Tag Archives: hotels

Mystifying Morocco.

Hi folks!

Now, if you’re a regular reader of this here blog of mine, you’ll know how I like to keep things positive. No matter where I am, no matter the weather (mostly), no matter how jet-lagged, no matter how tired… – I keep things cheerful, cheery, chipper and chirpy. But sometimes, just occasionally, I find all that jolliness is tough to maintain. Not sure why. Maybe it’s something to do with the poles or the moon and tides. Anyway, I need my readers to help me find worthy places to see in Morocco (for my inevitable next visit) because this, my second time in the country, gave me very little to say ‘wow’ about…

Morocco has a long and rich history, so much so you can become engrossed reading about it once you get started. Especially the bit about the fossils of very early (from more than 300 millennia ago) Homo sapiens/Neanderthals. So careful with that link folks: it represents a black hole for your precious time. Worth it though: it’s the history of mankind, no less.

Today, there are suburbs that are more salubrious than the norm – pretty red residences, even new developments of villas with swimming pools in the back garden (as seen from the airplane), but these are very few and far between. Mostly here there’s a marked absence of luxury and other well-to-do-ness.

And, of course, being in Africa, the climate… yes – it’s no Faroese affair ). Hot and humid. In short, not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

Now, given these unfortunate downsides, I did during my recent stay in Morocco wonder why the place so popular with tourists? Was I checking out all the wrong places in the country? Was I here in the wrong season? What else could I be getting wrong? Could any of you, dear readers, shed any light on this? What are the must-see places in Morocco I’m missing?

This was my second time in the northwestern African country. I was here back in 2012 for a conference in Marrakech. That time I was fairly in raptures about that ancient city with all its backstreets and hustle and bustle. So I’m warming to the theory that I may have got the season wrong.

Another thing: Marrakech isn’t by the sea. Maybe it’s the coast that’s the tourist-magnet, much like, say, Surfers Paradise? Hmmm. There are also the Atlas Mountains – which I didn’t investigate up close. Maybe those too?

Aaaaanyway. My mood sure lifted from this unusual and unexpected gloominess of mine when we reached our digs for the night: the Kasbah Tamadot. Just click that link and you’ll see why ). Talk about ‘oasis’?!

Btw: can you spot the telecommunications pole in the above pic?…

…It’s that single tall, thin ‘palm tree’ on the other side of the road from the hotel. Camouflaged!

This hotel belongs to none other than Sir Richard Branson

…And it’s this fact that attracts most of the guests here. Sometimes he’s here in person and everyone wants a selfie with him (poor guy; and he comes he to relax:).

A very nice place, as you can see. Plus the views all around – exclusively Moroccan:

The Atlas Mountains in the background:

Kunst and birds…

We got up nice and early the following morning – before it gets crazy hot – for a stroll up the hillside at the foot of which the hotel is nestled.

It’s quite high up here (1300-1700 meters above sea level), plus the Sahara isn’t far to the east, so the vegetation… well, again – it’s no Faroes ).

There’s Branson’s hotel:

In closing, a word about the airport…

A grandiose construction, super-modern, really nicely done.

Btw – what’s that alphabet there? Anyone know?

I’ve seen a zillion airports, but not many compare to this one. At least, looks-wise.

Because function-wise… I’ve never known a slower airport! Everything here takes ages! Passport control, baggage, taxis.. Even ‘fast track’ service is sluggish – its ‘fast-tracked’ passport control took five minutes – the actual ‘control’, I mean – not the queuing up!

Still, looking on the bright side – ok, things are slow, but at least the service is actually passenger oriented – and works. For I went and mislaid my trusty travel wallet – with all my travel papers and my two passports in it – while filling out all the forms at the airport. A while later – they found it, called me, I drove back to the airport, and was returned everything. Respect!

But I’m afraid that didn’t make up for the 40-minute security check – just to get into the airport!

Then another 10 minutes for the other security check after passport control.

Then the five minutes while they check every page of my passport!

So again folks – please do tell me what I’m missing in Morocco, why am I… not ‘getting’ it? )

PS: Oh, and guess who was staying at the Virgin hotel?…

…Yep!

All the photos from Morocco are here.

 

 

 

Hakon ryokan: fairly rocking.

Konichiwa folks!

Here I am, back in one of my fave countries – Japan. The work ethic here is really quite extraordinary: they work a lot, then some more, then more, and then even more. Thankfully, they also know how to unwind of a weekend, which is what we needed to do after our long trip getting here. So off we popped – out of the big city and up into the mountains – to a ryokan with an onsen in the village of Hakon.

Never been to Japan? You really must one day.

Read on…

Snow and Yas.

There’s a Kamchatkan saying that goes something like: ‘If snow falls in June, then spring will be long and drawn-out’. Well it’s not quite June yet, but Moscow weather right up until last week sure did seem to resemble Kamchatka’s extreme climate…

The ducks have already arrived at the reservoir next to the KL office. They’re circling up above it, peering down at the water (still!) completely covered over in ice, thinking ‘EH?!’!!

Read on…

Volcanic dawn mist – not to be missed.

