Tag Archives dubai

Camel Trekking Dubai

by Friday, May 15, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netI recently spent two days in Dubai in the United Emirates. I flew Emirates Airlines and this was where my layover was.  I could add this short stopover at no additional charge to my flight price. For this reason, being able to break up my long haul flight back from my trip to Bangkok, and getting a glimpse of this fast developing, and progressive city, (in reality, man- made for “tourists”), I couldn’t pass it up.

I’m not all into high-end fashion, like some of my friends.   This is probably more so because I can’t afford it, so why tease myself?  But this is what people always would tell me to check out when I mention I was going there.  I would,  just to say I did,  and  humor myself, (maybe? but I doubt it-sorry girls) but that’s not what my intentions for going there was for.  My goal was to check off another item on my bucketlist, which is:

“ride a camel in the desert” 

I have no idea why that fascinates me so much, but it’s what I was there to do.  The fancy malls and impressive buildings  would be cool to see, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if I didn’t.  My daughter was on this trip with me and when I asked her if that interested her, she screamed, “YES!” So it was decided. Camel trekking in the desert……….check!

The real point of this stopover was mainly to relax a bit.  Our itinerary for the two-week trip we planned was so jammed packed, (just reading it made me tired), and I even doubted that we could accomplish everything we set out to do.

Assuming that we did, I knew we would be exhausted and all done touring by the time we got to Dubai.  We wanted to keep our layover schedule extremely light to help us unwind a little after our time exploring India and Thailand. We thought it was a simple, yet a perfect end to our trip. My daughter also wanted to see the outlet mall, because she heard there were knock-offs there. Other than that, we were good.

The plan:

day 1:

  • arrive in the afternoon 
  • hang out at the hotel pool
  • get dinner
  • go to the Dubai Outlet Mall

day 2:

  • breakfast at hotel
  • beach all day
  • camel desert ride and Arabic dinner show

day 3:

  • breakfast at hotel
  • flight back home

 

I searched the internet for camel trekking tours in Dubai on my last night in Bangkok. I had to do some research because there were many different options and price ranges. I also wanted to read reviews on trip advisor and yelp for the best one.

We chose the Half Day Camel Trekking Desert Safari package ,that included:

  • hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • 4×4 desert safari drive
  • camel trekking in the Arabian desert
  • traditional Arabic buffet dinner
  • belly dancing show
  • sheesha
  • henna

The package seemed like it had everything we were looking for and more! The reviews were great and the price seemed reasonable so we booked it. We booked it through getyourguide.com and the company was North Tours LLC and the cost was $85.00 USD/pp.

On the day of the tour they picked us up at our hotel lobby at 3:30 pm. There was another family from our hotel joining us.  They were a very nice family from Italy. It was a husband and wife on their 30th wedding anniversary and their 18-year-old daughter who accompanied them on their trip to help them with translation.  They couldn’t speak English and felt better with her interpreting for them.  She laughed how she made out great, being able to come to this supposedly romantic trip for two, for free, just because they needed her language skills. By the way, her English was super.

The driver picked us up and we drove about 30 minutes or so to the entry point of the desert. He then switched the SUV in 4 wheel drive and just went for it. We where all shocked at how crazy and fast her was going. We all laughed with a mixture of excitement and fear.  We were literally being throw all around the vehicle.   I looked up and noticed padded roll bars and became instantly aware that we were in for a bumpy ride. It was way more of a road trip then any of us expected.  But we survived.

