...I would Dubai you a green dress

(but not a real green dress, that's cruel.)

I've been back in New York for a month now. a whole month- it doesn't feel that long. I feel like I entered a time warp somewhere between sand and swimming and constant stimulation and ended up somehow in December. 
it snowed this past weekend!

just a few weeks ago I was in the United Arab Emirates with Brandon, definitely not cold and definitely not binge-watching Christmas episodes of The Office to try and get into the holiday spirit.

Dubai was where Brandon met up with me and joined me for about 10 days of the trip. we were actually planning to meet in Thailand but the flights were ridiculously long (even for me, coming just from Hungary), so we decided to make a quick stopover at whatever place seemed convenient. that place was Dubai.

even though you'd expect a two-day stopover to be hectic and rushed, Dubai was quite the opposite for us. it felt leisurely and luxurious. I could feel myself relax after two weeks of traveling alone; I slept in, didn't make a schedule, didn't really make plans at all. we kind of let ourselves have a vacation vacation, for once.
I mean, just for two days. but it was enough of a refresher to prepare me for the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia, which I'll get to soon enough.

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the tallest building in the world.

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indoor waterfall at the Dubai Mall.

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Brandon getting a little taste of home in the Middle East!

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I had never really pictured camels at the beach before...

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when you have a travel buddy you can get cheesy pictures at JBR beach!

when I say Dubai was "luxurious" I don't mean we pampered ourselves or splurged on fancy things or extravagant meals; we didn't exactly live in the lap of luxury. I mean luxurious in the definition of comfortable and self-indulgent. we wandered through the delightfully over-the-top Dubai Mall, lounged at the beach, and downed free orange juice at the top of Burj Khalifa. no schedules, no crazy sightseeing, no pressure to "experience the real city" (god, I'll address the pretentious nature of that whole idea sometime soon, too).

and we had a great time! Dubai is a vibrant, cheerful, and beautiful city. even though it has a reputation for extravagance and opulence, the city and its people were very welcoming and down-to-earth. everyone was friendly and smiling, and things weren't outrageously expensive like we were led to believe.

there also seems to be a lot of civic pride; every person we talked to, from elevator attendants at Burj Khalifa, to taxi drivers, to tour guides raved about how much they loved living in Dubai. they talked about how clean it was, how little crime, how much they liked the local government. many of these people were immigrants from other parts of Asia or Africa and, while it might sounds silly, it was kind of heartwarming to feel like the city was full of happy people. it made for a very pleasant atmosphere.

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the Burj Khalifa looking pretty impressive at night.

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my travels switched from European cold to tropical very abruptly.

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our camel desert safari friends!

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my new friend Caro. 

we got to experience a more traditional side of Dubai on our desert safari evening with Platinum Heritage. they offer "unique, sustainable desert experiences highlighting the local Emirati culture"; Brandon and I did the camel desert safari experience, and it was incredible. I won't go into detail describing all the events and things because you can find that out on their website, but I will say that the staff were wonderful, the activities were awesome and informative, and the food was delicious. the whole thing is a little pricey, but it's a six hour event and so worth it. 

someone told Brandon not to do a desert safari because they were cheesy (and suggested that we go to the clubs instead because clearly this person did not know us very well) but it ended up being our favorite thing that we did!

incidentally, my new favorite color is "sunset in the Arabian desert." see below for details.   

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a rare photo of Brandon and me together.

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a sunset falconry demonstration!

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a traditional Emirati dance for after-dinner entertainment (this was the only shot that wasn't a blur because the whole dance involves enthusiastically whipping your hair back and forth).

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the traditional bedouin camp where we spent the evening.

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Caro looking snappy in the Arabian sunset.

it was a short visit to the Middle East but I think we made the most of it. I would definitely recommend a visit to the UAE. it's exotic and modern at the same time. Dubai is a frenetic city and everything is manmade and shiny and "the biggest in the world"- seriously they have so many records for the biggest whatever in the world- but then you can drive into the desert and learn about falconry and eat in a tent and look at the stars. there really is something for everyone.

it's also worth noting that, even though I was with my husband at this point in my trip, Dubai is known for being very safe for solo female travelers. I got that sense too, even though I wasn't alone.

in conclusion, there are a few things I can definitely recommend:
- Platinum Heritage desert experiences. 
- Dubai Mall. it has an indoor waterfall, an aquarium, access to the Burj Khalifa, the world's biggest fountain, and it's insanely pretty. plus, air conditioning!
- Uber. it's too crazy hot to walk, and while public transit runs to the main attractions (read: malls) it's faster and just as cheap to take a car. plus, air conditioning! 
- Burj Khalifa. it's much nicer than other typical "top of the building" experiences. you get snacks and drinks, and there are lots of comfy chairs and lounges where you can hang out and take in the view. which is spectacular, by the way. 
- Leila. a Lebanese restaurant with good prices and great food. the bi-jit riz is fantastic.
- the beaches. they're right in the heart of the city and so beautiful. we went to JBR, and it was lovely, but I think Jumeirah beach has better views of the Burj Al Arab (the sailboat building).

happy trails, or whatever!

