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The moment was finally here – we were gonna make a run for it. By ‘it’ I mean Oman of course. That underrated Arabian Gulf country nestled between Yemen and the Arabian Sea, which we only really knew about after a friend of ours moved there and started posting incredible photos of blue skies, azure seas, and crystal clear rock pools. But, whether from London or Berlin, it was kind of expensive to fly there for a short trip. But then in April when we booked our flight to Cape Town from Berlin via Doha, we immediately recognised our opportunity. 

And we really only had to ask ourselves three basic questions:

A short one-hour flight from Doha, conveniently located en route? Yes please.

Visa on arrival for South Africans? Sign me up.

Three days of heat and sunshine after moving to Berlin in January? Overdue.

 

So we are here to tell you: You need to put Oman on your bucket list (friends and family especially because we are so tempted to move to Muscat). We would love to take two weeks to drive around Oman. Heck, we would actually legitimately love to move to Oman. But we had three nights, and we made the most of it. And this is what this post is about. All of this magic is possible over a weekend.

….Okay, a long-weekend.

Oman coastline

You’re gonna want to road trip in Oman. Note: I did not edit the colours or saturation of this photo. #nofilter y’all.

THE ULTIMATE 3-NIGHT OMAN ROAD TRIP ITINERARY

*Disclaimer: we chose to maximise our time outside of Muscat, so the below itinerary won’t serve you too well if you’re staying in the capital. (We have exactly one recommendation for Muscat, and it’s to stay at this place on the beach)

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

The Omanis unequivocally and unanimously love their king, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. His face is all over the place. He’s been king since the 1970s, when he took over from his father who was such an isolationist that people weren’t even allowed to wear sunglasses. And, get this: when he took over there was only 6 miles of paved road in the whole country, and no cars.

Which is crazy, because Muscat is a car-centric city. There are some public buses that serve the corniche, but mostly people drive in the biggest American 4×4’s you’ve ever seen.

But YOU DON’T NEED A 4-WHEEL DRIVE TO EXPLORE OMAN. Because Sultan Qaboos, who we love, had all the roads paved, so.

Oman is multicultural. Not to the extent of some of the other gulf countries, but there are a lot of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Muscat and the other big towns, so expect lots of curries and biryanis next to your hummus and flat bread. All good news.

Muscat is big and modern and houses 50% of the Omani population. Most of the other towns are small, rural, far more traditional, and very small. Expect tea shops, small convenience stores, basic restaurants, and Islamic toilets. What else could you need?

Airbnb is the perfect way to snag affordable accommodation in and around the city.

BONUS: Follow this link to sign up and get £25 off your first stay! (We get a little something too – it’s a win-win!).

 

DAY 1

Cool off in the Bimmah Sink Hole, hike wadi shab and go turtle-watching at night.

About an hour and a half away from Muscat, and only half a kilometre from the coast, a large patch of limestone collapsed and formed the Bimmah Sinkhole. The water is crystal clear and the colour of dazzling jade. It is quite bizarre to walk up to it – there is literally no sign of it, until you reach the very edge, along which a small wall has been constructed, and you peer over to see the ground fall away with the deep, cool water at the end of a long stone stairway. The short walk from your car to the water will have you sweating in Omani heat, and dipping into the waters will make you think you’ve fallen into an oasis. And if you stay still for long enough you can enough some free fish pedicures, if that’s your thing.

The Bimmah Sinkhole in Oman, only an hour and a half away from Muscat and right on the Omani coast

Taking a dip in the Bimmah Sinkhole is a must whenever you're in Muscat

Bimmah sinkhole is free, and there are changing rooms on site.

 

From there, take the coastal route towards Sur and feel free to stop whenever and wherever you want to gawk at the views, because Oman is basically just one big beach. There are beaches all along the limestone cliffs, some of which you have to climb down to, some of which you can just drive up to. 

