaid.  It was the last straw – I called the owner and lost my shit on him.   Remember in real housewives when Vickie Gunvalson goes bat shit crazy on a driver service for sending a “family van” to take her group to the airport? It was definitely not that bad. Over and hour of my trip has now been wasted, which doesn’t sound like much, but I did the math and that is almost 1% of my total vacation.  So yeah, still not much at all.  Now that I’m looking at my calculator I might feel slightly like an impatient psycho.  I’ll take a note to work on my patience if the rest of the world will take a note to stop fucking with me.  For the record, I did get us reimbursed for yesterday’s kinky-feet transfer.

We’ll continue this adventure about four hours north at the Dead Sea!

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The Petra Triple Play

Drew and I were up early to cross the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Israel into Jordan.  This border crossing is notoriously a complete shit show that can take up to five hours and just happens to be the only crossing into Jordan where they do NOT issue visas upon arrival, so preparation was key here.  First, we had to mail our passports to the Jordanian Embassy in Washington D.C. to get our visas ahead of time.  We then arranged for VIP border crossing transfer service.  What a fucking racket that is.  We showed up at the border expecting to see something akin to a third-world refugee camp, and instead found a completely empty building with more workers to assist us than people actually crossing the border.   They took us into a joke of a VIP lounge for about ten minutes, then ushered us into a VIP van, where they drove around the building in a complete circle, back to the front to retrieve our bags, which were about ten feet from where we had originally handed them off to this VIP team.  They then drove us to the Jordan side to another empty building where waited another ten minutes while they cleared us through immigration and then kindly said get the hell out and wait for your driver on the curb.  After all that build up I’m almost disappointed it was so damn easy.  No doubt that VIP service was completely unnecessary, but better to be safe than sorry.  One quirky thing about Jordan – everyone kept saying “you’re welcome” to us, and I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to have thanked them for.  It took me a few hours to realize that what they meant was “you are welcome in our country”.  I thought they were being sarcastic and calling me ungrateful.  In summary, I’m a jaded bitch and the people of Jordan are quite lovely.

We hopped in a lovely air-conditioned Hyundai and drove about three hours to Petra, stopping at shitty tourist trap buffet restaurant on the way, but hey, a gal has to eat. We checked into Petra Guest House Hotel, which literally overlooks the entrance to Petra.  Convenience is key when you have less than 24 hours to cover one of the seven modern wonders of the world. The original plan was to attend “Petra by night” tonight and then be up at 6am when the gates open for a half day to explore tomorrow.  Plans changed once I got some information at the visitor’s center and decided to do a few hours with a tour guide today so we could get all the historical info at the typical tour guide snails pace, and then power through the aggressive hikes early tomorrow morning at our normal insane pace.  This way I avoid trying to rush the guide so that I can squeeze in the hikes I want to do in just one morning.  That means three trips into Petra in less than 18 hours.  I know, I’m a lunatic.  Drew is slightly less than thrilled but is humoring me because I have been waiting for this day for a very long time.

We napped for a few hours until 4pm when it cooled off a bit and met up with our Petra tour guide, Ahmad, who led us leisurely through the Siq (picture the Zion narrows without water), to the Treasury (the insanely famous temple you have seen a million times), and down the main drag to the Theater and Great Temple complex.  We stopped often and were given a lot of information, but I didn’t mind the unhurried pace because Ahmad was on his shit.  He grew up as a Bedouin in Petra, and would actually take refuge in the old tombs of Petra during the rains as a young boy.  This guy isn’t just a local, he’s a legit descendent of the Nabateans (the people who built Petra).  He is also full of little gems of wisdom, for example, “Jordan is like a quiet house on a noisy street”, in reference to the peaceful nature of Jordanian people.  Overall, it was a great introduction to Petra.  We headed back quickly to shower and have a dinner before Petra by night…

Here is what “Petra by Night” is marketed as: Meandering through the narrow and mysterious canyon of the Siq in the dark, guided by nothing but candles, until the awe-inspiring beauty of the majestic Treasury comes into view, lit up by twinkling lights while a local musician to serenades you.  Petra by Night in actually:  Stand in a hoard of tourists waiting at the entrance gates and then be bum rushed while you very unconfidently stumble through the Siq on uneven, sandy pavement guided by some candles but mostly iphones.   As the Treasury comes into view, you must first maneuver around the ignorant tourists who have stopped dead in their tracks in the middle of a moving line to take a picture, and you are rushed into rows of seating on the ground.  You then spend twenty minutes watching people repeatedly attempt (and fail) to get a decent picture in the dark while a random flute plays in the background.  They finally light up the Treasury façade with some rave lights and the crowd goes ape shit with their cameras.  An old Bedouin tells a “story” that is actually a sales pitch to use their guide services the following day.  The end.  Luckily, we brought rose in water bottles – you are not surprised – so we had our own entertainment. For those of you who took bets on the Israeli wine situation – I don’t hate it.

