Table of Contents
Bangkok, Egypt, Nile River & more
For DJ & Jones’ birthdays in 2018, I organized an around the world holiday from Shanghai to Bangkok to Dubai to Kuwait to Cairo to Alexandria to Aswan — then sail the Nile River to Luxor – back to Cairo, onward to Saudi Arabia then Toronto and home to Shanghai..
The trip was designed to be 5-star luxury, to visit these places with private guides and local archeologists I hired in advance, plus private transport, so we could do all in air-conditioned comfort. The Nile river cruise was a highlight, with about 66 staff (all uber friendly), our little family were just about the only guests aboard the Oberoi Philae. Most of the sights we visited, we had private access due to pre-hired locally engaged archeologists pulling strings, which allowed for some unique photo opportunities at a leisurely pace.
The ITINERARY BOOK includes the detail, plus sightseeing research.
Some photo highlights below…
Bangkok: And The World’s Your Oyster
The days are now gone as the epicenter of Thailand’s gay life, Bangkok’s night life is today a mere shadow of what it was. Bangkok has become just another city that has a myriad of traditional gay bars amidst an overly touristy focus on selling Thai knickknacks and Chinese knock offs. In this shift of cleaning up its nightlife, Bangkok has become more of a transit city to other locations in Thailand and still maintain a little bit of the old style of fun.
After the obligatory tours of the golden Royal Palace and the long boats in the rivers, I kept Jones happy and busy with ringside seats at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium or with Muay Thai Boxing. I kept DJ busy with a lot of shopping including what must be the worlds largest outdoor shopping market, the Suan Lum Night Bazaar very near my favorite and regular hotel that I stay — the Tarntawan Place Hotel, right in the center of the primary gay areas and close walking distance to my favorite restaurant/coffee shop of Dicks Café smack dab in the centre of what used to be Soi Twilight.
There were also many fabulous surprise birthday events for DJ, but one of my favorite moments was in 2006 when DJ and I were drinking after a birthday dinner in Soi Twilight (packed with gay go-go bars and drinking establishments), at around 4:00am, we are sitting outside enjoying our umpteenth beer, when we looked up and see a baby elephant hovering over our table. Presumably wanting our peanuts. DJ’s facial expression says it all.
These days, in layover, Bangkok is better for shopping for foreign supplies such as headache medicine, deodorant, and other basics which we simply cannot buy in China. One Night in Bangkok is better.
Dubai: Steroidal Architecture
Dubai is a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and lively nightlife. Burj Khalifa, an 830m-tall tower, dominates the skyscraper-filled skyline. Little bit of work, brunch, swim & drink, then night shopping at the gold souk (bazaar). Great for a day or two of rest on layovers.
Cairo: Sprawling trove of antiquities
Cairo is the capital of Egypt with a population in excess of 16 million. On the Nile river, Cairo is famous for its own history, preserved in the fabulous medieval Islamic city and Coptic sites in Old Cairo. There’s a coffee shop on every corner & sometimes in the middle of the road. Mostly men sitting smoking shishas (water-pipes), playing backgammon and drinking coffee.
Great Pyramids, Sphinx & sheesha pipes and camels and fabulous local lunch and such interesting views in every direction.
Amazing Egyptian museum in the main square downtown, hall of mummies, King Tut, history, Mosques, local life and Souk shopping. Brilliant day.
Alexandria: Centre of Ancient World Learning
The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria, known as The Pearl of the Mediterranean, is 140 miles north of Cairo. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Greco-Roman Egypt, its status as a beacon of culture symbolized by Pharos, the legendary lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World & the tallest building in the world for centuries. The setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.
The Romans marched into Egypt in 30 BC intent on turning it into an imperial province. Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire and enforced upon the Egyptians.
Catacombs, Citadel, Cairo opera house, local living and fabulous lentil soup with fresh breads… plus a little typical Egyptian organized chaos at end of day.
MS Oberoi Philae: Uber luxury
I rented 2 suites, one on either side the ultra luxury cruise ship across hall from each other – we had 66 five-star lovely crew to ourselves. Spanning 36 sqM each of the luxury cabins include a spacious bedroom and separate bathroom, furnished with beds, offering a pillow menu that caters to bespoke individual preferences. Heaven. Seriously heaven. I mean truly heaven. Nice benefit when you are the only passengers on a luxury ship: they hold the ship from sailing on schedule until DJ arrives back over 1 hour late from shopping. Plus a private Whirling dirvish show last night onboard.
River Nile: Ancient Egypt’s highway
The Nile at 6,695 km generally regarded as the longest river in the world and among the most culturally significant natural formations in human history. It winds from its source in Uganda through 9 countries – Ethiopia, Zaire, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, and Egypt. Nile Crocodiles are about 4m in length, make their nests along the banks. Also, the habitat of Hippopotamus and black rhinoceroses, and more than 30 species of snakes (most are venomous). The Nile River unusually flows north, due to this, Upper Egypt is in the south and Lower Egypt is in the north.