Along this route, not far from the sinkhole (ca. 25 minutes), is Wadi Shab. The wadi is a short and cheap boat trip (supposedly one or two Riyal) from Tiwi village, and about a 40-minute hike. Locals and tourists alike raved about this wadi to us, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike this time around. Saving this for later!

You can catch a boat from the locals to get deeper into the valley and hike in wadi shab.

Catch a boat from a local to hike back in the valleys of Wadi Shab

Sur is an old port city where they still build the wooden Omani dhows, and the road to Ras al Hadd – your next destination – runs through the city, and along its promenade. The sky was starting to turn soft and orange by the time we drove through Sur, so we pushed on so as to reach Ras al Hadd before sunset.

Ras al Hadd is right at the easternmost point of Oman, and is a lesser known destination for turtle-watching, making the experience profoundly more intimate. Oman is famous for being the destination of choice for 5 out of the 7 turtle species of the world. Mostly, people go to Ras al Jinz – the beach where the official turtle reserve for tourists are. You pay 180/200EUR a night, and then extra to go out and see the turtles. But, listen closely, this is the most important travel hack of this post: 

SKIP RAS AL JINZ AND GO TO RAS AL HADD INSTEAD!

If you’re smart, you’ll book the same Airbnb as we did (ca. 50EUR), and have Salem, the host and local fisherman by trade, cook you dinner (catch of the day) and take you out to see the giant nesting turtles. 

Going out with Salem to see the turtles on the beach was one of the most magical, surreal moments of our lives, so I’ve dedicated a hole other blog post about this experience. Read here to get a sense of this indescribable moment in time somewhere on a beach in Oman.

Check out this post for some photos of the creatures on the beach.

Ras al Hadd beach, Oman. This is *the* spot to see giant nesting sea turtles.

Ras al Hadd beach *Insert giant turtles here* (see link above)

 

DAY 2

Pink Lagoons and Golden Dunes

On the morning of day 2, I discovered that Oman has pink lagoons, and was too excited about this. We’ve all seen those images of the pink lakes in Australia and Mexico and have wondered how crazy it would be to them in real life (or that’s just me?) – to think we were possibly in driving distance of seeing it made me anxious with wanderlust. Well, after what felt like an hour reading the same 5 articles on them (none of which actually gave the locations!), I gave up on trying to find them. 

Fear not, eager traveler! Because in between the road from Ras al Hadd and Al Askarah (the next big town before you turn back onto the highway towards Muscat) I noticed a glimmer of pink in the corner of my eye just as we passed bridge. “Pink lakes!” I yelled, and Joel pumped the breaks. (What a team).

Now all you have to do is park your car (just anywhere), walk back towards the lagoons a couple of minutes, and watch the pink get even pinker as you get nearer and nearer. It is weird and wonderful, and it feels wild, because its not mapped and nobody is around. And besides some trash here and there (sigh), it’s a sight to see.

Scroll down for the exact location.

One of Oman's illusive pink lagoons.

One of Oman's illusive pink lagoons.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Wahiba Sands

The Sharqiya Sands is a large desert with vast golden dunes, also known as the Wahiba sands. The bedouins live here and of course it is in order to spend a night in the desert!

To do it properly, you’ll book a camp further in the dunes and they’ll arrange a pickup with you from the nearest village, or you’ll have a 4X4 and the experience to be able to reach the camp yourself. However, since we were maximising our time (and we’ve spent a night in the Sahara desert before), we decided to stay in a Bedouin camp on the very edge of the desert, reachable by 2-wheel drive

Al Reem Desert Camp

We booked a night’s stay with Al Reem Desert Camp the day of (which we found on airbnb), we were the only people there, and we felt like freaking royalty. We had the whole camp for ourselves! We watched the sunset from the dunes; we had what felt like a romantic candle-lit dinner for two; we cozied up next the campfire with tea; we watched the stars shimmer in the light of the moon. And after an air-conditioned sleep, we dragged ourselves out of bed for a golden sunrise over the Al Hajar Mountains. We left perfectly content with our on-the-edge-of-the-desert experience, and can easily recommend this camp to you. It’s the perfect option to save both time and money without sacrificing experience.