The next morning, we were ready at the gates for the 6am opening.  Andrew woke up sick, but he’s a champ and will power through it.  Our first stop was the hike to the infamous viewpoint that overlooks the Treasury.  Our guide from yesterday warned us that this hike is dangerous and we should definitely not do it.  Sorry Ahmad, but that Instagram pic ain’t gonna take itself. We paid the Jordanian kids at the bottom of the Treasury to show us the way up the side of the mountain.  It actually was not bad at all from a danger standpoint.  And you are talking to the gal who bitched out on the Angels Landing hike in Zion, so if I say it’s safe you can trust me.  Since the early bird catches the worm, we had the entire viewpoint to ourselves.  On our way down we passed some girls in dresses and flip flops making their way up.  For the record, that is definitely dangerous. But I’m sure they’ll look adorable in their pics, so priorities.  We decided they were Americans, for obvious reasons.

Next up was hellish hike up 850 stairs to the Monastery, which looks somewhat similar to the Treasury, but with much more peace and quiet since all the fat, lazy tourists have been weeded out.  I’m sure some of you smug ass holes are sitting at home on your ass and thinking that 850 stairs doesn’t sound all that bad. And you might be right.  But please note that I said STAIRS and not STEPS.  That does not take into account the parts of the hike that are not technically stairs.  Please also factor in that we are in the middle fucking east and it’s hotter than hades.  By the time we finished the Monastery hike, were exhausted and dreaming of the breakfast buffet waiting for us back at the hotel.  We hiked back to the Treasury where we found a guy with a horse-drawn carriage and we happily paid the man to sprint us the last mile back through the Siq and up to the entrance gate.  It was about 9:30am and the tourist mafia was out in full force.  We chuckled as our horse galloped through the masses, yielding to no one, while the tourists clung to the walls of the Siq to avoid being trampled.  Out of our way losers, mama needs breakfast.  That’s a wrap on Petra – we head to Wadi Rum next in the next blog…which was in actuality about two hours later.  This trip actually is a sprint, not a marathon.

 

A Judgmental Jew’s Jerusalem Journey

Our trip to the holy land started out with a bit of theatrics. For starters, I was hungover.  To add insult to injury, we were running super late.  We had planned on an hour drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but due to some random traffic and a driver slower than dirt, we ended up on a two-hour pilgrimage and missed the pickup for our Jerusalem day tour. Apparently, no one has ever been late for a tour in the history of the holy city, because the tour company screamed at Drew over the phone when we called to ask where we could meet up with the group.  This will obviously be reflected in their tripadvisor review.  We missed the stop at the Mount of Olives (bummer) and met up with the tour outside of the old city.  And here is where it gets basic.

We somehow ended up on a bizarre joint German and English tour.  Since we missed the beginning, we still aren’t sure if we just randomly got paired with a large group of Germans, or if we unknowingly booked a tour with a Company specializing in German.  The other two Americans were just as confused as us, which makes me think its the former.  We walked painfully slow through the Old Town, stopping every few feet for a spiel from our guide in both German and English.  Double the fun.  I honestly couldn’t even tell which language the guy was speaking half the time, since he went from one to the other and back again so quickly.  By the time my mind registered that we were back in English and I started to tune back in, he would start speaking in German and my eyes would glaze over.  Repeat.

So, what did we see?  Lots of Jesus stuff.  The site of the Last Supper, Via Dolorosa – the path on which he carried the cross to his crucifixion, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where he was crucified and buried and then resurrected.  It felt like a Jesus drive-by in a German car.  I wasn’t sure if this was a tour or Sunday school, but I was hot and there were just so many damn tourists.  I prefer to get my sight-seeing done at 6am before the crowds wake up, but due to our tight timeline on this trip, we didn’t have a morning in Jerusalem to spare.

The highlight of the day for me was obviously the Jewish sites of the Old City and the Western Wall.  I was not aware that the prayer note situation was BYO pen, but I managed to appropriate one from a little girl, write my prayer and jam in into one of the cracks.  People all around were crying and praying.  I felt like a total ass hole when I took a selfie.  Also, I’d like to note that the men’s side of the wall is bigger and way nicer than the woman’s side.  Wasn’t crazy about that.  All in all, neither Drew or I felt that overwhelminfg spiritualism that everyone talks about when visiting Jerusalem.  Maybe it was the German soundtrack, or the hordes of the tourists, or the streets packed with vendors that gave it a “holy Disneyland” vibe.  In summation, I’m still a half-assed Jew, perfectly content in my mediocrity and apathetically accepting of whatever direction my soul takes in the afterlife, should that be an option.

After lunch we ditched out on the tour early and went back to our hotel to nap.  The only thing left on the itinerary was the Holocaust museum.  I just didn’t have it in me to cry my way through that thing in a German tour group.  Yeah, I said it.  Our hotel is a restored YMCA, and it is awesomely beautiful and historic, but the rooms look like a cabin for the naughty kids at sleep away camp.

