Ras al Jinz

Ras al Jinz hotel view at sunset

We leave the city of Muscat Oman today in three comfortable Toyota SUVs along the coast of Oman. Our final destination is Ras al Jinz, famous for its Green Sea Turtle nests but we have some stops along the way.

First stop is at a sinkhole – Bimmah Sinkhole. I have many sinkholes back home so I am familiar with the concept but I guess they are rare here and this one is close to the ocean. It is formed from a depression or collapse of the limestone. A lake of sorts has formed and the sea water mixes with fresh water. The water level changes with the tides. It is a refreshing place to dip your feet in the water, or swim as we saw others do. Just a warning that your toes might be fish food. I had many little fish nibbling on my toes as I walked in.

Next stop is to the village of Wadi Tiwi (We kept hearing it pronounced Waditouille like the movie with the cooking rat). Our guide and one of our other drivers is from this area. Even though we are close to the coast it is desert-like. Wadi Tiwi is very green since it is in the valley between the mountains. We are in a very charming village with lots of fruit trees; in fact the big crop here is dates. We visit a date farm and talk with the farmer about his farming practices. Our guide shows us how they sometimes have to manually pollinate the dates because there are not enough pollinators. They talk about how all of the date tree is used. Some of the mesh like material is used to make rope; we are given a demonstration. The branches and palm leaves themselves are used to build shelter to hide from the harsh sun. Afterward they give us some Omani tea and some thin samosas for a snack; I especially enjoy the cheese ones. We take a long walk down hill to see the town at a slower pace. As we walk many SUV loads of children passed us by. They are coming home from school. Instead of school buses, they travel in style by SUV.

We eventually get to our destination for the evening. If you remember I wasn’t too happy with our last hotel. Apparently neither was any of my travel companions. In fact, of my not so great room it appears I had the best of the rooms. We are all very curious about our next hotel choice. We are pleasantly surprised when we end up at a seaside resort. It is nice and clean. We are on the beach and there is a nice pool to take a dip. The rooms are designed like shacks but inside are decorated like comfortable tents. We are all very pleased with this hotel choice.

We get a break and some of us sneak off to take a dip in the ocean. There are loads of dead puffer fish on the beach and floating in the water; no other fish but the puffer fish. We all blow it off and get in the water anyway. It seems to be fine.

We meet for a nice dinner buffet at the hotel and then we are off to see nesting sea turtles. It is not always guaranteed a turtle will be nesting but we try our luck anyway. It is a popular night and there is a large crowd waiting already. They only let a few observe at a time when the female is laying eggs so we have a very long wait ahead of us. Finally around 10:00 PM our group is called and we head out what seems about 1km toward the sea (hard to tell the distance for sure since I am very tired at this point). I almost regret coming because the wait is so long. When I finally see the large turtle I am glad I came.

She has already laid all her eggs for the evening and now is covering up the holes and creating the diversion holes. More people can observe her now since the tricky part is done. She seems tired. It seems like a good amount of work to bury those eggs.

After we see a newly hatched turtle. It follows the guides light into the ocean. They tell us that only 2-3 baby turtles of 1000 eggs actually make it. There are so many predators and some get confused and cannot find their way to the ocean.

I am so incredibly tired by the time we finally make the walk back to the visitor center. I felt almost like I am sleep walking back. The moon is full so our path is well lit. It seems like the center never gets closer until it finally does. When I arrive I realize that half our group was split up into another group that is still out observing. I am sad we still need to wait around for them.

I can already tell tomorrow is going to be tough because I am not getting a full night sleep tonight. I hope I don’t regret this turtle outing.

Muscat day tour

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

In 2020 the Sultan Qaboos bin Said passed away. He had ruled from 1970 and oversaw the country in a great transformation. He made sure the people were well taken care of, built infrastructure and most importantly brought peace and safety to the region. In 2001 he dedicated a great mosque to the country, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. It is a large and very nice mosque that we were able to visit. This is the only place in Oman where I really felt the need to cover up – Cover body and hair completely.