Stay in a Bedouin tent in the desert in Oman, Al Reem Desert Camp

Omani Bedouin tea around the camp fire.

Stargazing in the desert in Oman

Stay with Bedouins in the Wahiba Sands, Oman

Watching the sunrise on the edge of the desert, Oman

Al Reem Desert Camp, Oman

Al Reem Desert Camp, Oman

Al Reem Desert Camp, Oman

Al Reem Desert Camp, Oman

DAY 3

Wadi Bani Khalid

I was properly excited for this wadi by the time we left the camp. I had seen photos online and had imagined the paradisiacal oasis; the lush green palm trees offering cool shade; the sparkling emerald water a welcome respite to the scorching desert sun; the valley opening up to crystal clear water from a spring gushing all year round. These might well sound like just some exotic imaginations of a traveler silly with wanderlust, but Wadi Bani Khalid was something like this – just far, far better. There is no real way to describe this oasis. And it really is an oasis in the true sense of the word. The winding way through the rocky al Hajar mountains, atop which nothing seems to grow, and the dusty camels grazing like stray goats beside the road just emphasise the lavish green and rushing streams of the wadi when you finally, and suddenly, reach it.

Wadi Bani Khalid is a true oasis in Oman

Oasis life, Oman

The developments around wadi bani khalid

 

Walk 10/15 minutes to the quieter, pools deeper in the valley, where there is ample shade from the rockface and greenery, and wade as much as your heart desires.

 

Wadi bani Khalid, Oman

Wadi bani Khalid, Oman

Wadi bani Khalid, Oman

We finally stopped to swim in the top pool in this picture, which is where we took the photos below.

Wadi bani Khalid, Oman

Wadi bani Khalid, Oman

And don’t forget your floaty! (Our number one thing we travel with besides money and passports)

The single restaurant on site offers a delicious buffet lunch with for 10 Riyal. Fill up, dry off, and make your way back to Muscat.

Muscat

Spend your last couple of hours in Muscat – going to the beach, watching the sunset, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. As per above disclaimer, we really don’t have any authority to recommend much city-wise (even though we had all the intentions to follow this blogger’s guide). We even ended up eating at an American burger chain called ‘Mooyah’ in a mall after we googled burger restaurants. (By the way, it was the bomb. We are so into Mooyah. We dream about the Big Moo M&M shake on the daily).

However, the one thing we can recommend, we can recommend highly:

A B&B right on the beach called Lana Villa. We found this gem on Airbnb (they are also on booking.com) and were sold right when they checked us into our room with a balcony overlooking the sea around sunset. It’s a sweet delight when Airbnb rooms are bigger and better than the pictures, and we struck Airbnb gold again with Lana Villa! Also, the breakfast is awesome and the coffee is real, which is a real bonus after you’ve been roadtripping Oman. 

 

Sunset in Muscat, Oman

One last sunset on a Muscat beach right in front of Lana Villa.

 

We have been taken aback by the beauty of Oman in a way that we haven’t been taken aback for a long time. Getting on the plane the next morning for our one-hour flight back to Doha, felt somehow wrong. We wanted to stay. For a whole while.

Our brief time in Oman may be epitomised by the surreality of going to see the turtles lay eggs in the moonlight of the Arabian sky – lots of not being able to believe our own eyes, lots of friendly locals going out of their way to be hospitable, lots of the kind of beauty that you didn’t even know you’ve always wanted to experience.

Booking stays on booking.com through our blog will help generate us some income at no additional cost to you!
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It was a few hours after dark and we were waiting in an old 4X4 somewhere on the coast of Oman, in or around a village called Ras al Hadd, which was basically built over and around the cracked up tarmac of a defunct British WWII airport runway. Our driver and Airbnb host, Salem, had disappeared into a tiny room right by the gate we just drove through, which served as the office of what he referred to as the ‘turtle police.’ He had also rolled up the windows, mumbling something about ‘strange people.’

Hmm. So we wait.