Later that night we went out to a fabulous dinner (the first truly decent meal of the trip).  The waitress told me I looked like Shailene Woodley, which kind of pissed me off because she’s a brunette, but she’s also skinny so fine, I’ll take it.   On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a market to get some supplies for the Jordan portion of our trip (read: booze).  It’s Ramadan so I can’t take the chances of having to be sober for five days on vacation.  Oh, the horror.   Start making bets on how Israeli wine tastes now and tune into the next blog to find out.  Next, we popped in to the swanky King David hotel for a nightcap, which turned into three or four, and soon we were drunk in a fancy ass hotel in Jerusalem.  Of to bed fairly early.

Shutting down the hotel bar

Tomorrow we cross the border into Jerusalem and head to Petra.  Prepare yourself for a truly narcissistic display of photography.

Shabbat Shalom Shit Faced

The bitch is back, with a brand spanking new 52-page passport to boot.  I had to trade the old gal in a few years early because she had gotten around rather quickly at a young age and the journeys had left their marks.  I’m going to reuse that same sentence when I blog about my (first) face lift in 20 years.  I can’t think of a better way to break in my new travel docs than with my maiden trip to the motherland.  This shiksa-looking Jew is headed to Israel!  Shortly followed by Jordan.  And you kids are in for one hell of a blog, because Andrew Boston is FINALLY making his debut.  So, in summary, Jew girl going to the motherland with her black brother from another mother, who is not a Jew, and then said Jew girl and black boy cross the boarder into Jordan for a desert and dead sea adventure.  In a week.  You should see our joint trip excel spreadsheet.  The Bostons aren’t fucking around.

Thursday, May 23, – Friday, May 24, 2019

My boogie ass brother decided to use his points to fly first class and leave me to traverse the world solo in coach, like a peasant.  After strategizing for days about what to pack, and organizing luggage cubes in my bag like a tetris mastermind, the French cunt at the Air France gate stomped around her podium, manhandled my little roller suitcase and informed me that the combined weight of my carryon and personal item are above the 12kg weight limit.   Well no shit. What international airlines actual stick to the carry-on weight limit?  Ryan Air and Spirit Airlines.  Great company to be in, Air France.  I naturally demanded to have the items weighed by an actual scale, which she did not have, and a bitch face-off ensued.  I haven’t even stepped on an airplane yet and I’m already getting into a fight.  The incredible hulk informed me that I would just have to trust her instinctual knowledge of what constitutes twenty-six pounds, lest I want to exit back through security to the ticket counter to use the scale at check-in.  It took every fiber of my being to let this one go.  I’ve been escorted out of an airport once before and trust me when I tell you it is not an experience worth repeating.  Air France: 1, Rory: 0.  The flight was freezing, I asked for two extra blankets and annoyed the crew right off the bat, I sat next to a guy who wore jeans on a ten-hour flight – so most likely a serial killer, I drank too much wine and got a headache, chased the headache with a sleeping pill concoction, begrudgingly watch the serial killer sleep like a baby for eight hours straight, and shifted uncomfortably in my seat all the way to Paris for my layover.  Just your typical transatlantic journey.

I typically detest all interactions with the CDG airport, but I found a couch to nap on and ate a giant pan au chocolate, so I’m going to let this airport off with a nothing but a warning to get their fucking bathroom game together.  I’d rather take a piss in the Paris catacombs, which probably have far less human DNA than the bathrooms at that wretched airport.  There were more cunty Air France employees checking bags on the second flight, which made me feel better about getting screwed back at LAX.  Although they apparently allow people who do not speak any common language with the flight crew to sit in the emergency exit row despite not being able to understand a word of instruction on how to operate the door in the event of an emergency.  I don’t particularly give a shit about the emergency exit language rule, but if you are going to ding me on the 12kg weight limit bullshit, you sure as hell should be consistent in your enforcement of arbitrary flight restrictions.

Let’s get the party started.  I land at 11:30pm on a Friday night.  The plan is to booze on the plane, drop off my bags at the hotel as quickly as possible, and get my ass out to a bar faster than you can say “Shabbat Shalom”.  Issue #1 is that I now I have to wait for my checked luggage.  Issue #2, they have no vodka on the plane.  Not one single, solitary mini.  The flight attendant actually offered me gin instead.  This is a plane to Tel Aviv, lady, not a fucking episode of mad men.  But yes, I will obviously take the gin.

Immigration was a breeze, my bag arrived promptly, and I was ripping shots from titos mini in the back of a taxi on my way to the hotel within about thirty minutes of touching down.  Did I mention I brought my own mini vodkas from home for this exact purpose? Planning ahead for the win, once again.  I arrived to find the hotel bar already closed, so I threw on a dress and Drew and I immediately hit the town. After a useless cab driver dropped us off nowhere near our requested destination, we finally found Boy Bar – a bizarrely awesome prohibition-era themed establishment with overpriced fancy drink and staff in costumes.

The girl at the door turned us away because the bar was “closing soon”.  I explained that I just flew twenty hours in coach to get here and mama was desperate for a drink.  She rewarded my relentless badgering by leading us to the bar and introducing us to a bartender that would quickly become by vodka sugar daddy.  Andrew ordered a drink called “holy water” which was served on a platter with a smoking pine cone that served no purpose other than justification for the absurd price. I ordered a shot of chilled vodka.  Hold the pine cone, please.  For some reason the bartender took a likely to us and continued to give me free shots of vodka.  At one point he just gave me an entire shaker half-filled with vodka so I could refill my own shot glass.  We were doing shots together, shots with other patrons, shots with the manager. We closed the place down, payed basically nothing, tipped like rock stars and headed out to find a new bar.  It’s only about 2:30am at this point, which is essentially party intermission in Tel Aviv.