Opera house

We next stop at the Opera house but we don’t pay to go inside. I am not sure why, perhaps because of time. It is a very nice building.

Fish market

Fisheries are very important to the Oman economy. We visit the local fish market in Muscat. We see where fish salesmen sell their daily catch. It surprisingly doesn’t smell too bad in the market. The people who run the market do a very good job at cleaning. A cat or two wanders around waiting for pieces of fish guts to drop on the ground. They might have better luck at another market.

Back to souq

We return back to the Mutrah Souq. A few of us visited yesterday but the rest of the group did not. I am not in the mood to shop so I spend the time reading and walking around the market and surrounding areas.

Palace and forts and old town

We drive by some old forts and stop in front of the palace for a short stroll. This palace is the palace that is used for official visits. It is not a place of residence for the Sultan.

Meal with Sidab women’s group

Part of what makes Intrepid tours so great is that they carve out portions of the trip where you are able to meet with locals. Today we have lunch with a women’s group that helps support other woman and uses sewing and other skills to sell things to make money. One of their efforts is to sew interesting shopping bags to replace the disposable plastic bags used in the country. It is an uphill battle because people love their plastic bags.

We also learn about frankincense. Oman is said to have the best frankincense in the world. Now I know what those small rocks at the souq were.

Many stop at the museum but I head back to the hotel to rest for afternoon because still jet lagged. Some are meeting for dinner again at a nearby restaurant but I am still full from lunch so I skip the evening dinner.

Tomorrow we head down the coast to Ras Al Jinz.

Muscat, Oman

Mutrah Souq

I’ve been in Muscat Oman for over a day now and I find it to be a kind and peaceful country. It is conservative but it is less conservative than I initially thought it was. When I told people I was traveling to Oman I got many people saying “Where?”. Oman (Sultanate of Oman) is not one of those countries you hear talked about on the news. It’s been very calm and peaceful here since the 1970’s and is becoming a more popular tourist destination as of recent. Still in the USA it is not at the top of travelers lists but I believe it should be.

From the map you will see it is in a very tricky location, surrounded by countries that are not safe to travel to (besides UAE). Luckily Oman has a good relationship with all nearby countries. Their main export is oil but they also export fish. Tourism also ranks high in their economy.

The British and Portuguese were involved in this region at one time but for many centuries it has been an monarchy, ruled by a Sultan (passed down through male family lines). It wasn’t always referred to as a sultanate but earlier ruled by an Imam, not to be confused with the person who leads Muslim prayer.

To be fair I did not know this country either but met someone on another tour who had only good things to say about the country so it was put on my travel list. After things got easier after covid I made a plan to book a tour here. Now that I am here I would feel perfectly safe traveling on my own but I like the structure of the tour to organize visits to many different places for me in a short time frame.

In the morning of the first day of the tour the hotel has arranged a ride to the souq. My first instinct is to chill in my room until I meet with my tour group this evening but I force myself to go. I do want to buy at least one scarf. I have the same problem at this souq with no one giving me a moment to think. I have a moment of clarity and grab a cheap scarf so my shopping for the day is done. I walk around the Muscat waterfront while I wait and get a shawarma for lunch. There are others in my group in the van ride to the souq so I get to meet them early.

We meet with the entire group at 5pm and have introductions. Our guide Said tells us what the expect the upcoming week. We all go to dinner at the nearby Turkish restaurant and eat way too much food.

Tomorrow we have a day tour of Muscat.

Heading to Oman

View from my hotel room in Muscat

I am sad to say that I am very relieved I am leaving Bali since it hasn’t been a great visit heath-wise. I know most people have magical experiences here but I am not one of those people. I am also looking forward to a change of scenery. My next location will still be hot but more desert like and perhaps drier.

