From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014- Day 9

Driving, driving, and more driving.

Total time today was 12 hours as we left Ha'il at 7:30 am and arrived back in Khobar at 7:30 pm.

Our only hiccup of the trip was around 11:30 when my tire started going flat.  We pulled over and and noticed that the tire had a nail in it.  We tried to change the tire, but the directions on how to get the spare tire off wasn't clear.

We found a service station about 7 km from the exit in a small little town where the guys changed it in about 5 minutes.  10 riyal and an hour and a half later and we were back on the road.  One other small hiccup when we thought we had forgot our bags (AGAIN), but we discovered that another family had picked it up and put it in their car when we were messing with the bags.

A stop in Riyadh at McDonald's to let the kids play and the next stop was Al Khobar.

We had a quick toast to celebrate our long and successful journey and that was a wrap.

Overall, it was a great experience for us.  It was nice to see Saudi Arabia in its entirety and see different parts of the country.  We highly recommend the trip for any expats living in Saudi.  It isn't something that everyone can do.

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014- Day 8

Another long but very rewarding day.  We woke pretty early to get a start on touring Medain Saleh.  I'll let wikipedia tell you about this historic site:'in_Saleh

I'm getting lazy in my blogging days, but this will tell you about it.  The kids loved running in and out of the tombs.  Some great photo opportunities.  Perhaps the coolest thing about this place is that it's very new, and there is an entire city they haven't uncovered yet that has been buried.

Our tour guide was nice enough and was a bit unsettled about the fact that we didn't have 2 or 3 days in the area.  We tried to reassure him that we understood and that we only have a limited amount of time.

Medain Saleh was pretty cool.  For those that have been to Petra in Jordan, it apparently isn't as spectacular, but it is neat for Saudi.  We drove around and saw the main sites before heading out.

Our next stop was the old town in Al Ula.  Our kids were napping in the car, so Jamie and I split up for this.  She toured more of the lower part ruins that was the "town," while I climbed the steps of the tower.  It was interesting, and our guide told us that some of the ancestors were trying to claim back some of the houses by placing little plaques on top of the doors.  It'll take some time I'm sure for that to happen.

We cleaned up at the hotel and check out and headed back to Elephant Rock so we could see it during the day.  We then had a 4 hour drive before checking in to the Rest Inn in Ha'il.  Completely Saudi hotel that served its purpose for us to get some sleep before our long long drive home the next day.

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 7

Today was another driving day, but it ended quite spectacularly.  We said goodbye to our friends in Jeddah and set out early for a long drive to Al Ula, which is the closest city to Medain Salah.  Along the way, the landscape changed rather dramatically.  At some points, the terrain was very dark and rocky.  It was almost as if they had blasted and the remains were just small boulders everywhere.

We also were re-routed around the Islamic holy city of Medina.  Again, this is the closest that a non-Muslim can get to the city.

As we approached Al Ula, the land changed again as larger rocks turned to mountains as we increased in elevation.  Al Ula is nestled in a small valley and is a quite nice little town.  Our hotel was at the Al Ula Arac Resort which far exceeded our expectations.

Our tour guide met us at the resort; and after cleaning up a little, led us to Elephant Rock, a large rock formation that resembles an elephant.

We arrived there while it was dark, so the only light we had was the light of the full moon and a small little campfire he made for us as we ate our shawarmas.  The pictures just won't do this evening justice.  Even though there some cover, it was still an amazing sight and experience.

After the long drive, we were beat.  Jamie and the boys went straight to bed, while I relaxed and watched a the new Flash show.  Internet wasn't working well there, so I wasn't able to blog.

A long driving day, but well worth it in the end.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 6

We hit the beach again today at one of the private resorts on the Red Sea here in Jeddah.  This one was called the Silver Sands Beach Resort.  It was a bit difficult to find because it is literally behind a large white wall that just says "private residence" on the door; but once we asked, they let us in no problem.

This place was really nice.  All it is missing is a pool, but the beach is long and wide and well maintained.  The lounge chairs and tables are shaded and the restaurant has some fantastic pizzas.  We spent about 4 hours mid day there before heading back for a little rest.

We then headed out to our friends' school to check it out.  They are putting on a HUGE production of Oz, and our friend is producing it.  It will be absolutely amazing, and we are hoping we might actually come back over here to see it.

After the school tour, we headed over to On the Border for some Mexican food.  Our boys were exhausted and didn't eat but the food was good.  We ran some errands on the way home and even stumbled upon The Fountain, the world's largest fountain.  It was pretty cool, and we were lucky we found it.

We'll pack up tonight and head toward Medain Saleh tomorrow.  Our hosts here have been marvelous and very helpful.  I can only hope we can repay them sometime.

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 5

We hung out today.  The kids were simply wiped out.  We had originally planned to have another beach day, but all the littles ones in our group were just pooped.

We went to the pool, went shopping for supplies, and even took a nap mid day.  In the evening, some other families on the compound met with all of us to cook out and play some yard games.  The food was delicious and the games were great.  The kids had a good time running around the yard.

The boys were down pretty early and had a much needed good night's sleep.

Not a fancy day on our vacation but just what we needed.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 4

Today was a nice relaxing day.  We all woke up on our own time.  The apartment we stayed in is perfect for us.  It actually reminds us of our apartment we used to live in China, so it was very welcoming.  We went over to our friends' house mid morning and had some breakfast before setting out to a beach resort.

