Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Most Interesting and Fun Theme Park in Jeddah

Al-Shallal is the name of this theme park in Jeddah. I call this the "best" one, because all three of my children l-o-v-e-d it! With children, it is hard to find something for everyone to enjoy-especially since the youngest is 5 and the oldest is 10. It reminds me of a miniature Disney World-sort of. It is across from the beach on Corniche street (between Thalia and Sari Streets). The trees, flowers and grass made this place so nice to be at!

This is the indoor skating rink. It is the largest one I have seen in Jeddah. It is the size of the ice skating rink at the Galleria in Houston, Texas. Also, I saw women skating in their abaya's. I believe they were teenagers, as mostly older children and teenagers were skating.Behind the ice is the indoor mall section. It has clothing stores, cosmetics, tea shops and even a fresh flower stand! There were also tons of candy stores and kiosks as well as various eateries such as Papa Johns, Chinese food and coffee shops! There is also a Chinese Museum that shows how silk is made. A lady showed us the actual cocoon of a silk worm!

Here are the boys gearing up for a go-kart race on the outdoor track!

This is one of the shops inside the mall section. I took a picture of this particular store because it reminds me of Valentine's Day!

This is a track with cars and it was free. There are 5 free rides here! The entry fee to Al-Shallal is 25 SR per person.

For 30 SR for 15 minutes, you can take a boat in this pretty little lake. This is a view from our boat as we look onto the restaurant that is in this picture. All 5 of us were allowed to go into the boat, even though they told us it was just for 4.

A private room at the restaurant on the lake. We didn't eat here, but we want to next time!

It's hard to believe that all of these pictures come from the same place, right? This is the go-kart track. Beside it are the swings and a dropping tower type of ride. Basically, you go to the ticket booth, buy a plastic card and load money onto it. You swipe your card for each "carnival" type of ride-most of them costing around 15 SR.

Here is another restaurant. The flowers are just so lovely! This was taken in January, which is Jeddah's "spring" type season as the temperature is around 85-90 F in the day and 70 in the evening!

The airplane kiddy ride (another free one!)
It has an outdoor waterfall!

Here is my daughter dressed in the "afro" wig that she bought. Behind her is the REAL roller coaster. It goes backwards, forwards and upside down! It is the largest roller coaster in the Middle East, by the way! Also, if you look carefully, you can see the tea-cup ride, like at Disney World!

To read more from others, follow the links:
Phone numbers for the park are listed here:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Andrea's Taxi Adventure!

I took a taxi, all by myself- 3 times last week!  This was one way of me “feeling independent.” You see, it gets a bit annoying to have to depend on men to be able to go somewhere. Being that I am a woman, I am not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. Why? Well, its the law. There are no public transportation systems in place here either (no subway or metro busses) thus forcing me to take a taxi, hire a personal driver, or use the hubby. I do have a driver that takes me to and from work each day.  If I want to go somewhere to grab a bite to eat, I use a taxi. Thus...adventures always follow!
I don’t know why it took me 7 months to realize that I could travel in a taxi alone. Perhaps I didn’t trust a stranger or maybe it was that I didn’t trust that I could navigate myself around Jeddah.
Now, a simple taxi ride here, always transforms into an interesting story.

Earlier this week, I walked out of my office and waited for a taxi to drive up. I then asked the driver if he could take me to Hardees. He said “yes.” I said, “Do you know how to get there, because I don’t.” He said “yes, I know.” I then said, “Are you sure?” Of course he said that he did, so I got in and off we went! We drove and drove and drove and I saw no Hardees anywhere. I did not panic because this is his job to know where places are. He then picked up his cell phone and asked someone how to get to Hardee’s. Oh brother! He didn't know! Ten minutes later we arrived to Hardee’s. I was craving a Frisco burger, so this was my motivation in taking this particular taxi ride. I asked him to wait, so that he could take me back to my office. I made sure he was willing and asked if it would cost 15 SR-he agreed.  He waited, we returned and he triple charged me for the fare! Hubby taught me earlier this year that 15 riyals is the common price for one way. That’s about $ 4.00. So, when I handed the guy 15, he started shouting at me, “not 15….50.” Oh, one of us misheard the other, earlier, I guess.  Well, 50 riyals is $ 13.00. I told him that I had never paid that much for a taxi here and that since he got lost and lied, saying he knew where I wanted to go, that I would not pay that much for the ride. He got angrier and so I took out 10 more riyals, handed it to him and he yelled some more. I simply opened the door…and said “bye-bye, now.” Later, I learned that it is typical for taxi drivers to try to charge Americans more money. I was flabbergasted as to how this guy would overcharge me-but I did not let it ruin my day. Actually, I was happy to have a new story to write about!


