8.2. Bethlehem – Separation Wall – Palestine

‘Separation barrier’, ‘West Bank barrier’, ‘Apartheid Wall’ or ‘security fence’? // Food for thought: “Although the graffiti artists felt that they were making a statement with their pieces to bring attention and help to the Palestinians, many Palestinians feel that it turns the wall into something beautiful… a work of art instead of an aggressive prison Wall”

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I find it interesting that there’s a Banksy shop here. It did attract my attention though, as a tourist. I was tempted to purchase the magnet. 

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Frankly, it’s all too easy for countries to stand on the path that says ‘no’ to the wall – we are not the ones who may be implicated, who bear the consequences of otherwise. Is it fair for me to say… it’s easier to play the victim, and it’s easier to take sides with the victim? We stand behind our screens and wave ‘no!’ but we aren’t the ones living the lives here, with the real fears and concerns for their lives. I suppose I feel this way perhaps because well, statistically it seems, terror attacks did fall significantly after the wall, and I saw a video of the random stabbing which may have influenced my perception. This may also be amplified by how I felt when walking around Jerusalem – I would have wanted the wall, and the security checks, to ensure my safety. I am glad for it. Why? Is it because I distrust the other side as well, and I fear terror attacks too? Is it because I am influenced by my hosts? Is it because of the media? Is it because of the contrast I felt in the levels of development between Jordan and Israel? Education? And the fact that I did read about the suicide attacks? Perhaps all these factors did shape my views. I understand the rationale for the wall, though the implications are indeed problematic and in a sense, unfair to the other side. How do you reconcile the trust? Who knows? I briefly wonder if I’ll live to see the day the walls get torn down, reminds me of events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, and other walls around (apparently in Cyprus the Greece/Turkey North-South border has one). 

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I remember the man who offered to drive us to the checkpoint. He was pretty well-dressed, a car that looked new and big, and an expensive camera. I asked if he was taking photos as a tourist. He said he was Palestinian, and was taking the 360 degrees photo around Bethlehem; we could check it out on 360degrees.ps. I find myself caught by stereotypes of Palestinians I suppose. I had assumed he was a tourist, I thought he worked for some media outlet in taking photos. Well it could be that he doesn’t live in Bethlehem and perhaps other cities, but it’s also a reminder to myself that Palestinians are not a single identity nor social class, they are also in other parts of the world, with their own hobbies, and not solely the image of foreign-aid recipients I had found myself drifting towards. 

Thank you to Khader for Banksy-graffiti spotting with us!

8.1. Mar Saba Monastery, Bethlehem, Palestine

It’s been more than half a year since Bethlehem, Palestine. As I look at these pictures again, I am sometimes slightly surprised at how time flies, and these remain fresh in my memories, yet somewhat foreign. Sometimes I catch myself thinking – wow I was really there?

We met Khader, whom I contacted the night before, and arranged to meet outside of the Church of the Nativity. We split the petrol cost and he drove us to one of his favourite places – Mar Saba Monastery! I had read about it somewhere, and was open to any place anyway. It was lovely to have been there, we likely wouldn’t have visited it if we were on our own.

driving along the Judean desert

Tada – the desert monastery

We didn’t enter though, but took a short hike around the area.

‘Saba was further influential in reshaping the customs and living habits of the monks, and the monks of Mar Saba are reputed to live an especially strictly regulated life. Until today women are not allowed to enter the main compound and have only access to one building, referred to as the Women’s Tower.’

^ Hmm. Khader might have explained this, so we didn’t enter.

As I revisit these photos and look at this long empty stretch of road ahead, I think to myself: what if? What if we had been driven to a deserted land? In this vast and foreign space, calling out wouldn’t save us. But I left the contact with my sister, so I did have a backup plan. Of sorts.

But I’d say we were in good hands. If we had more time, we’d probably head to Jericho with Khader and his family. Someday, perhaps – you really never know.

The word Sumud ( in Arabic: ‫صمود‬‎‎) means “steadfast perseverance” and resilience. Our Palestinian friend from CS shows us around. He hopes we spread the word about the beauty Palestine has to offer to its visitors. ‘What do you think is one thing special about Palestine?’ I ask. He thinks for awhile. ‘The thing about Palestinians is that we never give up. We never give up.’


