Tag Archive | festival

Cairns, and the Great Barrier Reef

As for many people, the Great Barrier Reef was an almost mythical destination on my travel wishlist, and one that I didn’t think we would manage to do. The distance and the expense seemed overwhelming. But eventually we just decided, as with this whole Australia trip, that life is too short to put off your dreams, and you should just go for them, before you regret not doing it. This has been the principle behind my thinking ever since we retired in 2011, and so you can imagine our excitement when we boarded a plane from Brisbane to Cairns to realize this dream.

The flight from Brisbane to Cairns was longer than from Melbourne to Sydney, at 2 and a half hours. Unfortunately it was at night, so we didn’t get to see Cairns from above (we did when we flew out at the end of the trip). We arrived at Cairns at 7.30pm and quickly got our stuff (airport is tiny) and headed off by taxi to the Cairns City Palms Motel, where we were spending our first 3 nights. It was nice and clean and had all the things you need, but we particularly appreciated the friendly staff, and the breakfast room which supplied free juice and hot and cold drinks throughout the day, as well as home made pastries. The first day we just explored the Cairns Esplanade, and went to check on our car rental from Europcar. There was some kind of festival going on right on the Esplanade, and they were handing out free sausages, water bottles and other goodies, so that was fun. Then we set up the trip to the Reef for the following day. (Booking through our motel got us a 10% discount.) From the myriad tour companies available we chose Reef Magic which had been recommended to us by my cousin Yehudit. ( $215 AUD pp) The main pull for me about this company was that all the activities were included in the main price (glass-bottom boat, submersible boat, lots of snorkelling, buffet lunch) but also because the company has a pontoon, from which you do the snorkelling and diving, not from the boat itself. The boat takes you out to the reef, and stays there,and you have a good 5 hours or so of activities. You can snorkel the whole time or you can try all the other activities as many times as you wish. It was all well organized and the buffet was great. Everything was enjoyable and we had a great, memorable day despite me having a sore throat (so I limited my snorkeling time) and D had an aching shoulder but also enjoyed his time at the Reef immensely. WE decided not to do the optional helicopter ride, as this was really expensive. WE were satisfied with the things that we did, and it was certainly a memorable day. I don’t however have any photos of that day as I left my phone in the safe of the motel. D has a few but we were too busy having fun to take many pictures. It is possible to hire an underwater camera for the dive but we didn’t bother. You can look at the photos on the company website.

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The beautiful North

After showing our dear friends Renee and Barry around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea area we took a trip up to the North of Israel to attend the Jacobs Ladder Folk Festival and to show them a bit of the North of the country. On the way up I had to work in Yaffo,so D showed them around the Ancient Port of Jaffa,and then we jumped in the car and set off,stopping en route to have lunch on the beautiful beach front of Natanya. We ate sandwiches looking at the sea, and marvelled at the blue sky and warm weather,despite it being December.

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Natanya Sky

On arrival at the site of the festival, Nof Ginossar we settled into our rooms in the Village,signed in to the festival, and checked out the performers. The festival runs over Friday evening and all day Saturday, and is a wonderful mix of folk,rock,blues and jazz music in a great atmosphere.Our family has been going for many years and we love the informal feel and the whole experience of being detached from TV,radio,politics and the like for a whole weekend.It is truly refreshing. The venue,perched on the Sea of Galilee, is always attractive.You can stroll around the kibbutz and check out the Jesus Boat which was found onsite. The next morning we really enjoyed the massive breakfast,and the whole festival was a blast.

Breakfast at Nof Ginosar Kibbutz Hotel

Breakfast at Nof Ginosar Kibbutz Hotel

Once the festival was over, on Saturday afternoon we drove round the Sea of Galilee to Yavne’el a small village in the Galilee area where we had booked an Air BnB place for the night at the house of Lesley, a place called Tuscany in the Galilee.The place was a little hard to find,but Lesley’s baker husband Menny directed us to the place over the phone.We found the most charming house built on a hill which had a superb view of the whole area from our balcony window.We chatted a bit with Lesley and went to bed.The breakfast,which Lesley (from Colchester in the UK) had apologized the night before would only be “continental” was in fact a superb spread of freshly baked cakes,croissants and foccaccia, served with freshly squeezed orange juice from the oranges on the neighbour’s tree,and fresh coffee.It was all just too wonderful,just look!

Breakfast in Yavne'el

Breakfast in Yavne’el

View from the balcony,Yavne'el

View from the balcony,Yavne’el

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View of Yavneel

Lesley explained that they run a coffee place in Ramat Gan,and every week,Menny comes home to do the baking and then takes everything down there to sell.On our last day up north we went round the Sea of Galilee again and up north to Katzrin,the Capital of the Golan since Biblical times.We visited the ancient Synagogue there and then went on to do a guided tour of the Katzrin Winery which was both interesting and tasty.WE saw the whole of the wine production process and got to taste 3 different wines at the end.

