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Mike Kendall's Posts
Mike has posted 6 reports and 17 photos.

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Bahrain Visit: 2008-1
2009-01-05 - I visited Bahrain on a 3 night stopover to London after a visit to India. The Gulf States are now a major airline hub and I find myself increasingly making connections from the area, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and now Kuwait have low cost carriers too.Bahrain is a group of islands off the Saudi and Qatari coast the major one is connected to Saudi Arabia by the huge 15 mile King Fahd causeway which has a visitors centre half way and also serves as the border between the 2 countries. Bahrain is short on attractions and the tourist board publicises minor sights as major attractions, the Tree of Life is a tree in the desert whoo-hoo. However the Bahrain fort in Manama was well worth a visit and the fort at Arad afforded great views. I hired a limo with a driver to take me around for a very reasonable price and they know where they are going ! However on my next visit I will hire a car. The souk was very un-arab, if thats a word, selling fake watches, electronics and the sort.I stayed at the Intercontinental hotel that was excellent but came at a price. Bahrain is a pleasant enough place but lacks the Arabian feel that places like Qatar and Oman have.


Belarus Visit: 2008-10
2008-12-31 - I coincided my trip with an England soccer game. Travelling there got expensive for that reason as demand for flights was high.Using budget airlines I flew from Tallin and returned from Warsaw after an overight train journey from Brest. Minsk was exceptionally clean and tidy albeit with many soviet style hotels. The architecture was very grand in a Stalinist style and soviet icons could be found all over the city, CCCP symbols, Lenin Statues etc. The women are the best looking on the planet, I was told by Russian colleagues in London that this was the case and so it proved. The bars were OK as was the food and drink and reasonably priced. There was not too much to do though,Gorky Park was OK, after 3 days I was glad to get to Brest. Brest is having a major facelift and needs a good hotel, the Intourist one was poor. Not much to keep you there for more than 1 day. The Belarus/Russian train service was excellent, warm soviet punctual trains and very cheap the prices included a bed and bedding.I wont be rushing back and was glad that I had a reason to go there.


Lesotho Visit: 2008-9
2009-01-06 - Lesotho is one of only 3 countries in the world landlocked by one single country (San Marino and the Vatican are the others). It is entirley surrounded by South Africa and I chose to fly in and out on a 25 seater SAA prop plane from Joburg, I was short on time after tagging this visit on the end of Safari around the Caprivi strip. There are many land borders, some require 4x4 cars but the main one is near Bloemfontein. From the airport I hired a car to get around for the 4 days I was there. There were no taxis at all at the airport, if you intend to go and need one it is advisable to pre-book.Lesotho is known as the mountain kingdom, another oddity is that it is the only country in the world where all the land lies entirely above 1000 metres. I stayed at the Malealea Lodge http://www.malealea.co.ls/ and did a pony trek each morning 3-4 hours and toured around in the hire car in the afternoon. The scenery on the treks was stunning and I really enjoyed my time at the lodge. I also visited Maseru but there is little to see other than the impressive visitor centre shaped like a Basotho hat. Thaba Bosiu was also visited, this is the hilltop fotress where the Basotho kept at bay all foes from the Zulus to the British, it reminded me of MT Masada in Israel. Here there is some spectacular work being done on a recreation of a Baostho village, it will be open in 2009 and you can stay there in quite comfortable traditional huts.I would consider visiting again as I missed the dams in the interior and the Sani Pass. I would recommend travellers to hire a car as many of the sights would be awkward to get to on public transport.


Qatar Visit: 2007-12
2009-01-11 - I visited Qatar on a 2 night stopover en-route to Nepal; my expectations of what there was to see and do there were not great, and the guidebook I had did not make it sound the most interesting place to visit either. However to my great suprise I had a really good time there. The souk in Doha was straight from "Arabian nights" and I was lucky that there was some type of local festival taking place. As well as the usual spice bazaar, huba-buba pipe shops and coffee pots shops there was an amazing falconry that you were allowed to wander around and see all of these magnificent birds of prey tethered to a Djebella clad Gulf Arab owner or trainer.To see more of the country it was as easy as hailing a cab and negotiating a price with the driver to take you around. An ex-pat Nepali took us around for about 5 hours for 10$/hour. Doha is similar to other Gulf States in that there are full blown building projects going on everywhere using the vast oil wealth generated by this small country. Apart from some spectacular new hotels and office complexes the site of the 2006 Asian Games is a sight to behold but is deserted and I doubt will ever generate enough income or attract events to justify its construction.Finally I did the desert 4x4 dune bashing thing. They give petrol away in this state to the locals (well its very cheap)and their great passion is racing around the dunes on quad bikes. I was not expecting too much of this trip either but it was worth every penny. The south of Qatar to the Saudi border has huge sand dunes and inland lakes that form when the tide comes in, driving 30 degress up and down these dunes was really fun but the star was the location.Another Qatari passion is spending the night with friends in tented camps after a day quad biking, smoking drinking and eating. Our trip ended at one of these camps where you could sleep the night on the tour, but we could only stay for a few hours as we had a 2.00am flight to Kathmandhu.


Turkmenistan Visit: 2008-9
2008-12-31 - I arrived early morning in Ashgabat on a 3.5 hour flight from Istanbul. However before you can get this far you need to have arranged your visa which requires a letter of Invitation,I used stantours who also guided me during my time in Turkmenistan (it is obligatory to have a guide outside Ashgabat). I also visted Mary (for Merv), Turkmenabat,Konye Urgench (interesting large minaret) and camped overnight in the desert at the Darwaza gas crater a tremendous sight at night. Ashgabat has hundreds of white marble buildings and is an amazing sight, quite out of place in the desert but so is Las Vegas. Not too impressed with the police who try to supplement their income with random roadchecks.


Uzbekistan (other) Visit: 2008-9
2008-12-31 - Entered Uzbekistan from Turkmenistan land border near Turkmenabat.Travelled around in shared taxis which can be expensive if travelling alone and often had the car to myself. I needed to get to Samarkand via Bukhara from the Turkmen border. I recommend going to the nearest town/village first, there was more choice of transportation onwards. I spent about $300 in a week in taxis but I was on a tight schedule and it was comfortable.Nevertheless I really enjoyed Uzbekistan and visited Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and the Aral Sea at Moynaq. I also visted Nukus in Karakalpakstan and it ranks as one of the worst places ever visted, not much to do, poor hotels and food.Left Uzbekistan across land border with Turkmenistan at Konye Urgench. All in all one of my most enjoyable trips but I overdid it with photographs of sky blue mosque domes.
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