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Visited Mongolia during the first and second week in April, Ulaanbaatar has limited number of International flights mostly from China, Seoul, Hong Kong and not too sure but limited flights from Germany. I flew MIAT (Mongolian Airlines) from Hong Kong, Immigration is quick and easy, no visa needed for US passport holders. Once outside Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, there was snow on the ground. April is still cold in Mongolia.

Airport to City, Taxi cost was USD $ 12. My Hostel arranged for a airport pickup.

Stay - I stayed at Zaya Hostel USD $12 a night for a private room with shared bath. Breakfast Included.

Picture to the right - Traditional Mongolian boot, largest shoe in the world, in Genghis Khan Theme Park, Chinggis Khan Statue Complex. In Tsonjin Boldog, about an hours drive from Ulaanbaatar.

Ulaanbaatar is surrounded by hills, the landscape outside the city is just beautiful. The City itself is just another big city, with rush hour traffic problems. Most people in Ulaanbaatar live in Apartments.

Currency - For hotels and Tour companies you can pay in USD or use Visa Mastercard, However do keep some Mongolian Tughrik  or MNT. For example I bought soup in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and ate in a Yurt, where no one spoke English and was glad to have local currency.

Things to do in Ulaanbaatar Now I was there in April, it is cold and not a tourist season. So Gobi desert was out, if you are there in summer, there are good things to be heard about gobi desert tours.

TIP: If you have time, book your tours while in Mongolia, online prices are just too expensive.


1)  Chinggis Khan Statue Complex


Mongolia April 2019 - YouTube


I took a tour which included Chinggis Khan Statue Complex, Turtle Rock in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Ariyabal Meditation Buddhist Temple, Lunch in a Ger or Yurt as it is called in English, drive around UB. The cost was $100 USD.

From UB, its about 45 minutes drive to Chinggis Khan Statue Complex, its Chinggis and not Genghis as per my Mongolian guide.

There is an entrance fee of 30,000 Mongolian Tughrik or around 22 USD, there is a display of rural Mongolian life, history of the Khan's and a stairway to the top of the horse. Spent an hour there, that's enough time and was off to see turtle rock.

2) Turtle Rock

About a 15 minute ride from Chinggis Khan Statue Complex, the best of the trip was a lunch in a yurt with Mongolian folks. they cooked me fried bread with stuffing, and didn't want any money from me, I left a tip.




3) Ariyabal Meditation Buddhist Temple

My Last stop before heading back to UB, from the entrance to the meditation center there is mile and half to 2 mile hike upto the Buddhist Temple, I was out of breath by the time I reached the top. One can do free camping and meditation in the summer there. There is also a bunk hall if you don't want to camp.



There is Tibetan Buddhist Mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum' painted in nearby Hills.

In UB, one place everyone visits is the Genghis Khan Square 


Genghis Khan Square Ulaanbaatar - YouTube


The square is surrounded by hotels, opera, stock exchange, government buildings.

If you want great views of the city of Ulaanbaatar, head to Zaisan Memorial Hill See video below


Zaisan Hill - YouTube


The Gandantegchinlen Monastery is another must see.

Clean Air - To and From the Airport, both the cars were electric, so was the van that took me Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Ulaanbaatar being one of the coldest capitals in the world, there is lot of coal burning in the winter, the government there is changing that for cleaner means of heating.


Picture above, my friend and guide in Magnolia with his wife,  in Traditional Mongolian attire 

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Visited Kuwait City in December 2018, arrived on a MEA flight from Beirut. My Itinerary was Layover in New York, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, and onwards to China and Mongolia.

American Passport holders have visa on arrival, you will need to go the visa on arrival office near gate 2 to get the paperwork taken care of. Withdrew local currency at the airport ATM, Once outside the airport, I ignored the cab drivers that approached me and took the Airport bus to my Airbnb. The city buses are the best way out of the airport.

Kuwait is an expensive destination, an average 3 star hotel will cost upwards of 100 USD. I was only there for 2 days.


Kuwaiti dinar is at the time of writing this post, the world's highest valued currency $3.30 USD equals 1 Kuwaiti dinar.

Top 3 Things to do in Kuwait CitySouk Al-Mubarakiya

This is a massive shopping Souq with Apparel Shops, money changers, food courts, perfume shops, vegetable and fruit market, seafood market, the list goes on.