We got to the site of the desert camp. It was very cute and so Middle Eastern looking. (if there’s such a thing?) I loved it!  There were many low table aligned around a stage in the center. They each had place setting and cushions as seats in the sand. Each table had a number.

thewanderlustyogi.net

sheesha smoking room

Encircled around the dining area were covered rooms, each with its own purpose.  Upon arriving, a man served us waters and showed us to his room. It was a souvenir shop selling traditional desert turbans, and belly dancing wraps that he, in seconds, adorned us with. thewanderlustyogi.net He quickly tried to sell them to us and when we said that we weren’t interested he got sort of aggressive try to barter us down and kept trying to pressure us to buy the items.  I felt like I was back in New Delhi.  We didn’t budge. I mean, where the heck would we wear these at home? Nowhere!

thewanderlustyogi.net

my attempt at belly dancing

The driver told us to wait a few minutes and the camel trek guide would be there momentary.  We browsed around the shop and then the area.  Some of the other rooms were for sheesha smoking, another for henna, some looked like it was a serving area for food, and then a bar. We drank down our waters fast.  It was so hot! Desert hot! We were very glad at that moment that we chose the evening trek, we couldn’t imagine how hot it would have been, mid day! Yikes!

I glanced over and saw the camel guide heading our way, also the Italian family walking towards us, all decked out in their desert attire.  I guess the daughter wasn’t too good at translating NO!? They did look cute though.

thewanderlustyogi.net

camels just chillin’

The guide walked us over to our camels. There were 3 lined up, attached by ropes to one another.  The first one was going to be for the Italian mom and daughter, the second for the Italian dad and the 3rd, for my daughter and me.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe all had help getting onto these huge beasts.  They were sitting in the sand.  Ours was a little feisty, making noise and using its mouth to nudge the poor Italian dad.  The dad looked concerned but the guide just laughed. Good thing the camel had a muzzle over its mouth.  Then all at once, the guide instructed the camels to stand. We all yelled out a little. It felt like we went up high so quick.  We started our trek.

thewanderlustyogi.netThe trek was calm and quiet as the camels walked slowly, one after the other. The guide just walked at a minimal pace in front of our caravan and pulled us through the Arabian desert. Did I mention it was hot? It was so hot and dry. I know. It is the desert after all, but its hard to understand that feeling of “desert heat” until you are actually in it. I wish I drank more and felt completely dehydrated. I tried to put that out of my mind and be in the present moment. This was hard to do because I was also trying to capture this moment by filming and taking pictures.thewanderlustyogi.net

I was talking to myself in my mind the whole time,

” this is so cool”,

“Make sure you get some good footage and pictures for instragram.”

“Never mind that, just enjoy it!”

” I hope this camel doesn’t freak out!”

” I’m so hot and thirsty.”

“How far are we going to go?”

” We could be killed out here!”

“Don’t think like that.”

thewanderlustyogi.netAnd after an hour and a half  our trek ended in the middle of the Arabian desert. What? Then we saw the SUV driver on his way over the sandy hills.  Whew! He came to the end point and picked us up to bring us to the dinner show.  I asked him if he would take a few shots for us and he did. I was glad and thankful.

thewanderlustyogi.net

our camel trekking guide

After another wild ride in his SUV we made it back to camp.  We were the only ones there. The driver said we could go to the bar and get more drinks (all non-alcohol drinks were unlimited and included) and we were able to do henna and sheesha if we wanted, while waiting for the dinner and show to begin.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe got drinks and headed over to the henna room. The lady wasn’t very friendly, but we really wanted henna. She only did a very little area on our hand. We asked her if she could do a little more if we would tip her a few dirham, and she obliged.

After that, the place started filling up. I couldn’t believe how many more people arrived.  It looked like the dinner show was going to be sold out.  The line for the henna started to get long, so we were happy that we got it done before anyone else showed up.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe looked over to another room and they were setting up for sheesha. I know its bad and probably as cancer causing as cigarettes but I do sheesha, or as we normally call it, hookah (on occasion).  Its like non-smoker smoking an occasional cigar every so often. Everything in moderation I say. And since we were there, and this is “their” tradition (when in Rome)  I even let my daughter do it, even though she took like one puff and didn’t like it very much,  Good!thewanderlustyogi.net

Sitting there on the cushions, puffing the sheesha with other tourists, we all suddenly noticed the amazingly beautiful, desert sunset.  It looked like no other sunset I have ever seen before.  With the desert as the back drop, and the halo of dissipating heat surrounding the sun, it was hard to even give it justice by a picture.  I was expressing how absolutely stunning it was and a worker who over heard me told me to go to the second floor for an even better view. It was incredible and it felt like a very special moment. Standing alone on the second floor balcony, gazing at this view, felt surreal. I almost felt outside of my body for a moment. A warm sensation came through my body, from the crown of my head, making its way down to my feet.  As this warmth left my body, I got a sudden chill.