Fun random friends

We heeded our bartender’s advice and went to a club.  Awful choice.  This place was dark and dingy and full of horny children surrounded by plumes of smoke.  I ordered us vodka sodas and the bartender gave us vodka red bulls.  In plastic cups.  Is this a bar or an Israeli frat party in 2004?  It was clearly time to move on…once we’re done chugging our cups of sugar vodka, of course.  No fallen soldiers.

No idea what time it is at this point, maybe 3am?  We quickly found an outdoor bar with good looking age-appropriate people and shimmied into a table with some good-looking men.  We helped them plan one of their bachelor parties.  These poor souls were about to fly to Las Vegas for a week.  A WEEK! Within ten minutes Andrew and I had detailed out a Miami to Vegas itinerary for them on their iphone, complete with hotel, restaurant and club suggestions.  My affinity for drunken trip planning translates quite well over here.

This is where the night gets fuzzy.  The bar closed around 4am, yet we found ourselves after partying inside with the staff and all their friends.  There was a ginger waiter who everyone literally called “Ginge”, and not ironically.  There was a hot waitress who let me squeeze her boobs.  An Israeli guy kept trying to make out with me.  Ya know, typical Friday night shenanigans.  Except it was 5am Saturday morning.  We were invited to yet another after party at someone’s house, but I could tell by the glazed over look in his eyes that Andrew’s drunken and crazy alter ego, Andre, was about to take over.  I quickly threw us in a cab before my momentary lapse into good judgment wore off.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

We had a 9am bike tour of Tel Aviv scheduled.  We obviously missed it and slept until 3 pm.  The weather was beautiful and the beach was packed.  We went to a beach club where we immediately decided we were too sober and instead had a mediocre lunch with some vodka for desert.  Back to the beach club we went, where we found some lounge chairs that came with a smoking hot waiter, named Tomer.  And then I got into a legit beach brawl.  With a giant Middle Eastern man.  When I say fight, I don’t mean my usual brand of fighting where I just scream the loudest and injured someone’s ego with scathing insults and a multitude of profanities.  I mean, I did all that too.  But I actually put my hands on this ass hole and had to be held back.  You guys, it was so fun.  Long story short, he was harassing some girls and the “security” wasn’t doing shit about it, so I took it upon myself to step in and tell this guy to leave them the hell alone.  He came up to me and swatted the brim of my hat.  I. LOST. MY. FUCKING. MIND.  It escalated quickly from there.  I jumped up and pushed him back, he threw his drink in my face, I lunged at him and pushed him again, some guys grabbed me and pulled me off, screaming at me that I can’t fight a man because I am a woman. So naturally I started screaming at them as well.  Security finally moved their lazy asses and it de-escalated just as quickly as it started.  Drew was mortified. I was grinning from ear to ear, because nothing gets me more amped up than a good fight.  Not my best quality, I know.  At this point Tomer decided that I was a bad ass bitch and took Drew and I over to some new chairs to party with a rich American guy who would pay for our drinks.  The rich American guy was drunk off his ass and kind of annoying, but we were drinking on his tab so we laughed at his jokes.  Also, he is a private pilot for the fucking Kardashians.  I shit you not.  He had photographic proof.  I died.

We headed back to the hotel as the sun was setting and kept the party going with more (free) drinks from the Sheraton club level.  We snuck out soda water in my backpack and walked out with water cups full of vodka.  We are such garbage and I love it.  Have I mentioned that I still haven’t showered since I left home?  I have priorities, and those priorities are vodka.  Drew had made us dinner reservations at a hip restaurant called Emesh that turns into a club, so before I knew it we were having another hot waiter pop a bottle of champagne for us.  The food was disappointing but the vibe more than made up for it.  We made friends with a large birthday party group.  They brought a cake with sparklers, so it was obvious we had fallen into the right crew.  Our goal was to be home by midnight because we have a big day in Jerusalem tomorrow.  I honestly have no idea when we got home, but I did wake up next to Chinese food boxes, so your guess is as good as mine.

Sayonara Sri Lanka

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

We have about twelve hours of sleep under our belts after our poor showing last night, so today we are making all the moves.  After a quick breakfast and packing our bags for our final stop later that afternoon, we hopped in a tuk-tuk and headed to Dalawella beach to get one of the famous beach swing pics for the gram.  We had this beautiful beach pretty much to ourselves for about an hour.  Some Sri Lankan guys were securing the beach swing, so Carly and I grabbed some morning beers while waiting for the swing resistance test.  There is no way I’m coming home from this trip broken (again), so I’m taking all the precautions for the home stretch.  We both took a few turns having a Sri Lankan guy push us on the swing while we did our basic bitch photo photo shoot.  We threw him some rupees for his tensile strength troubles and walked down the beach in search of more beers.  For some reason it took me two weeks before drinking my first Sir Lankan beer, but now the gloves are off and that shit is hitting the spot.