Salem returned to the car, and switched on the top light as he turned to me and said, “Hold this.” Before I could even register, he placed in my hand the teeniest, tiniest little baby sea turtle. Our jaws dropped. We had come to Ras al Hadd to see the giant turtle mommas lay their eggs and return to sea, and we had not expected to see a turtle, much less a baby, much less in my hand, before we had even reached the beach. It was kicking with all its might (they are deceptively strong!). Salem had explained to us earlier that the little babies sometimes get confused by the light and wander into town, instead of into the sea, where their dangers multiply with cars and dogs and cats and kids. They found this baby on the road and the police had asked us to take it to the beach.

It was time to go.

 

Oman is famous for its turtles. Five of the Seven turtle species of the world lay their eggs on the beaches year-round, and in summer the place is literally crawling with baby turtles (Salem, a local fisherman, showed us photos on his Instagram, which is littered with incredible images from the Arabian Sea – including Orca sightings and swimming camels…seriously check out his page). Most people go to Ras Al Jinz, where the ‘official’ turtle reserve is located. You pay between 180 and 200EUR a night, and then extra to go out at night/early morning to see the turtles with lots and lots of other people.

Of course we weren’t gonna do that. Joel got creative, found Salem’s home on Airbnb for next to nothing, where he offers turtle-viewings for a fraction of the Ras Al Jinz price. He took us out to the beach after a delectable fish BBQ dinner at home (three giant freshly-caught tuna steaks). As it was off-season, we were the only guests in the house, and (fast-forward back to the dark beach) the only three people on the beach, besides a patrolling ‘turtle-policeman.’ The policemen know and trust our Airbnb guide, so allows him to bring some guests on this otherwise closed-off beach. Lucky us.

 

We jumped out onto the sand in the dark, me still precariously holding A BABY TURTLE, and followed our guide. After a quick rendezvous with an official, we jogged to where he pointed, Salem counted to three, switched on his flashlight, and there she was. A GIANT turtle kicking sand over her eggs. We stayed behind her as she slowly crawled out of her hole, and watched her turn back towards the lapping waves. We were speechless, and every now and then I remember that I’m still holding the baby. Even holding it up before me I couldn’t believe this little thing smaller than the palm of my hand will grow to be the size of this gigantic creature in front of us.

“Okay, let’s go,” he said, and we hurried towards the water. Salem had an eye on a waiting crab nearby, and quickly gave me the word to put it back in the water as the waves pulled back, which were, may I just add, illuminated by starry bioluminescent plankton. The turtle slid off my hand and disappeared into the black, starry sea.

 

What.

Even.

Happened just now?

 

Thinking back on it, I can feel the little turtle kicking with all its might, the warm water on my feet, the sand kicked back by the turtle hitting my knee, but it still feels like a bizarre, magical moment in a parallel universe that seems unlikely to happen in this normal world we live in.

But it was just another night on Ras al Hadd beach.

 

For more of the unreal beauty of Oman, and the ultimate 3-day road trip itinerary, check out this post.

Going to see the turtles nesting in Oman is a truly unique experience

A giant turtle in Oman

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Bucharest is a special city in the age of electronic readers and online newspapers and magazines. Tucked in between and among its eclectic pastiche of crumbling Parisian/Balkan/Soviet architecture, is a booming world of bookstores. Real, actual, paper books – ones with the undeniable scent of pressed paper, where you can feel the fibres underneath your thumbs as you turn the pages one by one. (I recently started reading on a kindle – is it obvious that I miss real books??). It’s a world away from the one we are familiar with – where the last man standing is the one big chain monopolising the market out of necessity. In Bucharest you can find multiple bookshops in one street, and an old gentleman selling books off the pavement every now and then, and there are customers shopping around in all of them.

Anyways, you get it. Bucharest is for book lovers. And here are some stores you should not miss if you’d like to venture into this book culture – a self-guide highlight tour of Bucharest’s book shops, if you will.