Street art by the Souq.



Above the seafood market and one of the many eating courts in the Souq.


Kuwait Towers

Went to See the Towers twice, one during the night to see all the lights and once during the day. Took a cab from the grand Mosque to get there.


Kuwait Towers - YouTube


Grand Mosque



The interior is pretty amazing, went there during the night and during day time, walking distance from the Kuwait Souq.

If you are into shopping (which I am not) Check out the Avenue Mall, it's one of the biggest malls in the middle east, I saw it from the outside on my way back to the airport.
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Visited Baalbek in December 2018, weather was perfect, some of the best roman ruins I have seen. You can read about the history at UNESCO world heritage site at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/294

Safety: There are travel warning for tourists going to Baalbek and Anjar due to its close proximity to Syria and Hezbollah presence. I didnt have any issues. I even hitchhiked from Anjar to the main road 15 minute ride to catch a bus, this nice Armenian gentleman gave me a ride. Anjar is located in an Armenian resettlement town and Baalbek is Hezbollah with souvenir vendors selling Hezbollah T shirts.Anjar is 5KM from Syria, there are mountains between the 2 countries.

Suggestion: Visit Anjar before visiting Baalbek reason being Baalbek is pretty amazing and Anjar will be a let down if you visit Anjar afterwards.

How to get to Baalbek from Beirut, take a taxi to cola bus station. From there take a minibus to Baalbek, the minibus cost is 6000 Lebanese Pounds or about $4 USD. The distance is about 85 kilometers from Beirut or half way between Beirut and Damascus Syria.

I did a day trip, day is plenty to see baalbek and visited the town aswell, get lunch ect. There is a lot of army presence in town.



Entrance to the Temple of Jupiter, There were hardly any tourists there because of all the travel warning to that area.

A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 16, 2019 at 1:32pm PST

Temple of Bacchus, Above, dedicated to God of Wine. People drank a lot of wine as beer and Whisky was not so popular, this complex was built before Christ. Some of the most fertile land on the planet is here as per the info I got from the Baalbek museum.


A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 2, 2019 at 7:09am PST

Inside Temple of Bacchus, me at the Alter. No Wine though.

Anjar


While Baalbek is Greek-Roman, Anjar is supposed to be from Arab times, its all ruins and nothing like Baaalbek, looked very Roman with all the arches.

Anjar

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Bahrain is a fascinating travel destination for those who are willing to venture a little off of the beaten path. It features beautiful architecture, warm hospitality and rich culture, as well as natural beauty including glorious beaches. Visited Bahrain in December 2018. Weather in December is excellent.

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a small island nation located off of the coast of Saudi Arabia. It consists of one large main island, as well as several smaller, outlying islands.

Saudi Rials (currency) is accepted in Bahrain, exchange rate differs.

It is a very multicultural place, with four official languages: Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and English. Due to its large expat community, Bahrain is a blend of many different cultures. Plus, as Bahrain’s is one of the few nations in the Middle East where alcohol can legally be purchased, it is a popular getaway for those in neighboring countries.

History lovers will also love visiting beautiful Bahrain. Bahrain has been an important trading post for centuries, so there are many ancient and historic sites to explore. Some of the most well-known include the Barbar Temples, the earliest of which takes from 3000 BC, and Souq al-Khamis, a stunning mosque that dates back to the eighth century.

TIP: Bahrain can be expensive. My hotel room was $100 a night, USD.
Airport to hotel was 5 Bahraini Dinar, about $15 USD.

Bab Al Bahrain
Bab Al Bahrain, the main entrance to the Manama Souq. Manama Souq has a lot of shops selling souvenirs and Arabian lamps and artifacts. There is also other excellent shopping, from small bazaar stalls through to high-end luxury designer boutiques. One of the largest and most luxurious malls is the Moda Mall, however, if you are looking for Bahrain’s famous yellow gold, you should head for Gold City in Manama. Just FYI, I rarely shop, just went to see the glitter.



One of the main cultural attractions in Manama is the stunning Al Fateh Grand Mosque. The architecture of this mosque is absolutely beautiful, and it is open to both Muslims and non-Muslims. You are welcome to take a tour which will show you the most beautiful parts of the mosque, as well as share some information about the Islamic faith.


