Wonder Number 8: The Colosseum

Mom and I took the train into Rome first thing in the morning, and we got into Rome to spend the afternoon and next day there. We arrived at the train station, and walked to our hotel, which was close to the train station.

I’m still scarred and don’t want to get into it, but it was a HUGE frustration. They “lost” our reservation but conveniently could send us to a super shitty hotel around the corner. I’ve rarely been so upset. (And yes, they got BURNED on my reviews.)

But alas, Mom was a much better sport about it than I was, and we made the best of it so we could head out for the afternoon. We were going to see the Colosseum.

Guys, I seriously get a bit teary-eyed talking about this one. As my twenties come to a close, seeing the Colosseum represents achieving a goal I set for myself on my twenty-fourth birthday. A goal I have spent the rest of my twenties in the pursuit of – seeing all eight wonders of the world. (Yes, there are eight – don’t worry, there’ll be a post on that soon!)

Amanda Plewes at her eighth wonder of the world Read more

Luxor Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride

One thing I’ve wanted to do for a long time is ride in a hot air balloon – it seems so cool and so peaceful! When Hassan mentioned that you could do an excursion the next morning to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, I signed up immediately! It was only $100US per person, so I thought it was quite the deal! (That’s the standard price, too!)

The wake up call was crazy early. We had to be down, ready to go, at 4:15. About 12 people from the boat went, and considering that the boat was sailing with minimal guests, it turned into about 25% of the boat! (Yes… on a cruise meant for I heard 250 people, ours had 40 – 50. Basically how Egypt tourism is going these days.)

We got on smaller boats to go across the river, where we filled out forms removing them from liability and listing our weight. You definitely aren’t in the litigiousness of the US anymore! I took a few seconds to read what they asked me to sign, and the guy interrupted me and was like “the pilot will explain this all soon.”

I just replied with “I read all documents before signing them.” He looked perplexed.

Then we got into vans that took us to the field where they were inflating the balloons. That was its own kind of awesome thing to watch. They were inflating probably 12 hot air balloons and each one inflated at a slightly different rate. In the pre-dawn hours, the main light was coming from whenever they were firing gas into the balloons. Definitely cool to watch.

But then even cooler – we got into the basket of our balloon! It’s bigger than I expected – I think there were 12 people in the basket, including the pilot. It’s also so much hotter! The heat coming off of the burners was incredible. Luckily, when you’re on a hot air balloon ride, they’re not burning all the time – just when you need to go up.

We were probably the fourth balloon to launch that morning. There were balloons ahead of us and behind us, and it was cool to be in the midst of all of the balloons. At this point, dawn was beginning to break.

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Wonder #7: The Pyramids

I cannot believe I have officially seen seven wonders of the world! (Though I’m in search of 8. 🙂 ) For a long time, I always kind of thought if I was going to miss seeing a wonder, it would have been the Pyramids (due to political situation, not lack of my desire to go).

But alas, I made it!

The Pyramids, even after all the other wonders, are an adventure unlike any other. The touts at the Pyramids are legend (in fact, alternate title for this post was “too many touts to count”), and legend in a bad way. They’ve been known to make seasoned travelers get scammed and quite annoyed.

This was part of the reason Daniel and I decided to go together – as we’re both traveling alone, we thought two would be better than individually when it came to standing up against these folks. And for me, the presence of a guy really helps cut down on staring, cat calling, etc.

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Egypt: Getting There is Half the Fun

Getting around Jordan and into Egypt is no small feat. Most places suggest to go around Jordan and end up back in Amman, then fly to Egypt if you want to see it as well.

But there is another way – there is a ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba, which are both ports on the Red Sea. It can be an easier and cheaper way to get from Jordan to Egypt, especially if you want to do anything in the Sinai.

For me, I knew I wanted to be in the Sinai for at least a bit, so I decided to go ahead and take the ferry.

Alas… as I’m finding is true for much of the Middle East, information online about anything can be scarce and not exactly up to date. Online, you’ll find out all about the fast ferry and the slow ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba, and there are multiple times for each every day.

Get to Aqaba and ask around about the ferry? First, you’ll be lucky to find even travel agents who are aware of the ferry. And then… well, I came in the off season, and Egypt has been suffering from a serious lack of tourism in the past couple of years. So there’s not a fast ferry for tourists anymore.

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Wonder Number 6: Petra!

I got to channel my inner Indiana Jones at Petra for two days. I’m so glad I took two days – the site is HUGE, and especially in the summer, you really can’t do a full day there!

To get to the Treasury (which is what you picture when you think “Petra”), it’s a bit more than a mile walk (I think). The first part is just down a normal dirt path that’s nothing special, but then you enter the Siq. The Siq is the canyon that leads to Petra, and it’s an amazing entrance to the site. Nothing builds up the suspense quite like that twisting canyon – every step you take, you know that the Treasury might be just around the bend. But it’s so much longer than I thought it’d be!

So I was in suspense for quite a while until the canyon opened to the Treasury. It was worth coming halfway around the world to see. The Treasury is giant and as amazing as it looks in the pictures. I was happy to find that there weren’t just tons of tourists around, so I was able to get some decent photos.

Of course, the ever-present salesmen and touts tried to sell me all sorts of pictures themselves! It’s getting so tiring to keep telling them to go away. I’ve definitely gotten to the point where I’ve universally dropped the “thank you” on “No, thank you.”

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Wonder #5: The Taj Mahal

I feel like one of the life lessons you learn just past kindergarten is that few things live up to their hype. The Taj Mahal was one of those things that absolutely lives up to and exceeds all expectations for it.

On Tuesday, we set our alarms so we would be out of the hotel by 4:30 and in line at the Taj by 4:45. It was an early early morning, but so completely worth it. We were going for sunrise, but alas, the sun never did rise. It was a cloudy day, but it didn’t matter.

Our group was the first one on the grounds that morning, so we got the magic pictures everyone hopes for – pictures with no one in the background. As we ran in to take as many pictures as possible with as few people in them as possible, you couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the size and beauty of the Taj Mahal.

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30 Before 30: The List

As I’m writing this, I’ve got about 50 weeks until I turn 30. My twenties have been amazing – I have no regrets, I’m happy, and I feel no need to “find myself.” But I do feel a need for fun and adventure. So I’m dedicating my 30 before 30 to having more fun and appreciating how amazing life is.

1. Cultivate an opinion on which region of the world has the best wine
I’m excited to pursue this one. I think it means drinking plenty of wine.

2. Jump off a cliff (literally)
Because why not? Read more