I head to Oman today but not without first a little drama. I have a group tour booked for my visit to Oman so most of my plans are already arranged for me. However they leave a little up to the traveler themselves, like the matter of visas. When I originally booked the trip many months ago I did my visa research or at least I thought I did. On my trusty spreadsheet my note was that no visa is required for stays of under ten days for those that are a G1 national (basically a list of countries with very powerful passports like the USA, where I am from). I thought that is the end of it. A day before my flight out from Bali I start to see conflicting information and I get worried. Some sites say visas are needed, some say they aren’t. Some say you can purchase a visa on arrival, and some say you can no longer do that. I decide to apply for a 30 day visa online just to cover myself in all the scenarios. While I am doing this of course the website errors out on me frequently….sounds familar. Also they require very specific uploads of photos: very small file size, no background in the head photo. I am scrambling with all my photo editing software (on my mobile devices) to get them what they need. After one rejection I finally get my approved visa shortly after I resubmit. Thank goodness that drama is over with!

Lunch and one last minute head and shoulder massage before I leave. I spend a couple of hours and lots of money trying to mail things back home including a $60 picture I bartered down from over $100. I probably could have shoved the rest of my purchases in the luggage but now with this picture I have to mail things home. I grab a bunch of things I no longer need and head to DHL. They want to charge $300, three times the cost of my items, because they only send things express. Luckily I find a post office around the corner that has boxes and will send it all for less than $100. Still more than the cost of all the items shipping but what am I going to do? I can’t carry the stuff with me. They only accept cash so this visit includes me running around looking for an ATM first.

One more pizza

I go back to my hotel just in time for the rain to start. I spend the rest of the afternoon packing and following up on things. Soon enough someone heads to my door with an umbrella (its still raining). My car has arrived and we head to the airport. My flight has been delayed 45 minutes already but I am still planning on arriving for the original flight time. I’ve had flights get delayed then changed back to the original time. I am getting a little anxious because last time I flew out of Bali my flight got cancelled and I got stuck another night in Bali. I really need to leave tonight.

Eventually it is time to check in. The lady at the counter seems to be asking me more questions than I see at the other counters and it is taking noticeably longer than everyone else. She requests the visa information so I am very glad I have arranged it in advance. Since they technically aren’t required for short stays would she have not let me board the plane without one? Even the visa she has issues with because one of the dates is labeled in an odd way. She has to get her manager involved. Eventually everything checks out and I am on my way. We board even later than the late boarding time but at least we are taking off. The nine plus hour flight is mostly uneventful except me not sleeping as much as I would have liked. I did binge watch a bunch of HBO shows though since I am not a current subscriber.

We arrive in Dubai and get off the plane in a remote site and take a bus to the gate. The bus ride is long. I start to realize how large this airport actually is. After a security check and a long walk I have to take another bus to terminal 2 to catch my connection. The whole commute from one plane to another takes over an hour. My original layover was 3 hours but now it’s reduced to two due to flight delays. I luckily make it to my gate just in time. Note to self: Never book a short layover in Dubai.

I arrive in Muscat and I have a driver waiting for me who takes me to my hotel. He has a hard time initially finding my hotel because google is wrong. Luckily the hotel is not too far away from the pin. Note: At the airport I was not asked to show my visa. Hilarious, I know.

I am at my hotel in Oman. I have booked an extra night since I have come in a day early. An extra day should come in handy in adjusting to the new time zone. My room is meh. I love this tour group but the hotels they choose in some countries are something to be desired. It is advertised as a 3 star but it is definitely a two. There are little details like cleanliness and the quality of the bedding and such that make the difference as well as things being generally outdated. It takes me 5 hours to figure out how to work the AC but I finally do. The funny thing is that there is a large bag of random things that is just in my room. I peeked and it is food items, bar of soap, bottle of shampoo and more. I leave it for now. Update: The next day housekeeping comes by to ask for it! The other part I don’t like is that smoke from another room seeps into my room at times. I don’t think its a non-smoking hotel so I am not sure there is much I can do about it. It’s only a couple of nights, not worth moving all my stuff to a different room.

Rice terraces and all day spa days

Tegalalang rice fields

I had grand plans of finally attending a yoga class and improving my mind and body and stuff but for the next few days I take it easy and stay close to my hotel again. I do sneak out for pizza at some point though.

