Interesting Winter Travel Destinations from Egypt, by Ted Cookson

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INTERESTING WINTER TRAVEL DESTINATIONS FROM EGYPT
by Ted Cookson
Published in January 2005
Busy Bogyoke Aung San Road in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, 29-second video clip
Scene inside Yangon's Bogyoke (Scott) Market, 33-second video clip
A walk through a Yangon street lined with fuit and vegetable vendors, 64-second video clip
Burmese dancers #1, 61-second video clip
Burmese dancers #2, 62-second video clip

Water taxi on Bangkok's Chao Rhraya River, 16-second video clip
Water taxi on Bangkok's Chao Phraya River, 40-second video clip
 
Dancers in Ho Chi Minh City #1, 45-second video clip
Dancers in Ho Chi Minh City #2 46-second video clip
Dancers in Ho Chi Minh City #3, 52-second video clip
Cruising down the Saigon River, 16-second video clip


Gabes, Tunisia tourist market, 60-second video clip

Male lion at Samburu National Park, Kenya, 36-second video clip
Elephant eating at Samburu National Park, Kenya, 50-second video clip
4-wheel-drive vehicle fording a stream at Kenya's Samburu Park, 44-second video clip


Vacationers who desire to optimize their travel experiences often plan their international holidays to coincide with the most favorable climatic season in the destinations they visit.  Winter, 21 December - 21 March, is one of the best times to visit the following countries:  Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Gulf; India and Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka near the Indian continent; Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and Vietnam in Southeast Asia; Libya and Tunisia in North Africa; and Ethiopia and the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Until only a couple of decades ago the Arabian Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates might have seemed unlikely tourist destinations.  Today, when one thinks of the Arabian Gulf, it is often the skyline of Dubai in the U. A. E. which first comes to mind.  Dubai, with its famous luxury hotels, its creek and its well-executed and high-tech Dubai Museum built in and under an old fort, is rapidly developing into a world-class tourist destination.  On the other hand, some places in Bahrain and Oman are also worthy of a visit during the winter season when both temperatures and humidity are relatively low in the Gulf.  In Bahrain, for instance, one can spend an interesting day driving a rental car around the island's circular road.  The Bahrain Museum and fort in Manama, oil wells and even prehistoric burial mounds can all be seen there.  Likewise, the harbor and town of Muscat, Oman are very picturesque; and from there one can drive up a broad wadi into the interior of Oman to the old capital of Nizwa and back the same day. 

The Indian subcontinent is also best visited during the winter.  In India itself the so-called "Golden Triangle" is included in many tourist itineraries.  The triangular route begins in the capital of New Delhi and leads to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.  From there travelers continue to Jaipur, Rajasthan's most renowned city with its Amber Palace and Moghul-inspired Palace of the Winds, before returning to Delhi.  Tiny Bhutan, lying high in the Himalayas to India's northeast, is an expensive but fascinating Buddhist kingdom accessible for tourists by air from India.  In contrast, one can take a very inexpensive winter holiday in warm Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), off India's southeast coast.  Sri Lanka offers interesting Buddhist temples and ancient ruins in addition to good shopping and nice beaches.  But tourists who desire world-class diving and snorkeling should look no further than the Maldives, a republic consisting of nearly 1,200 islands stretching south beyond the equator from India's southwest coast.  Over 90 resorts have been constructed now on islands in the Maldives.  This underwater paradise is best reached by air from Cairo via Dubai or Doha. 

The winter months are the best time to travel to diverse Southeast Asia.  Thailand normally turns out to be one of most people's very favorite countries.  Fabulous sightseeing and wonderful shopping in urban Bangkok combine well with marvelous beach hotels in the south and also with the rural north.  In Chiang Mai and other northern towns not only can one view fascinating crafts being made by hand, but one can also take interesting excursions into the surrounding countryside to see local people who may as well be living in another century.  Elephant tours are available too!  Myanmar, Thailand's neighbor to the west and formerly known as Burma, is unique in having been closed to the West for so long.  Although many outside influences are now being allowed into the country, the capital, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), still retains a 1950's quaintness.  Cambodia's star attraction is the extensive ruin of Angkor Wat.  Anyone who can imagine Karnak Temple in a jungle setting will be well on his way to visualizing these massive temples which are truly a treasure of world heritage.  Angkor Wat is situated near the Cambodian town of Siem Reap, to which there are daily nonstop flights from Bangkok.  Vietnam, to the east of Cambodia, is also on the tourist map nowadays.  Bustling Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in the South contrasts with the more staid Hanoi in the North; and interesting antiquities can be visited in the former capital of Hue which lies in the middle. 

The North African countries of Tunisia and Libya, like Egypt, are best toured during the winter season.  Tunis's Bardo Museum boasts what are perhaps the world's best Roman mosaics, and some modest Classical antiquities can be viewed outside the capital.  Tourists can also drive a rental car to the Tunisian oases of Nefta and Tozeur with their springs and pretty date palm groves.  Libya, on the other hand, offers incredible Roman-era antiquities near Tripoli and Greek-era antiquities near Benghazi.  Long closed to tourism, in the last year Libya has begun to open its doors quite a bit wider.  While touring in Libya is not cheap, the tourist will usually enjoy the prestige of being the first on his block to have visited that country!