Bucharest bookstores - Cartusersti Carusel

Cărturești Verona

Strada Arthur Verona 13-15, open daily 10am – 10pm

Cărturești is one of the big brands in Romania, and this is their biggest space. But it isn’t large-stately-hall-with-an-echo kind of big. It is set in an old aristocratic family mansion and it is labyrinthine, with different cozy corners and rooms that envelope you. I am not sure how much time I spent in there and if I found every room, like I entered some kind of time warp. My favourite room has to be the record and dvd room, where international art films and records are stacked around a stately fireplace and against creamy embossed walls with the paint peeling off here and there.

Bucharest for book lovers - Carturesti Verona

Bucharest for book lovers - Carturesti Verona

Kyralina

Strada Biserica Amzei 10, Mo – Sa 10am – 8pm, Su 12pm – 6pm

If you’re French you will feel right at home in Kyralina. Unlike me, who felt like a fish out of water because I don’t know any French and completely overlooked the fact that it’s a French bookstore. They even greet you with a ‘bonjour!’ I pretended to understand and paged through some comics before I avoided eye contact and snuck out. Kyralina is very small and very adorable, but very (completely) French. Highly recommended for all the French speakers out there.

Humanitas Bucharest

Calea Victoriei 45-47, Mo – Sa 10am – 9pm, Su 10am – 7pm

Another sprawling book store brand, this location consists of two floors and a beautiful café overlooking an 18th-century church (let’s face it – sometimes the best part of going to bookstores is the cafés…). It has a wonderful section of gorgeous glossy art books, by the way. Humanitas has 4 stores in Bucharest, and if you’re gonna go to more than one, you should definitely head to Elizabeth Boulevard 38, where the books are stacked around a beautiful art-deco building.

Cărturești Carusel

Strada Lipscani  55, Mo – We 10am – 10pm, Thu & Su 10am – 10.30pm, Fri & Sat 10am – midnight

The crowning jewel of Cărturești, and possibly the most instagrammed spot in Bucharest, Cărturești Carusel epitomises the love for real paper books in Bucharest. It’s not even 5 years old yet and it’s a bustling reader-friendly hub with a light tearoom and coffeeshop at the very top. It is known as the ‘Carousel of Light’ and lives up to that name with it’s sparkling white interior and grand central open space that floods with sunlight. It’s modern and accessible but it parodies that ‘traditional’ library (aka Hogwarts) with its mezzanine levels and winding staircases that we all love so much.

Bucharest for book lovers - Carturesti Carusel

Bucharest for book lovers - Carturesti Carusel

So here’s how the tour works

Make sure you hit these main book spots and you are bound to run into tons of other little bookstores on your way – there really are so so so many. It’s that easy! And the furthest two stores are 20 minutes’ walk away from each other (Carusel and Kyralina), and the rest are in between! If you are a book lover, you will feel right at home in Romania. The printed book culture is alive and well and it’s living it up in Bucharest!

And who doesn’t love a good poll?

Do you prefer electronic or printed books?
  • Add your answer

Bucharest for book lovers

Bucharest for book lovers

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It was dark when I left our room to go to the bathroom on the other side of the small nautical courtyard. I had to stop dead in my tracks. It was a warm summer’s night – the first evening of the new year – and the moon was full or close to it. It bathed the wooden deck chairs and fishnets in a silverblue light, outshone only by quick flashes of brightness from Africa’s southernmost lighthouse. I stepped out of the courtyard to admire the light, and it was magnificently surreal. The red-and-white tower was 150 meters away, but the light swung so powerfully around its neck in a bright white beam that I felt like we were right underneath it; like we were the lighthouse-keepers. And save for the actual lighthouse-keepers, I realised that I was probably the southernmost person on the continent right then – there under the light of the stars and the moon and the lighthouse. And we probably would be the southernmost people the whole night, because we were staying at Southermost B&B, in the southernmost private bedroom on the entire continent of Africa.

The Southermost house in Africa

The southernmost house in Africa.