We headed back to Unawatuna beach and negotiated a private glass bottom boat for the afternoon.  I use the term “negotiation” loosely, as the price differential in play for any service in Sri Lanka is typically under $5 USD, so you look like a legit ass hole for arguing with a broke ass tuk-tuk driver over a fucking quarter.  Our New Years Eve tuk-tuk driver actually called me out on it by asking me “isn’t the difference like ten cents to you?”.  I tipped him extra for having the balls to call me on my shit.  I have since been resisting the urge to negotiate aggressively, but the Jew in me just can’t help it most of the time.  To be fair, I just end up adding whatever they knock off the price to their tip.  It’s not about the money at all.  It’s about the win.

I ran up to a beach bar and bought some beers for our little boat trip.  Two of my cardinal rules while traveling are (1) Always get on the boat, any boat, and (2) never (EVER) get on a boat without booze. We took the boat to a small bay called “Jungle Beach”, which was very disappointing as far as beaches go.  Our boat driver gave us some snorkel gear, but I’ve seen more exciting aquatic landscapes at a Petsmart, so Carly an I focused on floating and drinking.  You all know my thoughts on snorkeling – it’s a boring, sobering, peasant’s sport.  I just can’t get excited about some dead coal and a few rainbow-colored fish.  And on the off chance I see something cool like a baby shark or an eel, I spend the rest of the time with Jaws anxiety.  I’ll be up on the surface chugging my beer, thank you very much.  We headed out to another lackluster snorkeling spot and continued to swim, drink and tan before heading back to shore.

Beer swim at Jungle Beach

We decided to have a late lunch at our hotel restaurant, Kingfisher, before continuing north on our beach tour of Sri Lanka’s south coast.  Lunch was fucking painful.  We waited an hour and a half for our food, I bitched out a waiter, Carly finally got some lobster.  We hopped in our pre-scheduled taxi and headed up to our next and final stop of the trip – Bentota beach.  This is where shit gets fancy.

I decided to completely blow Carly’s teacher budget and spring for a beautiful boutique villa-style hotel on a vast secluded beach for our final few nights in Sri Lanka.  I knew she would thank me later once the sticker shock wore off.  Let me paint you the picture of our white trash arrival.  Carly and I pulled up to this fancy ass hotel still in our bathing suits, hair wet and tangled, and beer on our breath.  We were given a tour of the property, which includes an in-house art gallery, adorable hidden sitting areas, a bar straight out of Martha Stewart’s shabby chic wet dreams, and a beautiful pool set in a lush garden, separated from the beach only by the historical Sri Lankan costal railway track and a cluster of palm trees.  I’m pretty sure the staff were praying our parents would arrive.  Operation treat-yo-self has officially begun.

We took a nice long beach walk as the sun was setting down a vast and pristine stretch of sand.  I patted myself on the back for an excellent ending our vacation on a high note.  We skipped dinner and went to bed at 8:30 pm.  One of my 2019 resolutions is to actually skip a fucking meal or two this year, so no time like the present to start.  There is literally nothing to do in Bentota that is of interest to us except for complete and utter relaxation over the next two days.

Thursday, January 2 – Friday, January 4, 2019

We need to talk about breakfast at the villa.  I normally lack the patience for long breakfasts on vacation, but since the only thing on our agenda for the day is a beach walk and some serious pool time, I could actually appreciate the amazingly symphonic three-course, never-ending breakfast that this swank hotel provides.  So this is how rich people start their day, huh?  I would be such a pleasant human if I woke up to this treatment each morning.  Since I detest both fruit and hot beverage, Carly made out like a bandit with two plates of fruit and a truly bladder-cringing display of coffee, tea and juice.  In turn, I picked up her slack on the bread basket.  Hence the reason she gets to post bathing suit pics while I keep it to boobs and up.   Turns out that there is a food that tastes as good as skinny feels, and that food is the warm homemade banana bread muffins at our villa.

Since our breakfast took about two hours, we had no choice but to take our morning beach walk in the blistering hot sun and then reward ourselves with a day at the pool. We went for another beach walk around sunrise and found a cute restaurant where we met a nice man named Pradeep who was trying to sell us some tours.  As we haven’t been let down by a Pradeep yet, we took it as a sign and booked our final transfer to the airport tomorrow with him.   If anyone is getting me out of Sri Lanka in one piece, it’s a man named Pradeep.  Back at our hotel, Carly’s mom pointed out via facetime that I had incorrectly translated our flight time of 20:20 into 10:20 and therefore booked our transfer for two hours too late.  We legit would have completely missed our flight.  Fucking amateur hour, I know. But I do detest having to perform a mathematical calculation just to figure out the fucking time.  Anyway, all is well that ends well, close call avoided.

