Monthly Archives: January 2013

TLA’s Best of Bahrain

My colleague and former office mate runs a blog called Two Crabs.  It’s a professional operation he’s got going on over there.  Book recommendations, a travelogue, thoughts on work life, the blog is a real powerhouse among Foreign Service blogs.  Just before his departure from Bahrain, he posted an exhaustive list of just what the title of this suggests post suggests: the best of what’s out there to do in Bahrain.  There is no way to top that, but as I reread his post I realized we differed on as many of our opinions about this little island as we agreed upon.  This is not the first time my colleague and fellow blogger has been featured on this blog.  Perhaps you remember Peace Out Man, where I semi-roasted my brother-in-bureaucracy.  Here’s my take (with minor variations to the original work) on his epic project:

Presenting the first (and not necessarily last) TLA Best of Bahrain Awards!  TLA is off to new horizons, to lands unknown, but not without first imparting a little of my less than expert institutional knowledge gained spending over 22 months on this rock on the Western edges Persian Gulf.

RECREATION

Best Friday Brunch: Meh…  If I’m really honest about it, I didn’t much care for Friday brunches.  It was overpriced, over-boozed, and overrated.  You end up spending half the day eating and drinking, and then you end up unable to do anything with the rest of your day and to kick you’re able to enjoy a headache that lasts well into the next morning.  I can think of better ways to spend my Fridays.

Best Beach: Al Dar Island is an under appreciated spot with great views (albeit mostly of oil refineries) and good times.  It’s nice to grab a beer and food and lounge on a beach cabana.  We wanted to rent one of the overnight cabins with some friends but never got around to it.  Honorable Mention: There is a little public beach down on the south western coast called Al Jaza’ir that was a lot better than friends described, and my wife and I sat on a piece of cardboard (it’s more ground up seashells than sand) and ate cheese, salami, and crackers one afternoon.

Al Dar Island

Al Dar Island

Best Tourist Attraction: Qa’lat Al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fort) is by far the most spectacular historical monument in Bahrain.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to five forts on the seafront and ruins of civilizations that date to times B.C.  However, the most striking remnant of the past is the Portuguese-constructed fort whose minaret-shaped turret is hard to forget.  It is also a great place to people watch, as Bahrainis of all stripes converge there each evening (especially in the fall and spring) to enjoy the walking paths, ride their horses, and dip their feet in the waters of Persian Gulf.  Honorable Mention: Another newly-christened UNESCO WHS, the Pearling Pathway, traces its path through the northern island of Muharraq.  It is difficult to find and hard to follow, but for the adventurous traveler, it is worth the time and energy.

Qa'lat Al-Bahrain

Qa’lat Al-Bahrain

Most underrated tourist attraction: The Manama Suq is a fun spot to frequent if you live in Bahrain, but if you wind through the suq, passing all the gold and trinket shops, as well as the tailor shops and remittance brokers, you will finally reach the intersection where a number of the most important Shi’a religious centers face each other in a perpetual stand off, unwilling to give any more sacred ground to the others.  It is the site of the most fervent of the bloody Ashura processions each year, and the crossroads of an uprising.  Make sure a protest is not planned for your visit.

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2012 in Review: A Short History of TLA

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Vietnam: The Interview

Hanoi
Hanoi

When my colleague asked me to draft up something for Vietnam for the embassy newsletter, I was excited about the prospect.  The trip had been worth documenting, and I had a dozen ideas of different things I might write about.  But as I am nearing the end of my tour, I found little time to spare to dedicate to the project.  Then I was struck by an idea that was fresh and interesting, and probably better than anything I would have written myself.  I could interview my wife, who accompanied me on the trip to the land of Ho, and get her perspective.  It had been around two months since our trip and I realized it was probably the perfect time to capture her thoughts on Vietnam, while they are still fresh, but she has had time to process them and decide which ones will be part of her long term memories.  Ever the diplomat, she agreed and so, without further ado here is the totally impromptu interview:

(Begin our only very slightly edited [to protect the innocent] interview.  Thank you my dearest wife.)

Q: Is there anything I can get for you?

A: Yes, you can move those [decorative vases I put in dumb location where our cat could knock them over].

Q: OK, can we do that after the interview?

A: Yes.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.  I know you have a busy schedule.

A: I do.

Q: I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about your trip to Vietnam.

A: …(silence)…

Q: OK, nothing to say about that then?

A: (laughter) I’m very happy to talk about my trip to Vietnam.  It’s one the best trips I have ever taken.

Q: Great.  Save all the Vietnam stuff for the interview.  So, Vietnam: how long were you in Vietnam?  What were the cities you visited?

A: We were in Vietnam about nine days and stayed initially in Hanoi.  Then we took a boat trip out to Ha Long Bay before returning to Hanoi for the final days.

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