Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sniff's Grantourismo Top Ten Travel Tales

Atop Petra
In random order...

Spending the day with Pol Pot's former Head of State, Khieu Samphan and his family at his home outside of Pailin, Cambodia, a stones throw from the Thai border. Khieu is currently sitting before the International Tribunal pleading not guilty for his role in the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge regime. During our lunch at his house, he completed denied any responsibility for the events and claimed ignorance.

After an incredible day at Petra, Jordan, we climbed atop the old court building at closing time with my friend Anees and his Bedoin friend who grew up in Petra. We had the park all to ourselves as we made tea and watched the sunset – 300 meters up. Then scrambled down in the dark after the police called to say they found our car in the middle of no where and wanted us to come into the station. Sobering, ahem.

Sharing my first khinkali dumplings with Stalin’s great grandson in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Breaking fast with the men who shovel the coal that warms the bath water in a little cave adjacent to the hamam during Ramadan in Fez, Morocco. We ate stuffed dates while they showed us the hole in the wall where they spied on the naked ladies in the bath.

My three-day overland trip from Dakhla, Morocco via 50 car military convoy through the Western Sahara territory into Mauritania. We then continued from Nouadibou to Nouakchott – it too us four days to drive 400 km through dramatic sand dunes in a Mercedes van, pulling the plaques out, stuffing them under the wheels and jumping back in the van as it was moving, Little Miss Sunshine style.

Getting caught in a rainstorm while sleeping on a rooftop in a small village in Dogon country, Mali. As we climbed down from the roof I burst into a rousing rendition of "Singing in the Rain" which turned into a medley of my favorites from "My Fair Lady", "Oliver" and "Sound of Music". The owners of the roof wanted to reciprocate so they cajoled the children into singing a traditional Malian song for us. They were fantastic and we gave them a thunderous round of applause.

My first trip abroad at 16, a month-long exchange in northern Italy. I fell in love with the food, the culture, the people... and Massimiliano.

My first summer in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic where my friend Vasek took us floating down the Vltava on inner tubes. We got out every five minutes or so, pulling over at a local bar to grab a Pilsner, a shot of Slivovitz and some head cheese. Then continuing the float, a lazy day around a gorgeous castle and lots of fire wire.

Standing on the rooftop of an old haveli in downtown Lahore, Pakistan during Basant, the annual kite festival, watching the kites dip and dance and fight. Cheering the winners who remained in the sky and sympathizing with the losers whose kites were cut and plummeting.

Driving around the Blue/Hazrat Ali Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan on Nowroz (New Years) only to find ourselves suddenly surrounded by a jubilant mob, singing and dancing and playing drums on the hood of our car. We were in standstill traffic, with euphoric revelers ten people thick surrounding us. There was a sudden moment of panic realizing that if this mob suddenly got out of hand, we could be in serious danger. But when we looked at the buzzing mob, we realized there was nothing but good will and good energy. And we were part of it.

This post has been entered into the Grantourismo-HomeAway UK travel writing competition for February. What are you favorite travel memories?


  1. Holy heck, Jiffer, the experiences you've had! (I can't wait to read more.)

  2. You really need to write a book. Thanks for entering again! Just letting you know we're announcing the winners today.