I book an evening tour to see rice fields (Tegalalang) and a show even though my stomach is still uneasy. I take medicine and head out to visit the rice fields in a town nearby. It is too far to walk so my only option is to hire a taxi or take a private tour such as this one. (No I am not renting a bike. It is very scary on the roads so not an ideal place to learn).

The iconic rice fields are beautiful to see. I am there in the afternoon and it seems like the crowds have passed for the day because it isn’t very busy. My driver tells me about the different growing stages and how they are irrigated and harvested. I take one or two kitschy pictures even though I feel ridiculous doing so. I didn’t shell out money for the bali swing though. I hear screaming above from people on the swing while they are trying to do their iconic swing photos.

I also notice a zip line across the fields that is actually a bike. I don’t see it in action but it seems scary. I have at least one friend that would try to talk me into that if she was here to see it.

Bike zip line

We head back to Ubud and my driver drops me at the market for a couple of hours. It is hot and my stomach is starting to make trouble. I really don’t care for shopping; there is no browsing because as soon as you show a little interest in an item a person will come up to you right away and start putting things in front of you and talking nonstop. I cannot shop under that stress. The thing is, if they let me be for a couple of minutes I probably would buy a couple things. Instead I get anxious and can’t decide therefore I walk away. I contemplate walking back to my hotel and forgetting the rest of the tour. After about 20 minutes of walking around the market I sit in front of a circle K and start reading. Eventually it starts pouring so I put on the poncho I’ve been carrying around forever for the first time. Other travelers see my poncho and ask where I purchased it. I tell them I brought it from home and this is the first time I finally get to wear it. Now I don’t regret adding it to the bulk of my backpack. I don’t want to visit a cafe during this time because I still don’t trust my stomach and I am too far from my hotel room. I eventually meet my guy an hour before my show is supposed to start and ask him to take me back to my hotel. I am not going to be able to sit through a show tonight. It is sad because it seems like a nice cultural dance show.

Treat Yo Self

Have I said that massages are so cheap here? I decide to treat-yo-self and book a half day spa package at a nearby spa (not the same one as before but one not too far with good reviews).

I first stop at my favorite cafe and get a nice breakfast. With all my misery in this town this is a bright shining light.

I head to the spa where I begin 90 minute massage which is part one the experience. They take me out to a private room with a very large tub. It is nice and relaxing but even 90 minutes is not long enough when it is time for my facial.

For my facial there is a couple of rounds of face mask and cleansers then a thick layer of honey topped with layer upon layer of cold wet cucumbers that sit for 15 minutes

Does my skin look rejuvenated, ha!

After the facial I go back to the main room to start my hair mask. There is washing and then cream hair mask treatment. It all feels very nice on my scalp.

I am served ginger tea and sweet potato snack at the end.

I must feel good because I decide to go out for dinner. The only problem is I really don’t have an appetite. I just starting taking the probiotics today so maybe they are messing with my appetite. I force myself to eat anyway and head back to the hotel. 3 years ago I would be finding a place to get some after dinner cocktails. How have times changed.

Next Morning

After breakfast at my hotel I thought about going to a yoga class since my stomach seems to be on the mend again. It then starts raining. It is already a minimum 30 minute walk so I decide to spend the morning in my room getting things done back home while things are still “open” for me to do so (13 hour time zone difference makes things hard).

I am craving a burger so I go out for a late lunch and some shopping. I buy a shirt that will come in handy in Oman when I have to cover up the majority of my body.

I also stop at my favorite ice cream chain in town and get a very weird vanilla charcoal ice cream. Nothing is wrong with the flavor but picture eating vanilla flavored sand. It has a weird texture but it sort of works for me.

I am still not able to locate the piece of art I want to purchase. I need to buy it before I try a shipment home tomorrow since I leave soon. This is always my problem. I am a terrible shopper. I will walk away 99% of the time initially then I have the hardest time finding the item I had my eyes on originally. I know some people are impulse buyers but I have the opposite problem. I need to be more impulsive.