The next morning was basically a repeat of the day before, except we learned our lesson and did our beach walk bright and early before breakfast before the sun took over.  And oh boy did that decision pay dividends.  While enjoying our leisurely stroll on our deserted stretch of beach, my eyes glanced over to a row of palm trees where I noticed what looked like a man in white underwear standing in the brush.  Confused as to if he needed help, I squinted him into focus only to find a fucking pervert jerking his elephant trunk.  Not sure if he was wacking it to the sunrise, or to the American girls walking down the beach, or maybe he has a thing for stray beach dogs.  This is probably where I should say I screamed and ran, but I just laughed my ass off and pointed him out to Carly.  I did eat a massive amount of bacon at breakfast later that morning.  I have zero comment on whether the two events are related, but I hope for the sake of my subconscious that they were not.

We spend the day by the pool until Pradeep came by to pick us up.  The ride to the airport through Colombo was a fucking traffic nightmare, but we made it to the airport and home without anything significant to report.  Carly and I both agreed, this was one of our favorite trips ever.  Sri Lanka makes the top five, it’s official.  Please hurry and go before the rest of America catches on and ruins it, like we do with everything.  We just can’t have nice things.

 

VIP Leech in Unawatuna Beach – A New Years Eve Story

Tonight, we’ll ring in 2019 from half a world away and 13.5 hours in advance of our friends and family at home.  There is just something about spending New Year’s abroad that allows me to believe, even if just for a few days until I get home to reality, that the upcoming year is going to be awesome.  It’s probably just the lack of Taco Bell that gives me a false sense of hope in sticking to my new year’s resolutions.  Last year I made it about two weeks into the new year before almost killing myself in the Philippines and spending the first six weeks of 2018 on bedrest, so the ability to walk upright through the month of January will be progress as far as I’m concerned.  Aim high, friends.

The name of the game today is to conserve our energy at all costs until the entire beach in Unawatuna erupts in a giant cluster fuck of fireworks, lights, drinking and dance parties – the main party of which is at our fucking hotel, Kingfisher.  No day drinking and passing out at 8 pm like a fucking degenerate, especially when your balcony overlooks the DJ.  In Sri Lanka, showing up to the party at midnight is considered premature and leaving the party before 5 am is pathetic.  The pressure is on.

We spent the morning leisurely laying on daybeds at our hotel while we watched the staff set up for the big party.  We had a healthy lunch on the main drag in town at Bedspace (awesome restaurant, highly recommend) and killed some time perusing tourist shops and buying nothing.  Our plan was to next head out to a nearby beach for sunset, but we ran into our first snag of the day when trying to find an ATM – we can’t be constrained by silly things like money on a night like New Year’s Eve, after all.  So here’s the rub – all the banks are closed on New Year’s Eve in Sri Lanka, and since the preceding two days were a weekend, the ATM’s in Unawatuna had less cash than a stripper working the lunch shift.  Literally, nada.  We tried four ATMs before the locals informed us that we would need to go to Galle about 20 minutes away, which is the nearest place with actual banks, for any hope of making it rain when the clock strikes midnight.  Ever the adaptable travelers, we headed to Galle and figured we would knock out a quick tour of the fort and town while getting cash and simultaneously fending off premature drunkenness for a few hours longer.  Patience has never been my strong suit.

Unawatuna Beach – pre shit show

Galle is an adorable little waterfront city which was first fortified by the Portuguese and then later by the Dutch.  The town has a distinct European feel, with a grid of little streets lined with shops, restaurants and art galleries that can be covered, more or less, in about an hour.  We grabbed a drink and met a nice British family who were staying in Galle for three days and they were bored out of their fucking minds.  The dad actually referred to Galle as “a shit Ibiza”.  Mr. Fancy pants was not pleased.  Staying three days in Galle would be the equivalent of spending three days of your California beach vacation in downtown Pasadena.  A lack of travel research will get you nowhere, people.

Sunset at Galle Fort

We hi-tailed it back to Unawatuna and grabbed a low-key dinner.  We opted out of our hotel’s buffet dinner preceding the party.  Who the hell wants to party in a slutty outfit on a belly full of curry?  I don’t have high hopes in a midnight kiss at this point, but going beast mode on a buffet would certainly dash any lingering optimism.  We ran into a friend of Carly’s from home who now lives in Oz while we were at dinner – small world strikes again.  After dinner, Carly continued to restrict my shots to the face until after 10 pm.  What would I have done without her? Pass out before midnight for sure.

Around 11 pm we decided to head down to the beach and see if the kids had been put to bed.  Remember what I said about beach parties in Sri Lanka prior to midnight?  The anticipation was palpable, but we still had people with canes and children with diapers lingering.  We ran into Carly’s friend from earlier at dinner as well as Fedora hat guy from Mirissa that we met a few days ago while walking down the beach – the backpacker community in Sir Lanka is very small.  And no, he did not heed my warnings and burn that fucking hat.  We walked up and down the beach sizing up which parties had the best DJ’s and the best-looking people.  Rows of fireworks conspicuously lined the shore, waiting for midnight to strike. And the anticipation builds.