If you’re looking to relax or perhaps escape the hot sun, Bahrain also boasts several beautiful beaches, such as glamorous Marassi Al Bahrain, with its calm water and many beach parties.

All in all, Bahrain is a beautiful and underrated travel destination. Whether you’re hoping to enjoy the many fabulous restaurants and bars, or perhaps to discover the historic sites, you’re sure to be fascinating and enthralled by this amazing country.
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Byblos Lebanon
Visited Beirut Lebanon in December 2018, days are nice and pleasant and evenings and nights Get cold during December in Beirut Lebanon. The winters are quite mild.

Airport immigration is quick and easy, have you hotel arrange for airport pickup to avoid any taxi scams. Airport to downtown the cost for a taxi is about USD 15. The ride is less then half an hour.

Safety: I found Lebanon to be very safe and did not have any issues at all.

Stay: I stayed at a hotel close to downtown, awesome location, close to several eating places, walking distance to Beirut souk and tourist attractions. The cost was USD 35 a night.

Food: Lebanon is one of the best countries for awesome cuisine. Here is my recommendation 'Le Chef', Gouraud Street, Beirut. Tabbouleh salad there is amazing, I paid under USD 10 for a beer, fresh bread, olive oil, Salad and a main dish.

Transportation: I used minibuses to travel outside of Beirut, and within Beirut did a lot of walking and used shared cabs.

Money: 1 USD equals to 1500 Lebanese pound at the time of writing this post, there are ATM's everywhere. I use XE app on my smart phone for currency conversion.

Language: Most people will speak some English, I used google translate twice.

One of the first things that every traveler will want to do when they arrive in Lebanon is visit the National Museum of Beirut.  Inside, there are archaeological artifacts that share the history of the country and the people that have lived there over the years.  The two most popular exhibits are the Phoenician gilded bronze figures that were found buried near the Obelisk Temple at Byblos and the Phoenician marble statues of baby boys from the 6th century.

After seeing those exhibits, everyone will be ready to venture over to the Byblos Castle, which was constructed during the 12th century by the Crusaders.  This castle was constructed, dismantled, and reconstructed, a couple times, which makes it a unique piece of history that is thankfully still standing.  

Byblos

One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Beirut, I took a minibus, paid the bus driver 2000 Lebanese pound one way or $1.50 USD. The minibus dropped me on side of a main highway, from there I walked through open-air bars, and outdoor cafes to the historical sites.



The entrance fee to the main historical site is 6 or 8 thousand Lebanese pound, I cannot remember. The whole Complex and the museum is worth visiting, it dates back to 8000 BC.







Pottery found in Byblos from 3000 BC - 1600 BC

Beirut can seen by walking to most places, I did take the cab twice to Cola bus station to take the mini bus to Baalbek and back to downtown. The cost of the shared cab was 3000 Lebanese pound or $2 USD.



A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 13, 2019 at 6:58am PST


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7 Hour Layover in Newark Liberty International Airport and How to get to New York NY from Newark NJ Airport

 I had a 7 hour layover in December 2018, December in New York/New Jersey is cold, dress according. My flight arrived at around 10 AM and my departure was at 5 PM to Denmark.
At the Newark Liberty Airport, I asked information about going to New York, they told me to take the skytrain to Amtrack trains. The trains and way to Skytrain is clearly marked, at the AMTrack station I bought a train ticket to Penn Station in New York, the cost is US$12.25 for one way ticket. The train ride is 45 minutes approximately. I arrived at the Penn station and there were people selling tickets to the ball game and to the Hop on Hop off bus for sightseeing New York.






From Penn station I walked to 7th ave Macy's.


A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 7, 2019 at 9:25am PST


From there I walked to Time square, and back to Penn station after a roughly 2 hour walk around New York. I got back to the airport with 3 hours to spare. I leave you with a few photos.

A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 7, 2019 at 10:18am PST



A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jan 8, 2019 at 11:46am PST
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Visited Tikal in September 2018, its hot and humid in September dress accordingly.

I had booked a tour online, they had canceled on me as they didn't have enough people for the tour. I headed to Belize border town with Guatemala called San Ignacio. There are several tours that leave everyday and I was able to book a tour to Tikal easily in San Ignacio.