The Katzrin Winery

The Katzrin Winery

We would have loved to show Renee and Barry some additional sites in the North, such as Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border,or Pekiin, a village where Jews and Arabs have lived together peaceably for generations,but it was beginning to get late and we had a long drive ahead of us back to Jerusalem.So there is always more to see next time.

Dragon Boat Festival at Shishi

Yesterday was the Fifth day of the Fifth lunar month ,otherwise known in the East as Duanwu or the Dragon Boat Festival, which is celebrated not only in China but I believe also in Vietnam and other countries in the region.Funnily enough this year it fell on the same day as Shavuot  which also features water-splashing-but more of that later. The school organized a trip for the foreign teachers to the neighbouring town of Shishi, which traditionally hosts some games and activities to mark this  holiday. So we piled onto a bus and set off for Shishi,about an hour away from Jimei out east in the direction of Quanzhou. After getting briefly lost the bus arrived at around 11am in the dusty crowded provincial town which was bursting with people ,many carrying coloured flags and all streaming towards the sea.When we arrived at the seashore however,it appeared that the tide was out.Clearly no sea-based activity was going to happen for a while.The people informed us that the activities would only begin around 1pm- it was already a sweltering 35C and there was nothing at all to do Fortunately we found a small snack bar that served us cold mango smoothies, and which mercifully had air conditioning and even wifi. So we all trooped inside and settled down to eat the packed lunch the school had provided (mostly inedible) and wait. At around 12.30 we went back again to the coast,which was by now extremely crowded ,so that we could hardly see anything . Finally we were permitted to get onto the roof of a nearby temple,which had been prepared with chairs for visiting officials rand reporters. From this vantage point we had a great view of all the celebrations,and started to enjoy things,despite the oppressive heat.We had attended the Dragon Boat celebrations in Xiamen and Jimei the year before,but they had been very different from what we saw in Shishi.In Jimei different teams of rowers representing the different colleges and universities had competed in dragon boat races using highly decorated boats, the events rather resembling the Oxtbridge boat race.In Shishi however,there were firstly colourful parades of marching groups in different costumes,some carrying models of ancient boats.Then there were brass bands. Then men came down to the water with sacks of live ducks, which were tipped into the sea to be caught by fishermen. And many different kinds of boats performed varous  other activities which were hard to follow,but which included splashing water over each other in mock warfare.

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Image

 

People carrying model boat

 

All in all the whole thing was pretty interesting if rather noisy and confusing.But hey,that’s part of travelling to untouristy locations right?

Well we have only three more days left in Jimei before we pack up and get the train down to Shenzhen and from there to Hong Kong and Laos.So hopefully I will be updating next from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Stay tuned and please feel free to leave comments.

 

 

A great New Year’s Eve 2013 and a terrible New Year’s night

We arranged to meet some friends-Ivy,Hamburger and some people from couchsurfing Xiamen in a bar called Havana in Haiwan Park for New Year’s Eve. They have drinks and Latin style food and a live band playing Latin Music so we were set for a great night out. As I thought it would be a pain to get back to Jimei where we live after midnight I booked us into a guest house downtown called the Yoga Village Inn for that night. Things did not go according to plan however. We got to the bar after getting lost once and calling Hamburger for directions,at about 7.30. WE decided to come early to get a seat. The couchsurfing people were due to arrive at around 9pm. Hamburger arrived with a girl called Jenny and then later we were joined by another friend Daniel and Jennifer,a Philipino English teacher from Jimei university and her boyfriend whose name I didn’t catch. Later our friend Ivy and a girlfriend from Shenzhen also joined us.The couchsurfing people were sitting at a long table hardly talking so we decided to sit by ourselves with our Qingdao beer,and some munchies and had a pretty good time

dancing at the Havana Bar

dancing at the Havana Bar

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.At the countdown the new year we all got up and danced,to various things including Gangnam style (of course) and even YMCA! It was a riot.About an hour later,Jennifer and the other Jimei people left to get a taxi home,and a bit later around 2pm we and Ivy and her friend stood outside to get a taxi home,which took some doing. Eventually we grabbed one (there were dozens of people there trying to catch a cab) and got back to our guest house near Zhongshan park.

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But unfortunately,even though it was not too cold outside,the inside of the room was freezing,and the heater seemed to blow out cold not hot air. We tried to sleep all night and didn’t succeed,Mr. Piglet claimed he had no blanket all night,and at 8am we got up rather frazzled and took the BRT back home,regretting the 300 RMB we had spent on the room,when we could have got back to our bed and slept warmly and comfortably. I swear I will listen to Mr Piglet in future (New Year’s Rsolution number 1).Pictures to follow when uploaded.