7.1. Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Jerusalem is an interesting city. At this point, I have read many Wiki articles on it. Contested as the capital.

A Canadian tourist who believed he was the Biblical Sampson and tried to tear stone blocks out of the Western Wall, a Christian tourist who tried to burn down the al-Aksa Mosque. Oren tells us about the ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ – Sufferers are afflicted with the delusion that they are characters from the Bible, the Torah, the Koran or some messianic figure. Here’s the only city in the entire world held sacred by all three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. No wonder the Israeli authorities take ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ seriously.

Oren told us about King David and Jesus and Judaism and the Torah and religion in general. I find it hard for me to retain these information, and if you asked me to repeat them I can’t. At the Chuch of the Holy Sepulchre, It’s interesting how this must be such an amazing sight and experience for the Christians, and yet for me… It was.. nothing much. What I care to appreciate is the way they responded to a stone. The place where Jesus was supposedly buried. To them, it must be ‘wow’ and they must feel a surge of emotions. For me, it was ‘oooh, okay’. But if I saw a volcano however, I would be completely in awe. It’s the sense that the things we read about the study about are actually real, and coming so close to that.

The Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem) was also really interesting. I’ve been to a couple now, Germany and Poland and Anne Frank’s House and this. This was extensive, it explored the different concentration camps then, and talked about the Jewish Resistance Movement which I was not aware about from the other museums. It also drew links to the establishment of the state. Land of Israel. Eretz Israel. The Jewish stereotypes were mean, can’t believe they were printed on games and cups and stuff. 😦
We spent some hours there.

In order to enter the Dome of the Rock, we had to go through some security scanning.




photos photos photos



5. Eilat, Israel (Red Sea)

Crossed from Aqaba to Eilat
At Aqaba we shopped for dead sea products, bidding our last Jordanian city goodbye.
The kind shopkeeper who offers us tea mentions that tourism in Jordan has fallen significantly ever since the Arab Spring (2010); ‘people either don’t come, or those who come have little money’ (like us 😛). Can’t help wondering about those who work in the travel industry. As we cross over to Israel, I feel thankful for all the beauty Jordan has offered in our encounters, and the warmth of the Arab hospitality.
Reached Eilat in the evening. Amitay picked us up from the border. Ate falafel for dinner – our first meal in Israel.
Noted the structured layout of the streets, the neatly drawn zebra crossing, the clean photographs placed at the border checkpoint as we crossed over. Notable enough.

Hello to the Red Sea!

Snorkelling within the spreading center of the diverging African and Arabian Plate.
 Known for its rich biodiversity, thriving coral reefs, and clear waters year-round, it gets its name from the rich population of algae that apparently give the waters a red tinge 

weird people who were stupid enough to NOT have brought a towel, when going to snorkel on a WINTER’S DAY

at night we talked about… many interesting things – about sunsets and dust that made some more colourful than others, about other random things I never really asked or had an answer to
we talked in the dark, and then we slept
we had those tea in wine cups
we ate some chips
we slept

Haven’t been writing much this trip, though I feel that I learn quite a bit everyday. A little disappointed with myself in a sense.
Talked to Amitay – fishing, caning (cultural), YouTube videos and learning, why sunset nicer than sunrise (particles in the air reflect light), figuring out the plate boundaries while we lie in the darkness.
Pablo Escobar and the one hour lecture on the animal ethics thing – ask eres!!
Sabbath –


when you pay $500 and refuse to look at what you pay for……. LOL
kidding, wouldnt have missed the view for anything