The tour van was comfortable and had A/C. They took care of all the border crossing fees, entrance fees to the Archeological site, came with a guide and they took care of lunch.

The cost was $135 USD, which I thought was a bargain. The starting time was 6:30AM and drop off around 5PM same day.

Get a tour company and avoid all the hassles of doing it yourself.

Although everything for the trip was paid for, I did change 10 USD at the border to Guatemala Quetzal, in September 2018, 1USD = 7.5 Guatemala Quetzal. The reason being I'll need local money for water and drinks on a hot day full of hiking. I did buy 2 bottles of Gatorade for 30 Guatemala Quetzal.

From San Ignacio to the Guatemala border is 20 minutes ride and about an hour to Flores Guatemala. The van drive stopped by the lake in Flores. And a coffee restroom break at a roadside souvenir shop.


Tikal Guatemala 2018 - YouTube


September is low tourist season and once we arrived in Tikal National park, there were very few tourists. The group I was in spent the hot day exploring the Mayan pyramids. The Pyramids with a room on top is a temple, the Pyramid which is flat on top is an Observatory.

Some of the Pyramids are still covered with dirt and have trees growing on them, the guide explained the issues that could arise by taking the trees out could cause damage to the structure. With all the technology we have, I thought it was the cost involved in restoring and upkeep as Guatemala is not very rich, I could be wrong.



The Tour van stopped on the road and everyone got out to take pictures of the monkeys on the trees.



Above Picture National tree of Guatemala 'Ceiba'


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Visited Belize in September 2018, September is hot and humid, not the best time to visit. Everyone speaks English though locals speak Kriol among themselves.

Day 1                            

                                           Belize City Airport to San Ignacio 

I had booked a shuttle online to take take me from Belize City airport to San Ignacio, for $55 USD. They canceled on me as minimum 2 people are needed to take the shuttle or I could pay double. I took my chances as I coudl not find an online company to take me from Belize Airport to SAN Ignacio, so basically arrived around noon and immigration is quick and easy. Once outside the airport, cab drivers approached me, the price was $160 to go to San Ignacio, I declined and asked the taxi drive how much to go to the bus stop in Belize City, the price is $25 and I agreed. I had already searched the online forums and knew that to be a fair price.The taxi drive tried to convince me to go to San Ignacio, he kept saying the buses will be full.

At the Belize City bus stop I waited for 15 minutes and was on a Bus to San Ignacio. There are no AC in the bus, the ticket was 5.50 USD or 11 Belize dollars. And the bus was full, though I got a seat. Roughly 3 hours later I was in San Ignacio.


Belize City main bus terminal

                                                     San Ignacio 

 Small little border town, just a few city blocks, one can walk anywhere. Cayo welcome center is where you can get all the tourist information from. Its by the main bus stop, now in San Ignacio there is no bus terminal, just a stop by the road side. Locals are friendly and will help you directions if needed. Hot and sweaty from the bus ride, I headed to my hotel that I had booked though booking.com for $25 a night. Private room with attached bath.



After a refreshing shower, I was off to explore the town. Found a place that sells organized tours, booked a day tour through them to Tikal Guatemala, for the following day. Price was $135.

Day 2 was spent in Tikal

First day in San Ignacio, I had dinner at Erva's, its on Far West street. A dinner of fish, rice and beans and a side salad with a beer was around 10 USD. The next night I ate a Chinese restaurant called Maxim's. There is also an Indian restaurant call Tandoor. There are no shortage of eating options in San Ignacio.

Day 3 and DAY 4, I headed back to Belize City, again at the bus stop in San Ignacio cab driver approached me, to take me back they wanted $75 this time. I took the bus back.

                                                                    Belize City

My hotel in Belize city was located between the main Bus stop and down town. The price was $60 a night for an A/C room with breakfast included.

TIP -  if you want to use ATM to get local currency, there is an ATM in downtown from Scotia bank, its near the Broadies supermarket.

Belize city is divided into 2 main parts, north side and south side. South side has extreme poverty. Broken down shacks with more than one family living in them, Belize city has 35% unemployment as per my cab driver. A lot of houses are on stilts due to flooding from the sea. North Side is the richer and nicer area with a lot of ex-pat and retires calling it home.

