Here are five things that might not be well described in tour guide books, yet you need to know them before going to Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth:

  1. Two hours will be more than enough to spend at Dead Sea because the number of activities is limited due to hot desert weather condition and high salt concentration of the lake.
  2. High salt concentration of Dead Sea prevents one from any swimming or diving in the lake. A splash of water into eyes may cause temporarily blindness. Anything metallic, including pieces of sunglasses, might corrode if it gets in contact with water.
  3. Wear sandals or flip flops in the water because the bottom is full of sharp salt and mineral crystals that could cut you and cause great burning sensation.
  4. Water consistency is similar to oil, and one’s body will need some acclimatization before complete submerging.
  5. There is no mud available of the beach. One has to buy it in a nearby souvenir or convenience store. It comes packaged in 600 g bags, which is enough for two individuals to cover their bodies. You may consider wearing an old bathing suit or one with dark colours because mud might discolour it.

While these five tips might defer one from visiting Dead Sea, this unique experience should not be missed, especially now that you know everything there is to know about visiting the lowest point on the planet.


Petra, Jordan

The Treasury in Petra, Jordan

There were quite a few destinations that I reached in 2017, and amongst all of them Petra in Jordan was the greatest highlight. Hiking through the narrow canyon at 50C and riding a camel around the Treasury made my childhood dream come true. The entire journey to reach the city is nothing short of an adrenaline build-up as one travels from the Red Sea across the Jordanian desert and then hikes through a gorge expecting to see a glimpse of the Treasury.  Upon reaching the Treasury, it is difficult not to feel a sense of accomplishment mixed with awe for such a magnificent place. One truly gets a feeling of stepping back into ancient times – 25 centuries ago!


Al Siq Canyon, Petra


The Treasury from Al Siq in Petra, Jordan









Unless one is visiting Jordan, the only easily accessible point to Petra is from Eilat in Israel. Many travellers recommend visiting Petra overnight because there is a lot to see that cannot fit in 2 hours of how long my tour was. However, if you are pressed for time, you can still visit this wonder of the world in one day.

Petra, Jordan

The Treasury, Petra Jordan

Arkia Tours organizes guided tours with the most competative prices from Tel Aviv and Eilat to Petra. My journey started in Tel Aviv where at the dawn I took a flight to Eilat, a resort town on Red Sea. Upon arrival to Eilat, a tour bus picked me and other travellers up and took us to the Israeli-Jordanian border. After paying the entry fees and passport control, I crossed the border by foot to the Kingdom of Jordan where another tour bus was waiting for us to continue the journey. The same process was repeated on the way back, just in time for a return flight to Tel Aviv around 20:30.

The distances between places in Israel and Jordan are not large, but the political tension between countries makes it difficult for independent travellers to wander off without some advanced planning. If you end up going to Isreal, and Petra is on your bucket list, don’t feel discouraged to visit this once lost city. Upon reaching it, you will realise how worthy the whole journey has been.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Mosaic in the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Christmas season reminded me of challenges that came with planning a visit to Bethlehem while I was on the trip to Middle East in August. There was plenty of conflicting information on the Internet and in tour guide books, which made me decide to write a blog entry on how to go Bethlehem and to visit the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine

Bethlehem is located in the outskirts of Jerusalem, and it can be reached in approximately 30 min by car. It belongs to Palestine, which makes it a bit challenging to visit from Israel because one has to pass a checkpoint/border. After going through the checkpoint, I realized that there was no reason why any tourist should worry.

There are three ways, listed from most to least expensive, to get to Bethlehem:
1. Hiring a private tour guide,
2. Taking a taxi with Palestine license plates outside of the Damascus Gate, and
3. Taking a public bus from the bus station across from the Damascus Gate.

Photo 2017-08-09, 12 07 42

Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, Israel

Hiring a private tour guide is the most comfortable solution but also the priciest. Taking a taxi with Palestinian license plates is not something that I would recommend because it involves a great amount of haggling with taxi drivers, which can be exhausting and annoying. Air conditioning and overall state of these taxis are also very questionable. Lastly, the price for hiring a taxi is still going to be higher than buying a bus ticket  (200 NIS/car vs. 10 NIS/person for return bus ticket).

An air-conditioned coach bus number 21 departs the East Jerusalem Arab bus station approximately every 15 min., and it takes about one hour to reach the centre of Bethlehem. On the way to Bethlehem, it passes through a checkpoint which at the time of visit, we just drove through. From the centre of Bethlehem, one needs to walk for about 20 min. to the Church of Nativity. Hiring a taxi to reach the church may not be the most advisable option because the streets are very congested with traffic and people, and it might take nearly as long if not longer to get to the church. On the return back to Jerusalem, the bus departs from the same spot where one got off.

Anyone who comes to Israel, particularly Jerusalem, should take a day to visit Palestine. There is so much written on travelling through Israel, yet going to Palestine really puts into perspective the tension and political environment in which locals live. It also gives one an opportunity to form one’s own opinion on what is right and wrong when it comes to human rights – whether Palestinians are treated justly or have they been perhaps oppressed and isolated from the world. For me, something that started only as a pilgrimage became a lesson on oppression. Yet this somber and disturbing experience was worth every effort.

May 2018 brings us all more humanity, understanding, and tolerance. Happy New Year!