More interesting Taxi Tales:

Photo from:   More wonderful photos of Jeddah are here!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What is Christmas in Saudi Arabia like?

Here in Saudi Arabia, the only celebrated holidays are: Saudi National Day and Eid. The New Year and birthdays are usually not big celebrations, like in the United States. Knowing this, I was curious as how to plan Christmas for my children. I failed at Halloween because I couldn't locate any places for my children to trick-or-treat. Yes, I bought them candy and such, but they were very disappointed in me, that the real Halloween celebrations didn't happen for them. So, I made it my goal to make Christmas more exciting for them.

The day before, I bought them bicycles and paid about the same price as I would have in the US. I also found Christmas candies at Danube grocery store and spent double the price for Reese's peanut butter trees, candy canes, York peppermint patties and large plastic candy canes filled with Hershey kisses. I found these candies in boxes, read the label and opened them up. They were not even on the shelf yet, on December 24! I was lucky! Now, about 3 weeks later, these same candies are in various grocery stores across the city. I guess their logic is that if they don't put them out for the holiday, than they are not promoting it.
From word of mouth, I heard that taller fake trees can be found, if you happen upon one. I don't know where though and I haven't seen them. However, not having a large tree didn't bother the kids or me, at all. They loved having their own trees, which they had the last several years in the US. It was a piece of "home" and "tradition" for them.
The week before Christmas, we were lucky enough to travel to the US for a week and celebrate Christmas with my family. While there, I found some Christmas crafts at Michael's and brought them back. On December 25, the kids found them in their stockings, along with their Christmas candies. My boss also bought each of the kids a present and those were placed under their miniature trees (which I had brought back in my suitcases). I let the kids know that all these presents were from me and dad, since Santa had already "visited" them in the US at their grandparents house. We spend the day in our pj's all day! We baked cookies and decorated Gingerbread men (from mixes I had brought over).

I think I redeemed myself for this holiday as the kids seemed to really enjoy everything!
The Christmas candies are taped with white labels, to cover up Santa and Rudolph.

My daughter's mini-tree and presents.

My oldest sons tree and presents.We didn't even add ornaments. No one mentioned it and no one missed them.

This is a "Pinterest" inspired tree that I made out of a ladder. I found the tinsel stuff at a local stationary shop here. The lights I had brought over from the US.

This is our youngest ones little tree and presents. As you can see, the trees got a little warped in the suitcases. Oh well. No one seemed to care.
This is our door filled with our Crhistmas cards and Gingerbread crafts that the kids made.
Side note:
New Year's day was another "fail" as fireworks could not be found. Mainly my daughter was mad about that. The boys could care less. The next upcoming holiday that I hope to make special for the kids is: Valentine's Day! Stay tuned to see what kind of heart related items I will be able to find!
camel picture

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pearls and Old Things

I love old things. I love things with stories and with a unique past. Good thing. There are many old and interesting things in this city I am living. In the US, I found old things also. It was actually my hobby and thrill to go to every Goodwill, Salvation Army or second hand store. Even when I visited friends and relatives in other cities, if I spotted a Goodwill, I had to stop there and shop! Over the years, I obtained many children's books and puzzles for my kids and my classroom. It was a good way to get a shopping rush! However, the rush for me was finding something that had a "story." One old thing that I found was a tattered and falling apart old brown colored Bible. Before I bought it, I wondered "Who owned it before me? Who read it and was comforted by its words?" Actually, every time I read a "used" book, I wonder who held it before me.