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desert sunset

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desert sunset from 2nd floor and looking over the desert camp

People were scattered around the camp, some looking at souvenirs, some getting henna, some smoking sheesha, and some just relaxing in the sand on the hill behind.  It felt very nice and relaxing, especially with the heat subsiding. The announcer spoke over the intercom that it was time for dinner and that we should all go to our assigned tables.  Upon arrival our driver let us know which table was ours.thewanderlustyogi.net

The Italian family was also with us and some others. We sat down and greeted each other and then they announced that we could all line up to the buffet for food.  The line was long but moved along fast.  The Arabian men lined up and each scooped food onto our plates. We had a little of everything, just to at least try it all.  The gave way too much. My plate was heavy, filled with lamb kabobs, legumes, rice and pita.

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Arabic food

We all sat and chatted as we ate and after about 20 minutes the announcer said the show was about to begin. Red, blue and green lights started shining in the center of the stage and loud Arabic music (that had a sort of dubstep sound) began to play.

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belly dancer at the dinner-show

A belly dancer took the stage. She shook, wiggled her hips and stomach and danced all around, which reminded me a lot like Shakira. She was very entertaining and talented. Then the second act  took the stage. thewanderlustyogi.netIt was a man with a lighted dress that spun like a top. It was a great show and was fun to watch.  At the end the announcer thanked us for coming, hoped we enjoyed it and said to head out to the area of parking to find our drivers.

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Maddie and Julia (the Italian daughter)

We hopped back into the SUV with the Italian family and all said how much we enjoyed it. We told the driver to take it easy driving back. We said we were all full from dinner, not to mention,  it was pitch black and you couldn’t see a thing! He looked through the rear view mirror, smiled, and then pressed on the gas, full speed.

It was very fun and I’m so happy I not only got to take off another item on my bucket list, but it was even better than I anticipated!   If you ever go to Dubai, I  highly recommend this tour. It’s a great time and something you just can’t do anywhere else!

thewanderlustyogi.net

Italian family we met on the camel trekking tour

 

 

 

Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai-Hotel Review

by Tuesday, May 12, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netApril 30, 2015- May 2, 2015, I had the pleasure of staying at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai. Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai It was a planned stopover coming from a two-week trip to India and South East Asia. I flew on Emirates Airlines and Dubai is the layover, so naturally, to break up these long haul flights, I would want to stay a few days in Dubai. Do you blame me?

I’ve heard so many things, as of late, about this extreme city and how it has become a hot tourist spot. Not only does this futuristic city offer sightseeing of over-the-top attractions, boasting the tallest building in the world Burg Kalifa, and the largest man-made islands, The Palm Islands, but it also has some of the best high-end shopping in the world. (although I can only window shop)

Movenpick is a 5 star hotel chain, and in Dubai, they have 3 locations. We opted for the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate location for two reasons.

1. it was right across the street from a mall

2.It has a private beach

Since this was at the tail end to a 2 week nonstop action trip, we felt like lying low and relaxing on the beaches of Dubai, would be a perfect end to our vacation. The sight-seeing things weren’t really a must-do for us, all except the camel safari in the desert experience.   We really wanted to do that excursion. Other than that, relaxing was the main goal.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe arrived around 2 pm at the hotel and were pleasantly greeted by the hotel staff. Everyone at the hotel seemed extremely friendly and helpful. From the bellman, who was dressed in Arabian attire, ( I couldn’t stop thinking about Aladdin) , to the concierge, to the front desk.

The front desk women took all the information, and quickly found my reservation. She offered an upgrade to the pool floor (on the 8th floor) and explained that breakfast was included as well as the shuttle bus to the private beach.  I was a little surprised and can’t say, not slightly disappointed, that we had to take a shuttle to the beach. My impression was that the hotel was directly on the beach. This was probably my mistake, and although it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, still fine.