It took me a couple of weeks after returning home from Hawaii to grasp what really happened on the islands. Each day was filled with various activities, bringing something new to every day. One thing that has stood above all adventures was the visit to the National Volcanic Park.

Kilauea Volcanic Crater

Kilauea Volcanic Crater under the Starry Sky (Photo Credit: T. F.)

Culture, history, food and natural beauty are usual aspects of travelling that one is exposed on a vacation, but never before has it happened to me that I got a sense of what really this planet was before the beginning of time. On one very memorable evening, my friends and I drove to the end of the highway in the National Volcanic Park of the Big Island of Hawaii. When the paved road ended, we continued journey on bicycles surrounded with complete darkness that was only disrupted by our headlamps and flashlights of other tourists. After passing three road barricades and several warning signs, we arrived to the point where even the dirt road ended. From here onward, it was on foot across freshly cooled lava rocks to that one point in the distance which was glowing brightly. Even in darkness, it was difficult not to spot the unusual beauty of surrounding. Lava rock was glistening with silver luster, texturized on the surface in beautiful extraterrestrial formations. At certain spots, rock surface was still cooling off, crunching underneath my footsteps as my shoes occasional stuck to it as they would to fresh asphalt. The air started to warm up and thicken with tar as the distant glow grew closer. We finally reached the point where silence around us was disrupted, the air became too thick, suffocating and warm, and we couldn’t go farther. Standing on the coastal edge less than 30 m from us, lava was flowing into the Pacific Ocean setting off gasses and flying rocks as it clashed with waves and started to cool off. This was the collision of the mightiest natural forces one could ever witness – the constant mythical battle between fire and water.

In this very moment, I realized that this is how it was way back before the beginning of time, way back before dinosaurs walked on earth. It was only water, air and molten lava. Visiting this particular spot was enough for anyone to fully understand how earth came about to be.  But this particular spot was also a place of hope. Even amongst this barren, uninviting land there were pockets in which fern started to grow symbolically representing light in the darkness, hope in despair and revival after destruction. If we could, we would have stayed longer in the park, but the park was closing for the night. Not to compromise our safety further, we headed towards the red, rising full moon with lava flow behind us – a sight nearly too surreal to be true.


Full Moon Rising over the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Photo Credit: T.F.)


Christmas season is usually the time to reflect back on the past year and to start looking forward to the next year. As many people have reviewed 2016, I will do the same but a bit differently. I will review it through the restaurants around the world that have been awarded Michelin stars and have been ranked on the San Pellegrino& Acqua Panna list of world’s best restaurants. This statement sounds quite pretentious and I’m not an expert by any means, but I was lucky and privileged to dine this year at some remarkable restaurants in Europe and Asia thanks to my good friend K.K.

The restaurants were:

  1. Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand – the best restaurant on the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna list of Restaurants in Asia in 2016, with its progressive Indian cuisine;
  2. Nahm in Bangkok, Thailand – no. 8 on the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna list of Best Restaurants in Asia in 2016, with its authentic Thai cuisine;
  3. Cuisine Wat Damnak in Siem Reap, Cambodia – no. 43 on the S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna list of Best Restaurants in Asia in 2016, with its Cambodian cuisine;
  4. Dani Garcia in Marbella, Spain – two-star Michelin restaurant;
  5. Jose Carlos Garcia in Malaga, Spain – one-star Michelin restaurant; and
  6. Central Bar in Valencia, Spain – although not a Michelin star awarded restaurant, the place deserved an honorary mentioning because its chef Ricard Camarena has one-star Michelin restaurant in Valencia.

If there is one common thread for all these places then it is the freshness of ingredients and creativity in presenting each of these ingredients with a great deception. Although an award might not always mean a great service, based on my short sampling I came to the conclusion that more Michelin stars a restaurant has, the more impeccable, breathtaking and truly magical the service is. As in Dani Garcia’s restaurant, the fable Little Prince inspired the whole dinning experience.  The interior design tied to the menu and dish representation which consequently reflected in orchestrated service and overall experience. The whole experience leaves one with a huge smile on the face and memories that last and are worth reflecting on.

Happy New Year!


Dani Garcia Restaurant, Marbella


Parliament Hill and Ottawa River, Ottawa

Nobody thinks of Ottawa as a place where one would go to indulge in gastronomical experiences, yet a small restaurant in Byward Market area called Navarra contests this thought. Not only was the service very attentive, but the dishes made by the Top Chef Canada winner, Rene Rodriguez, stood out in its colourful presentation that translated into a bust of flavours. Have you ever heard or have you ever tasted hibiscus mole? Deep purple in colour, nutty in texture, and slightly citrusy from hibiscus, I spooned the mole from a small cup while waiting for my dessert to arrive. Although not a dessert on its own, this mole definitely could been one.

An additional perk during my visit was that Mondays were industry nights when all dishes cost $15.00. Ottawa might not be a gastronomical destination, but if one ever ends up over there, go to Navarra and indulge yourself.


Wynnwood Walls is a revitalized industrial area in downtown Miami that boosts with creativity and originality. This burst of colour is so visually pleasing that everyone visiting Miami should take time to explore the neighbourhood for a couple of hours. At times it is almost impossible to recognize the image until it is looked through a camera lens.