East Africa and Ethiopia also enjoy a high winter tourist season.  While photographic safaris may or may not have been invented there, Kenya now stands head and shoulders above its neighbors in the number of tourist arrivals.  Kenya shares the Serengeti Plain with Tanzania, which lies to the south.  Mt. Kilimanjaro, while situated in Tanzania, is clearly visible from Kenya's southern Amboseli Park.  If there is one reason to take a safari in Tanzania as opposed to Kenya, it is the amazing 20-km-wide Ngorongoro Crater, which contains a captive wildlife population within its 600-meter walls.  While Uganda is interesting for its safaris to view elusive mountain gorillas, Ethiopia is unique for its cultural tourism.  Ethiopia's "Historic Route" includes:  Lalibela with eleven rock-cut churches dating back as far as the twelfth century; Axum, an ancient capital with granite monoliths; Bahar Dar, where the falls of the Blue Nile are situated; and Gondar, another former capital with ancient palaces.  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, hosts the largest open market in Africa!   

The alphabetical list below shows the best time(s) of year to visit the various countries mentioned above.  It includes one of the cheapest total round trip airfares (current as of 13 December 2004), airline name, any minimum stay requirements, and one or more prime tourist attractions in those countries.

BAHRAIN:  BEST WEATHER FROM DEC. TO MAR. 
Manama EGP 2,400 on Gulf Air.  5-night minimum stay.
Bahrain National Museum in Manama

BHUTAN: BEST WEATHER FROM OCT. TO MAR./APR.
Air to Thimpu, Bhutan via Calcutta.  Calcutta-Thimpu return air not included here.
Calcutta EGP 6,200 on Kuwait Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Dzongs (Buddhist monasteries)

CAMBODIA:  BEST WEATHER FROM NOV. TO FEB.
Siem Reap via Bangkok EGP 6,000 on Kuwait Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Angkor Wat ruins

ETHIOPIA:  BEST WEATHER FROM SEP. TO FEB. 
Addis Ababa EGP 2,850 on Ethiopian Airlines.  No minimum stay.
Addis Ababa, "Historic Route" (Lalibela, Axum, Bahar Dar, Gondar) 

INDIA:  BEST WEATHER FROM OCT. TO MAR.
Delhi EGP 4,350 on Emirates.  5-night minimum stay.
Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udhaipur), Varanasi, Khajeraho, Mumbai 

KENYA:  BEST WEATHER FROM DEC. TO MAR./Wildebeeste migration from JUL. to SEP.
Nairobi EGP 3,000 on Egypt Air.  6-night minimum stay.
Nairobi EGP 3,350 on Kenya Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Masai Mara Park, Amboseli Park, Samburu Park, Tree Hotels, Lake Nakuru, Mt. Kenya, Mombasa, Lamu

LIBYA:  BEST WEATHER FROM OCT. TO APR.
Tripoli EGP 2,065 on Egypt Air.  6-night minimum stay.
Tripoli EGP 1,900 on Libyan Arab Airlines.  No minimum stay.
Roman ruins at Leptis Magna & Sabratha near Tripoli & Greek ruins at Cyrene near Benghazi, desert oases

MALDIVES:  BEST WEATHER DEC.-MAR. & ALSO NOV.
Male EGP 4,710 on Emirates.  Minimum stay 7 nights. 
Beaches, scuba diving

MYANMAR: BEST WEATHER FROM NOV. TO FEB.
Rangoon via Bangkok EGP 5,900 on Kuwait Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Rangoon (Shwedagon Pagoda, Scott’s Market), Pagan, Mandalay

OMAN:  BEST WEATHER FROM DEC. TO FEB.
Muscat EGP 2,700 on Gulf Air.  5-night minimum stay.
Muscat, Nizwa, Salalah

SRI LANKA:  BEST WEATHER FROM NOV. TO FEB.
Colombo EGP 3,950 on Emirates.  5-night minimum stay.
Colombo, Kandy, Anuradapura, Pollonaruwa, Sigiria, Nuwera Eliya

TANZANIA:  BEST WEATHER FROM JAN. TO FEB. & ALSO FROM JUN. TO OCT.
The most convenient air access for a safari is via Nairobi:
Nairobi EGP 3,000 on Egypt Air.  6-night minimum stay.
Nairobi EGP 3,300 on Kenya Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Serengeti Park, Ngorongoro Crater Park, Lake Manyara Park, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Zanzibar

THAILAND: BEST WEATHER FROM NOV. TO FEB.
Bangkok EGP 3,900 on Kuwait Airways.  6-night minimum stay.
Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayyutthaya, River Kwai

TUNISIA:  BEST WEATHER FROM FEB. TO MAR. & ALSO FROM OCT. TO NOV.
Tunis EGP 2,120 on Egypt Air.  6-night minimum stay.
Tunis (Bardo Mosaic Museum, Sidi Bou Said, Carthage), El Djem, Djerba Island, Kairouan, Nefta, Tozeur

UGANDA:  BEST WEATHER FROM DEC. TO MAR.
Entebbe (near Kampala) EGP 3,850 on Kenya Airways.  5-night minimum stay.
Mountain gorilla treks

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES:  BEST WEATHER FROM DEC. TO MAR.
Dubai EGP 2,870 on Emirates.  5-night minimum stay.
Dubai (National Museum, gold souk), Sharjah souk, dhow ride on “the Creek”

VIETNAM:  BEST WEATHER FROM NOV. TO FEB.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) EGP 5,200 on Malaysia Airlines.  5-night minimum stay.
Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Danang


ABOUT TED COOKSON:  Egypt's most widely-traveled travel agent, Ted has been to every country in the world!  He has also visited 307 of the 315 destinations on the list of the Travelers' Century Club (visit www.eptours.com and refer to World Travel Club).  A travel agent in Cairo since 1986, Ted manages EGYPT PANORAMA TOURS, a full-service travel agency, at 4 Road 79 (between Roads 9 and 10, near the "El Maadi" metro station) in Maadi.  Contact Egypt Panorama Tours (open 7 days a week 9 AM-5 PM) at:  Tels. 2359-0200, 2358-5880, 2359-1301.  Fax 2359-1199.  E-mail:  ept@link.net.  Web site:  www.eptours.com

 

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