Every staff member at the hotel spoke English, which for some reason I didn’t realize . I thought they may speak Arabic, with English as a second language, but this was not the case. At any rate, it made it that much easier to communicate.

thewanderlustyogi.net

hotel lobby

We took a walk around the main lobby and the restaurant area.  It was very beautifully decorated with Middle Eastern inspired lamps hanging from the ceiling and ornate decor.  The hotel did a great job of embodying the essence of the Middle East, or at least felt authentic to  how I would imagine the United Emirates to be.

thewanderlustyogi.netThey have 5 restaurants with a variety of cuisines including Moroccan(Al Bahou), Indian(Chor Bazaar), Italian (Sicilia) and Chinese(Shanghai Chic) and global (Mistral) which has an array of cuisines and live cooking stations for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

thewanderlustyogi.netWe only ate the breakfast at Mistral and were overly impressed of the diverse food choices and the sheer amounts of food offered. We could have anything we really wanted, literally; from made to order of omelets, sushi, salads, cured meats, fruits, cuisines from all over the world, you name it, they’d probably have it. You could eat for days and still have options. It was certainly the highlight of the hotel.thewanderlustyogi.net

Our room was with two full beds. My daughter and I have been traveling for weeks sharing a king-sized bed mostly, we opted for the two beds, but did have a choice.thewanderlustyogi.net

The room was very clean and modernly decorated. It had a storage closet for luggage with draws and a safe.

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a perfect spot to keep passports, credit cards and extra money

The bathroom was very roomy, with a toilet to one side, next to a large mirror and wash vanity, then at the opposite side, a rain shower style shower and a tub. It had the glass open view into the bedroom, like many hotels we’ve stayed at have.  thewanderlustyogi.netThey did have a privacy wooded type slide door if you wanted.  This was the funny thing when traveling with your daughter, all the romantic and seemingly normal rooms for couples, didn’t quite fit for our type of traveler.thewanderlustyogi.net

The 8th floor pool was small, but looked classy, had a city view, and seemed like a very nice place to relax.  thewanderlustyogi.netThe pool staff were very attentive, being sure we had sun if we wanted to, or shade if we preferred not. It was very busy the day we went to the pool with no chairs available when we first arrived. The staff kept watch and organized two chairs together for us within minutes.  They also moved our chairs when the sun became blocked by the building, and brought our things to an area with perfect sun exposure.  We laughed at how obliging they were on providing us the conditions for achieving a perfect tan!thewanderlustyogi.net

It was hot beyond what we are used to, to say the least. The desert heat that day was around 101 degree’s, but the pool was, although a tad warmer than one would like, still very refreshing after just sitting for 10 minutes,  a quick dip was a must.  The pool attendants also came by with fresh squeezed fruit drinks for everyone at no charge. It was a great pool day and I don’t remember having such great service by a pool before. I honestly don’t even remember having pool attendants in previous hotel stays. Now that I think about it, all except The Leela Palace- New Delhi, which were extremely accommodating too. It’s funny how the pool service really made a difference in our stay.

Hotels that pay attention to seemingly small details, create a much more pleasurable experience, but its clear that the ones that do, already know that.

The next day we planned on hitting the beach. Relaxing was what we were all about.  We were very excited! We already shopped the mall the night before and have booked our tour excursion for a camel dinner and show in the desert for that night. Thankfully the concierge let us know on the first day that, although we have free shuttle service to the beach, we needed to reserve a time.  It ran every half hour to and from the beach.  (on the hour at the hotel, and on the half hour at the beach) We booked from 9:00 am-1:30 pm,  that way we could have a few hours on the beach, and then have time to get ready before our tour pick up at 3:30.

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waiting for the beach shuttle with our new beach hats we bought the night before at the Ibn Battuta Mall (such tourists!)