We headed back to Kingfisher to meet up with our Danish friends from our hotel in Sigiriya just in time for the midnight countdown.   The fireworks were apparently the smoke signal for the real shit show to begin, because that’s where the night takes a left turn in rage town.  With four hot white chicks in tow, our path was clear – head to the VIP section to make some friends with bottle service. As luck (or fate) would have it, we stumbled upon an awesome group of British gays and young Sri Lankan guys.  They were insanely fun shoved booze in our face.  It was clear that we had found our party team for the night.  These guys were a good time.  The details are hazing and unimportant, but rest assured that our motley crew of Danes, Americans, Brits, and Sri Lankans made New Year’s Eve at Unawatuna our bitch.  We obviously didn’t spend a dime of cash we had procured – thanks to our ability to make fabulous VIP friends on the fly – but better to be safe than sorry.  Bedtime finally came calling at 5 am.  For the second time in a week.  I am shooketh.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Today will be a short one because I slept until 3pm when Carly finally dragged me out of bed for a meal.  Her ability to function on a lack of sleep and overuse of alcohol is a gift.  I too possessed this gift once, but you have to give it back when they issue you your Thirty card.  Along with your metabolism and optimism.  I kid, of course, I had never had much of a metabolism.

We ate at a truly shit restaurant on the beach and I was genuinely offended by my meal.  Hopefully this keeps happening and I just stop eating in 2019.  With vodka oozing from my pores, we went on an endless and futile search for a decent bloody mary.  One bartender made a sad attempt that tasted like it was made with dragon fire and morning after vodka-cranberry vomit.  I’m almost certain he pureed actual tomatoes to a pulp and then added vodka and half a bottle of hot sauce, along with whatever condiments were handy.  I awaited septic shock for fear that it had burned a hole through my fucking intestines.  I took the drinks back to the bartender said he said “too spicy?” and I said “too something…”?  After a quick and amiable haggling, I threw him a couple bucks and the search continued.

It should come as a surprised to no one that we ended up on an impromptu New Year’s Day bar crawl.  At bar number three, we had an odd encounter with some old shit faced Sri Lankan men who claimed, in slurred speech, to be gem jewelers and offered to pay for anything we wanted if we would just sit with them.  Carly held out for some colorful rocks but their pockets turned up empty so we politely declined and soldiered on.  It’s going to take a lot of more than a few free glasses of sauv blanc to make me a sugar baby to a Sri Lankan blood gem dealer who can’t hold his fucking liquor.

Our rationale after a few or five drinks was that we should probably go out tonight to the beach party, since we leave the party beach for chill resort-style living tomorrow.  Yes – there is a beach party tonight – there is a beach party every night.  Have you learned nothing from this blog series?  We made the brilliant decision to take a quick nap at 8 pm, using the rationale that we could get in a solid 3 hours of sleep before the pre-party even starts. I’m shaking my head at my stupidity and lack of self-awareness as I write this.  It’s only January 2, so this is for sure the party foul of the year to beat.  Because you know damn well we woke up at 3am, took one look at each other, laughed and went back to bed.

Safari to Beach Party in 24 Hours

The awesome thing about Sri Lanka is that you can go from a safari in a national park to an all-night dance party on the beach in 24 hours.  Here is how we did it…

Friday, December 28, 2018

After a final relaxing breakfast on the balcony of our cabin in Ella, Pradeep picked us up and drove us to Udawalawe National Park.  No commute in Sri Lanka is complete without stopping at a few waterfalls along the way, and this was no different.  Pradeep suggested that we also stop at an orphanage, but Carly and I declined.  I know that makes us seem like horrible people, but it just sounds so depressing.  Plus, Sri Lankan kids are insanely cute so I’m slightly concerned that the combination of those adorably sad little brown faces with the fact that my unfertilized eggs are stuck in a freezer for the foreseeable future, pose a legitimate risk that I’ll pull an Angelina Jolie and come home with an extra carry-on.  So just give me a website and I’ll make a donation.

As soon as we entered Udawalwe National Park we began to see wild elephants along the side of the road – Pradeep’s free safari strikes again!  We spent the rest of the day laying by the pool at our glamping hotel, Kottowatta village.  I’m sure it will come as a huge shock the only option for dinner was buffet and we made it our bitch.  The buffets have to stop.  Add it to this list of 2019 prohibited activities.  I should probably say January 2019 prohibited activities just to be safe. Let’s take this one month a time.

Just before bed Carly saw a little rat-like creature in our room and we proceeded to flip our shit.  We found out from Pradeep the next day that it was a Loris, which looks like the daemon child of a possum and a racoon.  It was traumatizing.  Sleep did not come easy for either of us.  Well it did for me, because, Xanax.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

We had a 5 am pickup for our safari this morning – which is no problem for Carly and I – the earlier the better.  We were picked up in an Indiana Jones looking safari jeep and driven to the entrance gates of Udawalawe national park.  Despite being there at 5:30 am, there was already a line of jeeps snaking down the main road.  We waited almost an hour in line before we finally got in.  Which begs the question of why they didn’t pick us up at 4:30 am, but I kept my mouth shut.  Pick your battles.  Our annoyance subsided quickly once we found a small heard of elephants, complete with a newborn baby elephant that we were told was probably only a few months old.  The only problem with an early climax is that the rest of the safari pales in comparison.  We saw water buffalo, tons of birds including peacocks and eagles, but no more elephants.  Our driver kept stopping to point out crocodiles far in the distance, but Carly and I could never see what the fuck he was talking about.  Eventually I just started humoring the poor guy by saying “oh cool” and taking a picture of nothing so that he would keep it moving.  We passed by numerous jeeps with people legit passed out in their seats – the elusive wild mouth breathers native to early morning birdwatching.