I made my way in South Side to St. John's Cathedral. Its the oldest Cathedral in the Caribbean built in 1812, made by bricks used to balance the ships that came from Europe and Africa.



The first picture is the Cathedral and the 2nd picture is what is left of a wall around the Cathedral, the slaves had to be on the other side of the wall.

I did go inside the Cathedral, it is beautiful.

Behind the Cathedral is an old governors mansion by the ocean. I had a cab drive me along the south part of the city. We drove past old cemeteries, the graves are above ground due to sea water in the ground. We went past government buildings, museum's, schools - kids in Belize wear white uniforms. Then we went to the nicer part of the city the north side. Beautiful drive along the ocean, beautiful colonial houses, sea side bars. Embassies and casinos and the cab driver gave me an commentary as he drove along. The hour and a half ride along Belize city in the Taxi cost was 25 USD.


 

The first picture above is an old colonial house on barrack street, back in the 1800's there was no A/C and the houses were built with all those windows to ventilate and keep the house cooler.
The 2nd photo is of Brodies supermarket, they have a deli for cheap eats. Downtown, though rest of the stores were Chinese and Indian owned as far as I could tell.

Due to lack of time I plan to visit Belize again to see the Belize Cayes (Islands)
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Benque Viejo del Carmen Belize to Melchor de Mencos Guatemala Border Crossing

From San Ignacio Belize the border is about 20 minutes drive along the beautiful Mopan River. At the check point one walks into the Belize immigration,  there are 2 windows you'll need to go through. The first one is to Pay an exit fee, When leaving Belize you will have to pay 40 Belize dollars as an exit fee. Next window is where they stamp your passport. There is an Exit forum everyone has to fill out.

There are unofficial money changer there, to change money into Guatemala Quetzal. Most of them will give you a good rate. I used the money changers in central America before, so basically changed small amount to get me by.


Belize Side of the Border Immigration office

After getting your exit stamp, you'll walk through no man's land a few meters to Guatemala Immigration, this is hassle free for me as I have a US passport. There were other European and Asian tourists, they didn't have any issues either.


Guatemala Immigration

Guatemala Immigration there are no entry exit fees.

Entry Back into Belize, the only question the immigration officer asked me where I was going, I replied San Ignacio, there is no entry fee back into Belize.

When flying out of Belize city there is no exit fee.
Hope this helps any fellow traveler, feel free to ask any questions
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Plaza Bolivar Bogota


I Visited Bogota in July 2018

Weather in July - evenings and nights get cold, pack some warm clothes

Airport to Hotel taxi, I got a cab from outside the airport, and the price was U$D 15.

Hotel - I stayed at Hostal Casa Cubil, Private room was $40 a night, I loved my stay there, check booking.com for discounts

Day 1 in Bogota

I met up with a friend through Couchsurfing and we went exploring around town, mostly Zona Rosa area. After walking all afternoon/evening we ended having dinner at a empanadas street food place, I had some kind of a egg cheese empanadas for under a dollar.

At the time of writing this 1 U$D = 2900 Colombian Pesos.

Taxis are everywhere and have meters, not too expensive.




Above Pictures: Juan Valdez café, there are over 100 cafés in Colombia and BBC Bogota beer company, there are several of those in Bogota as well.

Best Coffee in Bogota Colombia - YouTube


Day 2

I did 2 tours, the first one was a walking tour of Bogotá and the 2 one was a street food tour. Both tours met in front of the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum)

Bogota Colombia July 2018 - YouTube


I highly recommend these tours, the first one started at 10 AM and the 2nd at 2 PM, after the food tour the group ended up at BBC, and I was back at my hotel by 10 PM.

A post shared by Arvin (@arvin_travels) on Jul 29, 2018 at 9:29am PDT

Bogota one of the best cities in the world for street art.

DAY 3

Another tour, this time a history tour, we met at plaza Bolivar and talk about the history, walk to presidents house or palace. The tour guide talked about the FARC and the drug wars. The tour ended with lunch at a french cafe.

After lunch the group decided to go to Monserrate Mountain in Bogota for some great view of the city from the top. So we walked till the cable car station, to take the cable car to the top of the mountain was about 10USD going and coming back.

Monserrate Bogota - YouTube

Day 4 time to catch a flight.



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