We waited for the shuttle with other hotel guests, only about 8 others. The concierge gave us all VIP wrist bands and said it gained us access to the beach, pool area, and restaurant near the beach. It  took about a 20 minute ride through the city towards the beach, and we were dropped off at an executive apartment building.  We had a to take about a 10 minute walk through the parking lots, and down some stair cases towards the beach area. (which would be hard for some seniors, the handicapped or people with small children). Good thing we followed another guest that looked like they had done it before or at least knew where they were going, because otherwise we would have had no clue of how to get tot the beach. The bus driver didn’t say a word. It was all very vague.

thewanderlustyogi.net

Movenpick beach shuttle bus

When we reached the bar area of the pool, they had a towel lending booth. It was free, but you  had to give them your room number and return it before you leave. We noticed quickly that the pool, which looked like a huge lazy pool, was behind fences and under construction. This was too bad because we would have had access to it, and the thought of floating around on a lazy river would have been awesome.

thewanderlustyogi.netNot that this wasn’t  bad enough, but when we got down to the beach it was more than lack luster.  It was a very small beach, away from everything and filled with lounge chairs end to end.  It felt like you were in a bay area that really wasn’t meant to have a beach there.  It was actually the Dubai Marina and the beach was called Jumeirah Beach.  We were both at a loss for words for a good 10 minutes. We could not believe that this was the beach. We imagined a beautiful white sand beach with camels walking by, aligned by a strip of cool Arabic style shops and restaurants and an amazing backdrop of this skyscraper filled city. It did have a city view (the only kind of cool thing about it), but not the one with Burj Kalifa or that area of the city like we were thinking. It was like a hidden and abandoned area, with nothing else there. thewanderlustyogi.net

I think we are at the wrong beach? We must be!

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We both thought that. We swore we saw youtube videos and pictures of Dubai and their beaches and it looks nothing like this. At all! Suddenly I got a sinking feeling, we had reserved the bus back to the hotel for 1:30 pm, it was now only 10ish. That means we are stuck here at this excuse of a beach for 3 and a half more hours! No!  Theres no way we were doing that!

We went up to the bartender and started expressing our disappointment and confusion, even asking him if we could get a taxi to a better beach.  He said we were probably thinking about the beach at the Atlantis-The Palm, Dubai.  I think he was right. I asked if you had to be a guest to go on that beach. He said no, and that there was a beach club that you could pay a daily fee to enter.  We looked at each other and said, “Lets do it!” Ahh rescued. But not so fast. On further information given, he said that the cab ride would be about 45 minutes long and would cost around 250 AED which is approximately $70.00 USD, each way! Then, also keeping in mind we would have to pay the fee to get into the beach club, which was 225 AED ($61.00 USD).

If we were to pay the cab fare, take the 45 minute ride (each way), and pay the beach access fee, we would be spending around $260.00 USD to sit mainly in a cab and spend maybe 45 minutes, max, on that beach. We passed. It just didn’t make sense.

We asked if we were allowed to at least go back early on the shuttle. We were.  We looked at the clock and instantly started running to the shuttle pick-up site, knowing that we probably will miss this one and will have to wait for the next. Luckily we made it. We figured that we would go back to the hotel pool. It was very nice and was extremely convenient to our room if we wanted to use the bathroom etc.  We would have a little poolside lunch and sun.  So it wouldn’t be a total wasted afternoon. And since we would already be right there, when it was time to get ready for our dinner in the desert, it would be easy.  It was a better alternative than the beach.

thewanderlustyogi.netOverall, on the positive,  the hotel was very nice, clean, modern, had a helpful staff, and great food. The less positive aspects, would be the beach (no surprise here),  the beach pool being under construction, having to take the shuttle to the beach, and that the hotel itself is located quite a distance to the city center and where most tourist attractions are.

I would stay at a Movenpick again for sure, I’d just have to stay in one with a better location. I was told by an Emirates flight attendant who lives in Dubai, that next time we come, to see the real authentic Arabic part of Dubai, was to visit the  Deira area of town. This area is filled with old souks, selling spices, gold and perfumes.  We were so bummed out that we found this out at the airport on our way home.  This is exactly what we would have loved to see.  I clearly didn’t do enough research for my quick layover in Dubai. If I go back I will definitely have to check out this area, and  Movenpick even has a hotel there. Perfect!