Eilat – skydiving. Free-falling. I was nervous on the plane. But at the same time I knew I was mentally prepared. I thought about the Vietnamese-Danish girl I met who said she wasn’t scared at all because she was like, thinking about it for too long already. And the NZ girl who got it as a birthday present. I tried to mentally prepare myself, but still I felt my nerves jumping. I was excited and anxious on the plane, but at the same time a wave of calmness gripped me when I saw just how beautiful it was – the blue of the sea, the sand of the land, the little structures that grew tinier. I was in awe. It was absolutely beautiful. The undulating desert and its terrain. We went higher. I wish I could take more photos with my eyes. I wanted to remember it.
And then the plane door opened and my heart jumped again. I grinned for the camera and laughed, an outward expression of my release of anxiety. Goodbye Lyn, I thought to myself as she disappeared. After awhile we went to the edge, where I tried to stick my long legs out. Got a little stuck, so I was occupied with adjusting and didn’t think about the height, and after I was adjusted and my feet were dangling, shortly after we  f e l l 
It felt like… falling. Haha, yeah such an attempt to describe it. Falling in a way that I can’t stop. I shouted until I was tired of shouting – it requires energy to scream, really. The cold of the wind. And then the parachute opens and we slowed. That part was lovely and beautiful. I was safe, I felt safe. We hovered over Jordan – he was going to bring me there, he said. We swung that way. ‘We’re in Jordan now!’ he says. I laugh, but briefly wondered if I would get shot by the military. Hahaha. We swung back. He pointed out to me the various areas – this, that, …
And when I landed I felt so happy. So happy because I did it, hurray. 🙂
I’m really glad I did. 
Was it scary? Many things related to fear is largely in the mind. 
The fear of danger is 100x scarier than the actual fearful experience in itself – that spanish quote i read about before.

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4. Wadi Rum, Jordan

Wadi Rum was one of my favourite parts of the trip, because of the many natural landscapes we got to see.

I liked seeing the camels, and the lonely olive tree.
there is it
i like the scrambling up the rocks
the view of how tiny everything can be from a larger perspective

i liked the running up of the dunes


another siq

rock climbing up, to receive unexpected pictures



Khazali Canyon – a deep fissure in the red sandstone Khazali Mountain. 
Over time the beautiful shapes were formed by wind and rain.

I suddenly recall the events that took place. We had shared a ride with the Slovakian girls to Wadi Rum. The moment we got off at Wadi Rum the many guides came to us; the Slovakian girls got a really good price compared to what we were offered by the hostel. We thought of cancelling the booking with Beduland Camp Wadi Rum but our host convinced us that this good price would probably pose greater danger to them / exclude some things / different from our tour. Later in the evening it turns out these girls were at the same camp as us………… seems like they all actually operate in the same camp, first-price discrimination perhaps. Theirs even included dinner.

Note to self: Try not to pre-book. I should have known actually, hmm. 

Wadi Rum was great. We met Georgia who was heading to Beirut. Now that it’s been planted in my head, I would like to visit Beirut someday. 

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At night, I was so tired I didn’t feel like talking at all. I wanted to lie in the bed under my comforter, quiet. When we finally reached the room I remember feeling so relieved, and it brings to mind the time in Bolivia, when I had the whole room to myself and it feels SO GOOD. Times like this just brings so much comfort. I finished reading When Breath Becomes Air in the cold, and slept.

3. Petra (by night)

​Wadi means valley

Wadi mujib

up up up

the cool rough texture of the sandstones

beyond the treasury

Took some polaroids with some of the Bedouin there. After some discussion and their multiple attempts at lowering the donkey price from more than 40usd to 12usd or 7 usd something lower, we fell for it (noobs) and took the donkey up.

We rested our whole heavy weights on the donkeys’ backs, and I felt bad, I really did. If I had more time, I would have definitely wanted to climb those steps myself. But I was here only once in a lifetime, I wanted to see more. Sorry donkeys.

Highlight was the sandstones, the beautiful sandstones that melded into beautiful shades of beige and pink. 

actually, they remind me very much of Lickitung the pokemon

Shades of earthy colours, like hardened paint gently dripping towards the pull of the earth

2 Korean guys


As the sun slowly started to set, we made our way back to Valentine Inn (following 2 Slovakian girls) where we had a huge yummy dinner (with potato salad and hot soup, I remember)
Set off for Petra by Night after the sun had set. Our hostel van took us there.

I had been anticipating Petra by Night with breathless excitement even before the trip, when I was reading up on Petra by Night’s availability. I think I had expected the view to sweep me away, or some sort of magical performance or twinkling feeling that would make me feel like it was an incredible sight.

But it wasn’t, not really.

We walked through the Siq, where we had passed through and back in the morning. Somewhere along the way candles started to appear. As we walked closer to the treasury the guides reminded us to keep our volumes down.

when we arrived — many candles wrapped with brown paper bags (?) were placed on the ground. Beautiful, sure, but possibly quite underwhelming… the show started. A man started playing his flute, another played another instrument and sang. After that, the photo session commenced. The lights turned off at 10pm.