Southermost B&B

Staying at Southermost B&B is really not like any other accommodation experience. The house was built in 1929, have passed ownership only twice, and has changed little in its 80+ years. The ceilings are low, the white-washed walls are thick, the rooms are decked out in familial vintage furniture, there are no TVs, and there is no en-suite option. You can find instead a jug of water, a tin bowl, some glasses and hand towels on a small table in the bedroom. The historic character of the house has been beautifully preserved and staying at Southermost B&B is more of an experience where you get to slow down and freeze time and travel back in time simultaneously. The toilet is across the Mediterranean-style courtyard, the shower is two steps across the yard, and our breakfast with fresh fruits and a pot of strong coffee was set out in a tiny, bright breakfast nook decorated with faded photographs and chalky seas shells. And it was a welcome breakfast which we enjoyed in the fynbos garden, with a view of the place where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.

Breakfast with a view at Southermost B&B

Southermost B&B

Southermost B&B

Southermost B&B

The charm of this historic villa is only helped by the warm welcome received from Meg, who manages and maintains Southernmost B&B (and co-owns it with her two sisters), and who also is, seemingly, an olympic-level gardener and artist. She showed us to our room as if we were old friends returning for a visit.

It was a slow morning of waking up to our window with a view to the two oceans, the salty smell of sea hanging in the air, and wishing we could stay another night, or two, or three. After coffee and beskuit (we eat as much beskuit as we can whenever we visit home), we strolled along the short boardwalk towards the actual southernmost tip of Africa, a short 15-minute walk from our blue ocean-weatherworn front door. And despite being happily surprised by the Kaapse Klopse – a Capetonian tradition also called ‘the 2nd New Year,’ in which minstrel clubs dress up in bright colours and go marching in the streets playing traditional songs with brass instruments – we did all of this slowly, as if spending time in the quiet old beach house made us believe that we had all the time we wanted.  

Room with a view at Southermost B&B

Cape Agulhas lighthouse

Kaapse Klopse at Cape Agulhas

Southermost point in Africa

Southermost point in Africa

Southernmost point in Africa where the two oceans meet

Staying There

Southermost B&B is really well priced, considering its charm and especially its location – even for South Africans. We found it on Airbnb, and we are not surprised to see that Meg is an Airbnb Superhost. (If you haven’t used Airbnb before – and we highly recommend it – use this link to sign up and get a sweet £25 discount from us)

You can also book by calling or emailing Southermost B&B directly.

Heads up! Southermost B&B closes over the winter months.

GETTING THERE

Head down to South Africa, and go as far south as you can, until you reach the sleepy beach town of Cape Agulhas. Follow its streets as it bends around the coastal bays, past the fish and chips shops, past the holiday market stalls selling firewood, ice cream cones and pancakes, past the icy cold tidal pool, until the very last house (or, quite literally, the very first house of Africa’s southernmost reach).

That is, right on the corner of Lighthouse Street and Van Breda Street.

Southermost B&B and Cape Agulhas

Southermost B&B and Cape Agulhas behind it, as seen from the top of the lighthouse.

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There is little use in trying to describe what Angkor Wat is like in words. (Which is why we’ve chosen to offer some practical advice instead – click here to see what you should expect during your visit). It’s so vast, and so beautiful, and steeped in so much history – even while we were there it was hard to wrap our minds around our experience. I remember leaves rustling in the welcoming breeze; I remember the dappled sunlight falling through forest foliage onto blocks of ruin sandstone covered in moss, I remember the wind in my face as the tuk-tuk driver whizzed us around in between fallen temples, over bridges and in and out of spots of sun; I remember clouds of butterflies billowing from the long grass; I remember a chorus of camera shutters as the sun rose slowly over that iconic ancient skyline. I remember different corners and separate moments dreamily – even our own memories are hard to patch together sometimes with some experiences that are so big.

So instead I’ve decided rather to do a photo post. But even these photos pale in comparison. Partly because Angkor is too much for any photograph and partly (mostly?) because they are actually just really average Sony Coolpix point-and-shoot photos. But still:

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