I never did quite work out what this place in Indonesia was called. Is it Penanjakan? And is that the name of the peak, or just the name of the tourist spot near it? Whatever, who cares? Well, for one, a person standing on/at Penanjakan and looking up at the stars – he/she for sure does not care one iota).

How do you like the photo? I’m rather fond of it. A still-life, don’t you think?

It and the ones below weren’t all that difficult to shoot. I placed my camera (a Sony A9) on a reinforced concrete wall, set the shutter speed to 20 seconds, the diaphragm to 6 (or was it 9?), and ISO – to… something (can’t remember, or maybe I just guessed: it has a lot of buttons and blinking lights:). And that was that: done! All that remained was to wait for the sunrise…

Read on…

An Indonesian recipe for treating acclimatization.

What happens to a regular tourist from the North who, after an extended period of Christmas/New Year mirth and merriment suddenly finds him/herself in equatorial Indonesia? Yep, he/she has a rather tough time acclimatizing: to both the difference in time, and to climate… (and to crazy Indonesian driving! More on this later on below).

So, time: it’s +7 from Greenwich. Not so extreme, I hear you saying; hardly +12 now, is it? No. But when you add the climate to the +7 hours, that’s the killer. For there’s no pleasant resort-like weather here. Instead it’s a full-on extreme equatorial tropical climate. By day – around 30°C; by night – 25°C, and always hellishly humid – what feels like a constant 100%+.

It goes without saying that scaling a stratovolcano immediately upon arrival in Indonesia is the last thing most regular tourists fancy doing. What’s the first thing on their minds is a slow acclimatization and taking it relatively easy over the first few days, which is just what we did – on the island of Sumatra. There we visited Lake Toba (more on that later), and also a jungle – where we observed daily life of wild monkeys and orangutans.

Read on: a guy in a fur coat…

Iguazu bird habitation.

Herewith, one of my regular ‘columns’ on this here blog of mine – (in)habitat(ion), i.e., where the locals stay and/or where we stay on our travels. This time – it’s categorically where we stayed, since no locals live right next to the Iguazu Falls. Birds on the other hand…

Now, there’s one hotel that sits right next door to the falls. And it’s a very nice one. It’s the Belmond hotel das Cataratas. Here’s an aerial pic thereof:

If your budget permits, I heartily recommend you stay here. The reason is fairly obvious: as in selling real estate, it’s down to three simple things: location, location and location!

A room with a view of the falls isn’t really needed (you can’t see them too clearly through the forest that surrounds the hotel). But waking, breakfasting, then a stroll of just a hundred meters to the Iguazu viewing platform – well, what more could you ask for? Ok, I guess you could ask for a pre-breakkie morning constitutional to the falls, and even a post-dinner walk thereto, cigar in hand. The answer would still be ‘no problem’!

Read on: Another bonus of staying at this hotel…

A buenos walkabout in Buenos Aires – at last!

The other day I was in the Argentinian capital for the fourth time in my life – the second time this year! But only this time was I able to get a bit of my favorite pastime in: micro-tourism…

It’s a city of contrasts. There are the historical buildings of yesteryear that hint at the former riches and economic successes of the first half of the 20th century; then right next to them are thoroughly ugly (second half of the 20th century) residential buildings; then a bit further out of the center there are the favelas – slums – with overhead highways running through them; then further still there are new business-class apartment blocks with parks, cycle lanes and other cool infrastructure. But – you know me – I tried to take pics of the positive side of the city…

Bless you Buenos Aires!

A post shared by Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) on

Read on: Dictators and the tango…

Tian Shan – yes you can: habitation, part 1.

Over the 10 days we were trekking across Tian Shan, we stayed at seven tent-based (permanent) camps for the night:

Each camp was unique in its own way (the views were always very different), but also similar to the others at the same time (same yellow tents and other camping kit). The spacious camps had specially equipped sleeping spaces, a kitchen, and toilets (v. basic, but better than nothing!). In all, hardly the Ritz, but what are you to expect halfway up a mountain side in the middle of nowhere?!

Ok, let me go through each camp in order.

The first at-jailoo (‘field’ in Kyrgyz) didn’t really count. We arrived there in 4x4s so there was no trekking trickiness or hiking hardships at all. There was another kind of hardship though – that brought on by a particularly noisy generator, as already mentioned. I think the family that runs the camp must have been deaf from birth! So, like I say, this camp doesn’t count.

Our first proper camp was this one here:

Read on:

Hotel with a downside and 3D printing Singapore-style.

Once, many years ago (10 to be precise) I visited Pattaya, the resort city in Thailand. I was staying in a large hotel whose name I forget. The room was quite ordinary, but it had a magic number:

11111

No word of a lie. When I asked for Wi-Fi on the beach, I had to give my name and my room number. It was funny saying “one-one-one-one-one” :) // Even back then, in ancient times, they already offered a Wi-Fi service on the beach. Even then. On the beach.

It’s a real shame that I lost the photos from that conference (they included some from partner parties). Nor do I have any pictures or recollections of happened there later. In fact, no one actually knows what happened there.

So, the hotel room number was 11111.

That’s great, but it was ages ago.

There are witnesses, but no evidence remains.

Nowadays, you get room numbers that look even more magical.

Believe it or not, but this was my room number in Singapore.

Read on: Hotel with a downside…