Back at our hotel we were subjected to yet another buffet for breakfast.  Oh, the horror.  I’m serious when I say this is the last one.  But, I mean, do breakfast buffets really even count?  I’m thinking anything 2 plates of food or less should just land in the “large meal” category.

Pradeep picked us up after breakfast and we made a bee-line for the beach.  No waterfalls, no stops – its beach or bust.  From here on out, we are beach hopping up the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Carly and I will be in our element, doing what we do best – tanning, relaxing, and of course a little partying.

Pradeep took a little shortcut, so we found ourselves in Mirissa in time for lunch.  Sadly, this was where we had to part ways with our trusty driver and new friend, Pradeep.  After we bid him farewell and checked into our little beach front hotel, we did floozy lap up and down the main drag to get our bearings.  It’s basically Thailand without the annoying hawkers selling useless tchotchkes.  We found ourselves enjoying lunch and drinks with our feet in the sand by 2 pm.  Happy hour in Mirissa starts in the early afternoon, so we drank and lounged our way from one beach bar to the next.

Let’s get to the good stuff – it’s party time.  I haven’t gotten good and drunk in over a week.  I’ve basically replaced boozing with over-eating.  Instead of shots to the face, it’s been a nonstop curry buffet to the face.  Well that shit stops now.  Time to get back on the old liquid diet and start 2019 off right.  I’m ready to somersault off this fucking wagon.

Day turned into night and we kept the drinking going.  By about 10 pm I was well on my way to shit faced but realized that the liquid diet was not just not going to cut it.  My inability to skip a meal is a surprise to us all, I know.  It was either eat dinner or pass out early – the latter was obviously not a viable option given the fact that it was Saturday night and our first day at the beach.  Carly refused to allow me to be a little bitch and dragged me around to three shitty establishments who had all stopped serving food until I finally settled on burger at our hotel restaurant.  With renewed energy (and perhaps a shot or two vodka back in the room) we were ready to hit up the beach party.

Every night during high season one bar on each beach holds a big party.  The location changes each night of the week, and it is the only game in town.  All you have to say is “where is the party tonight?” to anyone in town and they will respond with “well it’s Saturday, so…Kama”.  Pretty standard for beach towns like this in Asia.  You run into the same people night after night, which can be awesome or incredibly awkward depending on how big of an ass you make of yourself.  I’m familiar with both sides of that coin.

We got to Kama around 11 pm and it was dead.  Apparently anything before midnight is just a warm-up.  Terrifying, I know.  There were actually children on the dance floor.  Who are these spoiled brats partying to house music on a beach in Sri Lanka until midnight and how can I get their parents to adopt me?  With obvious time to kill, we grabbed some drinks and chairs on the sand and waited for the kids to be put the bed.  My fun detector began to beep furiously, immediately zeroing in on a large group of good-looking men with Australian accents who had just strolled to a nearby table.   Aussies never disappoint when you are looking for a party.  Target locked.  I grabbed Carly faster than you can say “thirsty” and invited ourselves to seats and their table.  I assumed it was a bachelor party because I have an actual sixth sense for sniffing those out, but it was just seven dudes who all ditched their girlfriends back in Oz for both Christmas and New Years and flew to Sri Lanka for a boy’s trip.  That is fucking savage and I love it.  We had obviously found our party group for the night.  We spent the next six or so hours drinking and dancing the night away on the beach.  I think it was about 5 am when I finally turned in.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Hung.  Over.  Carly somehow managed to get my pathetic ass in a tuk-tuk out to the quintessential basic-bitch instagram lookout in Mirissa for some pics.  What can I say, I did it for the gram.  I’m disgusted with myself for even typing that.  We took some pics for an American guy in a fedora and found out he was going to be in the same beach town as us for New Year’s Eve tomorrow night.  We also discovered that he is literally moving to Hermosa Beach, where I live, in two months.  My response was, “oh yeah, well don’t bring that fedora with you to Hermosa”.  I’m mean when I’m hungover.  And honest.  Why are they so often one in the same?

We spent the rest of day on the beach not doing a damn thing save for forcing down some life-saving bloody marys.  The pack of Aussie boys came to our hotel and hung out with us on the beach for a few hours before we left Mirissa late in the afternoon and headed up the coast to Unawatuna, ready to make another beach town our bitch.  It’s so funny when I think I’m actually going to succeed at multi-night binge drinking.  We checked into our hotel in Unawatuna, met some girls from our hotel in Sigiriya about a week ago for a drink, and promptly went to bed.  Did you really think you were going to get two all-nighters out of my old ass in a row?  And right before new year’s, no less?  Dream on.