I suppose it was very much a tourist show. But ohwell, Petra  by night, you sure knew how to make visitors visit you twice.

Subtle things like females cutting hair for men

Girls preferred cause more easy to manage

Abortion they go Cyprus

They wear that hat thing depends like occasion festivals parties or cooling like air con in summer and warm in winter like kalpak

​ Female cut hair for men

Religious channel money advert

Prefer females more tame

Eg infidels and How pple will be rewarded in paradise will be recognised

3. Petra, Jordan

Petra – what I came to Jordan for. So happy I couldn’t help jumping around 🤗🤗🤗 with tombs, monuments and sacred structures intricately carved out of a sandstone cliff, stretches of earthy colours are etched across its majestic breadth 

From Amman we had taken a shared taxi with another girl, passing by Madaba, known for its 6th-century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We also went to the biblical hill of Mount Nebo, which overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. Passed through the King’s Highway, stayed one night in Dana Eco Lodge before heading to Petra the next day. 

Mount nebo And from Amman to Dana we took like a day tour to madaba through the king’s road, karak castle then to dana (27jd each shared taxi)- 8.30am we reached at about 4pm.
From Dana we took a 2 buses through Ma’an to Petra- 3jd and 3jd
Petra to wadi rum – 2 hours or so, 7jd per pax shared taxi

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We met Maya from Australia. I learnt that 30% of Australians are Atheists. Wow, that’s a pretty high percentage. Interesting. 

We had bought the 2 day pass at Petra online, as part of the Jordan pass. Checked in to Valentine Inn, which was really near Petra. The shuttle bus took us there, but it’s walkable (we walked back after Petra by Night).
If I’m not wrong – I can’t remember if this came first, or the Siq – but the moment we entered there were many men on donkeys trying to sell us donkey rides e.g. Indiana Jones tour, etc trying to convince us we didn’t have time. 
After some huge drop in their prices, we somehow caved in and got on their donkeys which were to send us somewhere (we thought the entrance – but it wasn’t). 
^ losers who didnt walk. Booooo us
After we got off we were stupidly  fooled into tipping both the guy and the donkey. ‘$5 is for me, you also need to tip the donkey’ or something like that, he had said. Basically we stupidly tipped both him and the donkey. We fell for it like losers. Why? I dk why. I think we were too tired to argue or something HAHAHAHA but on hindsight er……. tip for the donkey too?? lol
we were also like ‘okay….. so the donkey ride DOESNT bring us all the way to the treasury…..’
too late
After passing the entrance, we had to walk through this long canyon. Took many photos along the way and we were like ‘man at this rate we’re never gonna reach THE highlight – the treasury’ and so we focused on the path

Petra was beautiful. I was so excited, I danced around with joy as we walked through the Siq (canyon). 


#milennials #camwhore #brb #selfies 

mosaic city

2. Dead Sea

An Iraqi mother and her 2 children were floating in the Dead Sea. The sun had set and it was raining, and the children were eventually lost. The civil defence forces arrived for rescue and one managed to grab hold of the 2 children; unfortunately the waves were too strong and they swept out of sight. The next morning they were found at the Israeli side of a resort, alive. They had drifted along with the current through the night. (Source: 2015 news – stories from our Jordanian host) 

Well I lost the photos from the first two days from my camera for some reason, sadly. 

I landed in Amman airport, lyn a day before. I waited for Mohammad at the airport. I was a little nervous, because of my text the night before, and also perhaps I carried with me a certain… impression of Arab men. I’m sorry, but let me acknowledge it here. I do. But Mohammad is definitely one person that helped me to reshape or rather broaden my perspective a bit. Of course he’s not like the other Jordanians, he’s a… generally more open-minded, more connected, able and willing to discuss issues. (I say this also because he’s the main Jordanian we hung out with, thus I may be mistaken when i say ‘more’).
I remember asking questions after questions (ahahahaha) and I’m trying to put into words now what were some things I learnt – i asked about honour killing (young members of the family to escape harsh jurisdiction), education, Amman as a medical hub, Israel (and his inability to get the visa despite applying 3 times + skewed (IHO) ‘peace’ agreement), complexities of dating a Jordanian woman (family, pressure, marriage, uncertainty in how to behave in a way that does not bring shame to her), gender issues (observable + haircut, etc), arranged marriage.
I saw the ‘religion’ channel on TV, in the hospital. 