How to Plan an Educational Tour for Your Teen?

by Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Exciting things are happening in my life currently.

  1. I quit my day job!! I gave my 2 week notice yesterday and am resigning from dental hygiene and becoming a digital nomad.
  • In five weeks my daughter and I are going to kick off my new career and go on a 2 week trip, kind of a mother/daughter bonding trip, before she goes off to college.  We are making stops in:

New Delhi, India

Rishikesh, India

Bangkok, Thailand

Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Dubai, United Emirates

( I know-sounds impossible, but we love a challenge!!)

  • I’m planning on traveling, teaching yoga worldwide, and blogging all about it

Crazy Stuff!

thewanderlustyogi.net


I decided, since this trip has so many stops, and so many activities, in such little time; I better make an extremely detailed itinerary, so that we can accomplish all of our goals.

I’m hoping to be able to make it,

  • fun,
  • cultural
  • relaxing
  • exotic
  • historical
  • spiritual
  • life-changing
  • magical!

This is a very tall order, but we have to try.  We are going to share as we go through this itinerary, to see where we run into obstacles and where we shine. I hope we can give others practical tips on what to do, and what not to do, if planning a trip to our destinations.  We will try to help as much as we can, in order to make your future trip seamless.  We will be sort of guinea pigs.  Our service to the world!


Our (tentative Itinerary)- tips/advice welcomed


April 18-leave Boston at 11:15pm…………..flying day…………

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April 19-arrive New Delhi at 2:45 am (4/20)

check-in hotel

sleep

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April 20- (New Delhi)

sleep late

breakfast at hotel

rickshaw ride

shopping and walking tour of Old Delhi Bazaar

dinner at hotel and bed early

thewanderlustyogi.net

 

April 21-(New Delhi/Agra)

breakfast

temples (Lotus Temple, Akshardham), Qutub Minar monument

lunch

Taj Mahal- be there for sunset

late dinner at hotel

thewanderlustyogi.net


 

April 22-(Rishikesh)

check in Parmarth arshram

lunch at Flavors

explore Rishikesh shops

yoga at the arshram

dinner

Ganga Aarti celebration

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April 23-(New Delhi)

elephant ride

snake charmer

henna tattoos/bindhi

dinner

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April 24- (Bangkok)

……flying day……..

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April 25- (Bangkok)

temples (Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Suthat) Grand Palace

lunch

Ban Nam Peung floating market

massage, pedicure with leeches (ew)

dinner in Chinatown

thewanderlustyogi.net

April 26- (Krabi/Phi Phi)

hike to Tiger Temple in Krabi

longtail boat to Phi Phi

check in hotel

beach

dinner near hotel

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April 27- (Maya Bay)

beach day

Sleep on the Beach at Maya Bay?

(*still have hotel on Phi Phi for this night in case we don’t want to sleep on the beach)

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April 28- (Phi Phi)

boat ride to Monkey Beach and Railey Beach, snorkeling

hiking

shopping

dinner

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April 29- ( Bangkok))

fly back to Bangkok

cooking class

massage

last minute shopping

dinner

thewanderlustyogi.net

April 30 -(Dubai)

arrive at lunchtime

check-in hotel/lunch

walk the Dubai mall, aquarium

Burg Khalifa

dinner

thewanderlustyogi.net

May 1- (Dubai)

breakfast at hotel

Jumeirah Beach day

desert camel ride/ sand skiing  and MiddleEastern dinner tour

thewanderlustyogi.net May 2- (Boston)

…..flying back home to Boston…….

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Phew!!! I’m tired just reading this. I better rest up and prepare for a whirlwind trip. My daughter Maddie and I are extremely excited to go on this adventure and know we will always have this memory forever in our thoughts!

 

Namaste!


Updates to follow…..

thewanderlustyogi.net

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