(note: we used Airbnb for accommodations and it turned out to be a hotel. it was fine; nice, clean, had a pool, nothing to write home about. seemed pretty standard for cheap-ish accommodations in the city.)

briefly in Budapest, back in Brooklyn

well, here I am.
back on the internet, back in the continental United States. feels like a lifetime ago I stuffed everything I could into two carryons and took an overnight flight to Iceland.

22 flights, 14 countries, 18 cities, five continents, two embassy visits, one police report, and about a dozen sunburns later, and I am back in Brooklyn with my cat and my tv and my slowly deteriorating motivation to ever leave my apartment.

turns out blogging while traveling at a rate of one international flight every three days is not the easiest thing to commit to. once the occasional disaster starting popping up every couple days/minutes I figured I’d err on the side of sanity and put more spare time towards things like sleep and enjoyment.

I know, how dare I?! whilst you were waiting patiently for my updates.

turns out stuff like night market tours of Ho Chi Minh and swimming at Waikiki beach are much more fun than editing a bajillion photos in a dingy hostel dorm room.

but, since it is long overdue, here are a few notes and ramblings about my short stay in Budapest, Hungary.

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lovely Fisherman's Bastion.

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the view of the Danube & Parliament from Castle Hill.

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Budapest's own "Lady Liberty" high above the city.

Budapest was pretty and pleasant and had an air of mystery about it. it’s very much how I pictured typical “Eastern Europe” in my head; ornate architecture, cozy taverns, hearty food, and hearty people. lots of dark haired men with beer bellies and acid-washed jeans and thin pretty women smoking cigarettes.

but to be honest I don’t feel like I can give any assessment or description of Budapest that would be fair or accurate. any significant cultural experience of the city was overshadowed by meeting up with my friends Christina and Adrian, which was by far the most fun part of my brief visit!

unfortunately my camera was being as moody and mysterious as its surroundings and so the only photo I have to prove we actually saw each other is this one, that actually looks more like a bad photoshop job. so it really isn’t much proof at all, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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the three of us did a free walking tour together in the afternoon because- thank goodness- they are just as nerdy and touristy as I am. I don't see the problem with being "touristy" anyways. people are so snooty about it; "don't go there it's so touristy," "that part of town is so touristy," "oh you only did the touristy stuff." always said with such derision. I got news for you, people- when you're traveling, you are a tourist. and those things are usually touristy for a good reason.

well, anyway.

we had a lovely afternoon exploring and chatting and catching up. Christina and I went to journalism school together and we've both moved many times since then, always ending up on opposite sides of oceans or countries (you'd think we really didn't like each other). but now it's years later and we just casually hang out in Eastern Europe. no big deal.
can't wait to see where we meet up next!

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a sampling of lovely Budapest architecture (the Hungarian Academy of Sciences).

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the difficult-to-fit-all-in-one-picture Matthias Church.

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Buda Castle Labyrinth; Dracula was held prisoner here, apparently before he had the ability to transform into mist and such.

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just me. and Parliament. 

the walking tour itself was nice enough- no complaints, especially since it was free. it provided a pretty good overview of the city's history and offered some lovely views. (you can check out the same tour here). afterwards our little party ventured into Budapest's famous "ruin pubs" where we tried Hungary's spirit of choice- Palinka- and sat sipping beer in an old car that was turned into a booth.

let me tell you, Palinka is no joke. it smelled like jet fuel and made it hard to say whether these bars are named more for their rustic decor or the state tourists are in when they leave them.

of course we three behaved ourselves and called it a night after one little shot because we are mature and classy and not because it was Sunday and all the pubs we tried to go to after were closed...

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Szimpla Kert, a quintessential ruin pub.

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Lenin greets you as you arrive at Memento Park.

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Sarah for scale.
I didn't particularly want to mimic the statue, but my guest photographer insisted...

my solo adventures in Budapest were slightly less exciting.

I paid a visit to Memento Park, which was described somewhat hyperbolically as a "Socialist Disneyland" and was more accurately a sparse garden full of very large Soviet-era statues. it was a interesting, but hardly comparable to any type of amusement park.

I took a tour bus from a town square which was very overpriced considered that the term "tour" was applied very liberally- we were just dropped off at the entrance and left to wander for two and a half hours, which was far too much time. the whole walk around to see every piece took about 20 minutes in total and there was zero information or backstory offered. I sort of saved the experience from being a total bust by searching Trip Advisor for some trip advice, where I learned that the $5 guide book would shed some light on the history of the park and make the whole experience slightly more meaningful. all in all the whole thing cost me about $50 and wasn't worth it, but I did get a few pictures out of it. lemons and lemonade and all that.

the Central Market Hall was also underwhelming and I regretted choosing it over going to the more famous Turkish baths. I did have a big Hungarian lunch and buy a souvenir for a friend, though. so again, lemonade.

I know I don't really have all that much to offer in way of advice or travel tips. all I can say is if you ever find yourself in Budapest for two days just have a wander and enjoy. eat langos, hang out in a ruin pub, take in the architecture...and if my friends are around maybe give them a call and stick with them.