Come to think of it, he’s the first Jordanian I’ve met in my life. 

Dead Sea – we managed to come up with a cost-free solution. Is it that Asians really love taking photos? What I mean is – is it fair for me to say it’s an Asian (cultural) thing? I do think so, but I’m not sure if i can necessarily pinpoint as that. It could be a social-media-generation thing. But then see Thailand, Russell (Philippines), …













On hindsight, what an honour to have visited this site. I count myself tremendously lucky. The dead sea! Afew years ago I’d never thought I’d get the chance to visit. I am tremendously lucky. I was bursting with excitement months before my trip, during my planning. It was more beautiful than i pictured it to be, more tranquil. We had the place to ourselves, the quiet. The mud, and the cool texture of it. Natural mud. The misty horizon. The smooth surface that a single stroke broke into a tremble of ripples.


1. Amman, Jordan

I didn’t write much this trip; each night I got home I was sleepy, and maybe a little lazy. I have an hour before the plane lands and I get sucked straight back to reality, so here’s to seizing time (and fresh memories).

More than one person asked ‘Why Israel?’ Why Israel and Jordan? Sometimes I am briefly amused at the fact that a year ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d be heading there. Some destinations feel so far away, and the Middle East is one of them. Like India, it’s not something I thought I’d visit this year either. I quite like these surprises. After these trips of the year I now feel like I don’t have to be surprised anymore, plans can happen and many things lead to them – opportunities, timing. Who knows where I’ll be next year? 

I suppose Israel has been in my head for some time now, from meeting Natalie in La Paz, the Israeli guy in India. Actually I’ve met a couple of Israelis. The idea of Jordan first emerged from my interviewee for my thesis. I remember balking at how she went to Jordan and Syria alone – a tiny girl like her. Then, my perception was of complete awe. Where is Jordan, isn’t it so dangerous? No! she said. She met the loveliest people there. She told me about Petra and the warm hospitality of the people. And then Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s instagram featured Petra some time back. I instagram-messaged that photo to Papa. I remember thinking: if Mr Lee can visit Jordan, and meet a group of Singaporeans there, surely it’s safe enough for me to visit?

What is safety, and what is danger? I find it so hard to say. ‘Is this place dangerous?’ I don’t know how to answer that. Is Jordan safe? Yes I felt safe, but I was with my host most of the time. Yes there were catcalls, yes it’s not the most organised so it may feel a little disorientating at times, but I did feel safe. And then there’s Karak castle shooting, and the man who reached out to Lyn, which was annoying. Does that make the place unsafe? Not really. It’s still pretty safe, because nothing happened to me. Right? 

For me, I felt okay, relatively safe (normal) in Jordan, and I felt safer in Israel. I think back to the 2 Korean boys we met. We told them we were heading to Israel and they said ‘wow, [we] heard that Israel is the most dangerous country in the world!’ The most dangerous country in the world? I felt absolutely safe there, and if i were to compare West Bank, Jordan and Israel, I’d say I felt safest in Israel, because of its level of organization and structure and clean streets. I think again to Rio de Janeiro. I did not feel unsafe there, it felt normal, even though I was walking alone. 

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So what is safety again, do I perceive safety based on its level of development / structure? I suppose so. And of course the fact that nothing happened to me. And I’m really glad of course, and thankful. Thankful that I’ve got a pocket of experience that has helped me to understand the world a little better. Thankful for all the beautiful people we’ve met, thankful for all my helpful hosts, male hosts who weren’t sleazy at all. Thankful for the opportunity to have asked questions that filled my ignorance, understanding the Middle East a little better – geographically, politically, culturally. I would say I have learnt a lot, and each time I come home after these visits I am intrigued by news articles discussing them. I like that very much, when I find myself interested in these issues I was previously almost apathetic to, because of my prior ignorance. But now I can connect with it perhaps in some sense, and it makes me appreciate the world a little better.

carls junior?