So, how does this relate to Saudi Arabia and Pearls? Good question. Thanks for being patient with me as a rambled the above pre-amble to my story.

Pearls. Pearls are old. Did you know that the rarest and roundest most prized pearls can take about 5 years to form? I found this out, after I purchased some REAL pearls from Al-Balad, one of the oldest areas within Jeddah.

I recently became interested in pearls when I saw strings of them for sale at the street market. I had never seen such interesting things for sale at a street market before. Pearls are usually in jewelry stores or around someones neck! I will never forget that elderly man sitting criss-cross on a rug, with strings (literal white strings!) of pearls. Now, what I found most interesting was that these pearls were not perfect. They were cream colored and not round. Each one looked a bit different. I asked the elderly vendor if they were real and he said "yes, of course, look at them, you can tell that they are." He showed me his fake pearls and his real ones. Somehow I knew that he was right. So, I paid less than twenty US dollars for them and brought them home.

Investigation time. Why were the pearls so cheap? I went on YouTube and found out that the more rare a pearl is, the more expensive it will be. Pearls that are rare, are the ones that are almost completely round and have a high sheen. They usually take up to five years to form.

Here are a few video's about how pearls are formed and tips for Pearl shopping.

The pearls that I now own are not the rare. However, I wonder how many people own these type. I just love them, they are mostly round, a little bumpy in places and they have a medium sheen. To me, they are more beautiful that the rare and expensive ones. What do you think?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Long ago in Cambodia

Just 11-12 years ago, I visited Cambodia, with some fellow teachers-Dylan and MaryBeth. To this day, we still keep in touch via facebook. Gosh, I am in my early thirties, yet Smartphones were not yet around when we were vacationing in Cambodia! I feel so old now *sigh*! So, a few weeks ago, I found my picture albums and snapped pictures via my iPhone. Thus, making me appreciate my iPhone even more.

You may be wondering how I ended up in Cambodia. Did you even know I went there? During my first ever teaching job, fresh out of college, in the year of 2000, I taught Preschool in Taiwan. During a 3-day weekend, Dylan the adventurous teacher, arranged a trip to Cambodia. I was invited to come along with he and MaryBeth,  and during that invitation all I could think about is "where the heck is Cambodia?" I referred to my map and found out that it sits near Vietnam and Thailand. I also learned from Dylan the vast and sad history that this country faced. It experienced a genocide! Deemed a safe country, I was ready for an adventure and glad that I didn't have to plan anything! To this day, it is one of the most impactful places that I have experienced. It's beauty and simplicity still exist in my mind and are proved in my pictures below.
This is a famous temple in Siem Reap, called Angkor Wat. 

I remember our guide telling us about this temple entrance. It was the gateway to the jungle temple.

Here's me and our teenage guide, at a lesser known temple.

It was hot in Cambodia!
The above and below pictures show the crumbled gates that surround the jungle temple.

The setting of a movie scene from "Tomb Raider" with Angelina Jolie, was set here, at the Jungle Temple.

MaryBeth and I explored yet another ruined temple. They were so amazing in person!

I believe this is at Battambang, a government building. Here, there was a Buddhist temple that we entered that was glittered with real jewels and gold-even the floor was exquisite!

I took this picture, somehow, while riding on the back of a motor bike. When we visited the roads were mostly dirt roads. Motor bikes were the main mode of transportation.

We took an elephant ride up to see some more ruins. It was fun!

This is what Americans look like after a long day of hiking, sweating and riding motor bikes through a jungle!

Dylan is at the top, acting like the temple's king. For some reason, we each felt so special to be walking upon a place that perhaps a former king lived.

We came across a waterfall and so what did I do-went swimming in it! How refreshing! For some reason, that was something on my bucket list that I always wanted to do.

Even though Buddhism is not my religion, I can't help but recall the beauty in such buildings.They have some nice places of worship!

So, hats off to my fellow teacher friends! It was a great trip! I recommend Cambodia to anyone who is adventurous and curious about the history of other cultures! Be sure to Google Cambodia or even visit Wikipedia to find our more.