In Aswan, Edfu, Tom Ombo, Thebes, Qena and Denderra with archeologists
The last temple of Ancient Egypt, Philae Temple, including the last hieroglyph and then I captained falluca sailboat up the Nile. Aswan to Edfu – cruise up to Kom Ombo Temple and onto Edfu city with fascinating views of the Nile and great dinner on deck. Sailing the Nile River – Temple of Edfu, sail through Esna Lock, Luxor and Luxor (Thebes) temple at night plus a fabulous sunset. Private solo tour of Karnak Temple (no other tourists) and Nile River cruise to Qena seeing local laundry on the nile, drying wheat and relaxing aboard luxury ship while DJ shops.
Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost city has a population of around 245,000, renowned for its many islands as well as the thousands of felucca’s with white sails going back and forth between them. There are various Pharaonic sites in Aswan. Aswan was where Agatha Christie wrote and based her best seller, Death on the Nile. Aswan is a mixture of past and present, souvenir shops, horse drawn carriages, the dozens of Nile cruisers parked against the banks of the Nile.
The Philae Temple complex, once located on Philae island, was threatened by flooding when the high dam was built. The temples were moved on Agilka island, this temple complex was constructed during the 3rd century BC, and the main temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis (Mother of the goddesses and the gods). This is the last known remnants of the 3000 year old Ancient Egyptian civilization, with the Egyptians who believed in the array of gods, being pushed south to Philae after the Roman domination of Christianity, commencing in Alexandria and pushing south. The last known hieroglyph in history is here, known as The Graffito of Emset-Akhom, dated 394 AD, on the wall of the temple gateway built by the emperor Hadrian, leading towards the supposed tomb of Osiris (the Abaton)
The Kim Ombo Temple was built on a high dune overlooking the Nile started by Ptolemy VI in the early 2nd century BC. Ptolemy XIII built the outer and inner hypostyle halls. The outer enclosure wall and part of the court were built by Augustus sometime after 30 BC.
The Edfu Temple with it’s Temple of Horus, which is the best-preserved cult temple in Egypt. During the reign of King Ptolemy III (237 B.C.), the construction of Edfu temple began, yet it was not finished until 57 B.C, according to the Egyptian myths, it was the place where the falcon-headed god Horus revenged the murder of his father Osiris by killing Seth.
Luxor: Epicentre of Ancient History
Private tours with privately hired archeologist of the Valley of the Kings, Pharaoh King Tut, Pharaoh Ramses IV tomb, Deir el-Medina tomb workers village (worlds first hutong) — all with no other tourists, local Egyptian lunch & swimming/drinking. Lucky to be moored in Luxor adjacent to the SUDAN where our crew organized a private tour of the SUDAN, the river boat used in Agatha Christies “Death on the Nile“ for us.
Karnak Temple was constructed around 2040 BC, has three main sacred areas that honor three gods: Amun-Ra, the goddess Mut & Khonsu – members of the sacred family of the Theban Triad. The impressive Hypostyle Hall has 134 soaring columns; Each column is carved with scenes of gods and pharaohs; The inscriptions tell their stories of war and peace.
The Temple of Luxor was built by Amenhotep III around 1400 BC, and completed by Rameses II around 1250 BC. It was dedicated to the great god Amun-Ra, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu together representing the Theban Triad.
Temple of Dendera was built in the 1st century B.C and it is one of the best-preserved Temples in the whole of Egypt! Ptolemy VIII and Queen Cleopatra II built it, and then later, Roman Emperors continued to decorate it and honor the Goddess Hathor; the Goddess of maternity, love and music. The Greeks identified the Goddess Hathor as Aphrodite.
The secret Valley of the Kings was used for burial; there are many kings between 1504 -1000 BC, buried in this valley. It consists of 62 tombs, which were arranged at first according to their dates of discovery, but after that they were geographically arranged. The tomb of Tutankhamun is famous as it was the only tomb found intact until its discovery in 1922. The most famous tomb is KV62, the Tomb of King Tutankhamun. The discovery of King Tut’s tomb was made by Howard Carter on November 4, 1922, with clearance and conservation work continuing until 1932. Tutankhamun’s tomb was the first royal tomb to be discovered that was still largely intact (although tomb robbers had entered it) and was the last major discovery in the valley. The opulence of his grave goods notwithstanding, King Tutankhamun was a rather minor king and other burials probably had more numerous treasures.
Deir el-Medina is the modern Arabic name for the worker’s village (now an archaeological site) which was home to the artisans and craftsmen of Thebes who built and decorated the royal tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings. Unlike most villages, Deir el-Medina was a planned community founded by Amenhotep I (c.1541-1520 BCE) specifically to house workers on royal tombs because tomb desecration and robbery had become a serious concern by his time.
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII. For the past 3,400 years, they have stood in the Theban Necropolis. The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple (or mortuary temple): a massive cult centre built during the pharaoh’s lifetime, where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world. In its day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Egypt.
Onward via Saudi Arabia
Luxor to Cairo: left the ship, flew to Cairo, daytime hotel, exploring Cairo again then fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia tonight with lots more luggage.
Jeddah to Toronto, after 8 hours of delays + 13 hour flight with Saudi Arabian airlines, finally landed in Toronto greeted by unseasonably freezing snow storms.