Jamie and I didn't particularly plan well today, although the day worked out in the end.  The beach resort was very nice with a small beach, great sand, wonderful beach lounges and umbrellas as well as a nice pool setting and outdoor restaurant with couches and fans for eating.  We decided to leave at 2:30 after we ate lunch because the boys hadn't napped at all.  Some other members of our group stayed and snorkeled.  They said it was some of the best snorkeling they ever done which is saying a lot since they've been all over.

We rested in the afternoon before going over to our friends' house for a birthday celebration of shawarmas, ice cream, and cake.  Birthday boy was turning 36.

Again, a great day in Jeddah.  It is a pretty cool city; and after looking up some information, we discovered that it is quite a large city of about 4 million people.  We look forward to seeing more of the city in the next couple of days.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 3

Today, we planned on spending the day in Taif and driving to Jeddah.  We left the hotel at 9:15 and drove around trying to find the entrance to a cable car that would show us the heights of Taif and the rocky terrain of the mountains.  Since it is the first day of Hajj, everything was closed until about 1:00.  When we arrived at the entrance to the cable car, we just hung out for about 2.5 hours and let the kids play on the playground.   Interestingly enough, there was a Chicago’s Style Uno’s pizza place next to the Ramada Inn there, so we waited until it opened too. 

While we waited, we saw dozens of baboons that roamed the grounds. They were easy going enough, and the kids enjoyed seeing them.  Everyone got away unscathed or bitten, so all was well with the baboons.  Some went up to the gate and rode some camels with some very aggressive guys who would tug you and even take your kids and put them on the camel.  One guy kept pulling at me until I yelled at him to not touch me.  James was a little scared and certainly didn’t want to ride the camels, so we walked away.  As we were leaving, I saw one of the guys hitting a camel, so I’m glad I didn’t give them any money.

Uno’s was a nice treat and getting on the cable car was a breeze even though we had to wait forever.  The ride down the mountain was very interesting.  I wouldn’t say beautiful because it was just rocks and more rocks, but it was certainly not what you think about when it comes to Saudi Arabia.  When we arrived at the bottom of the mountain, there was a small little touristy area that had a pretty cool water park (kids and males only) where we ate some ice cream bought from some guys who were very surprised we were from America.

We rode the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and loaded up for the 2.5 hour drive to Jeddah.  The most amazing part of this journey was the split when we arrived near Mecca or Makkah.  Even if it wasn’t Hajj, non Muslims aren’t allowed in the city of Mecca.  Instead, they route you around the entire city where there is a cool little sign that separates Muslims from non-Muslims on the road. 

We arrived at a compound in Jeddah where our friends and former co-workers had graciously offered to find some villas for us all to stay in. It was great to see them, and they were so helpful settling us in. 

A great day again.  The boys were dead tired when we finally put them to bed, but they again were so well behaved all day.  We are so fortune.  Plus, we didn’t leave our bag behind!

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 2

Crazy day!  11 hours total of driving time, but 2 hours of that was a mistake.  We left Riyahd at 8:05 and drove through some pretty cool scenery for about an hour.  Then, we received a call that we’d forgotten our black bag at the hotel.  It had our passports, iqamas, an iPad, 2 Macbook Airs, the kids’ medicine, and all of our charging cables.  We had left it on the curb when we were packing our car.  One of the workers found it and turned it in for us and the manager called us and told us to come back.  We were so lucky!

As bad as it was to add 2 hours onto our trip, we were glad to do it to have all of our important stuff back.  The 9-hour drive to Taif wasn’t bad at all.  Straight shot on one road, and we saw some interesting things on the way.  The checkpoints along the way had some cool gateways, there was a Ferris wheel out in the middle of nowhere.  There were all of these small little towns along the highway with these neat little parks.  The terrain started out very rocky and steep around Riyadh, then flattened out and became smoother terrain as we got closer to Taif. 

We arrived at 7:00 fairly refreshed at our hotel called Awaliv International Hotel.  It is the tallest building by far in the city at 30 stories.  The rooms were nice, and we let the boys play in the room to burn off as much steam as possible.  Even though the drive was 11 hours total, the boys did so great.  Alex just chilled in his car seat the whole time napping, and James watch some videos, played with his toys, read some books, napped, snacked, and sang some songs. 

Again, if our bag had not been found, we would’ve been dead in the water.  We were also lucky in that we’d only driven an hour outside the city. It is nice to know there are some good people still out there. 

Saudi Arabia Road Trip Eid 2014 - Day 1

Jamie and I hadn’t seen much of Saudi Arabia.  We have always spent our vacations getting out of the country whenever we could.  Some friends of ours were planning a road trip around the country and asked if we wanted to go.  It seemed like a good time to do it, so we agreed.  So, four families loaded up in four separate vehicles and set out for a 36+ hour 3600+ km road trip.  Our journey will take us from Al Khobar to Riyadh to Taif to Jeddah to Medain Saleh to Ha’il back to Al Khobar.  We will see the capital city, the resort town of Taif in the mountains, the Red Sea city of Jeddah, the pre-Islamic archeological site of Medain Saleh, and the drive through the deserts and terrain of Saudi Arabia. 

We left the parking lot at ISG in Khobar at 4:00 for the drive to Riyadh.  The drive to Riyadh was hectic.  There are 3 lanes, but a 4th lane is created on the far left as people pass going about 100 – 120 mph.  If you stay in the middle lane, you will be fine until you need to pass someone.  If that is the case, you’ll need to quickly pass the person on the left but get out of the way as someone will quickly be on your bumper flashing their lights. 

Nonetheless, we made it safely to Riyadh pretty easily and made it in about 5 hours.  We stayed at a pretty nice hotel called the Golden Tulip Andalusia.  I crashed in the room while Jamie went out to get something to eat with James.  

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