Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Island of Bahrain

4/9/2005 5:53 PM

April is a great time to visit Bahrain. Odd to think an island comprised of 90% desert would be a comfortable oasis to visit, but there are a few things to like about it. In particular, the Hotel Novotel is a beautiful beach-side hotel with all the watersports you would want to accompany the 70-75F weather this time of year. That would include kayaking, windsurfing, jetskiing or beach volleyball. It’s Curves exercize center is sufficient for all your needs, with modern equipment and the pool is fantastic compared to the two other hotels I visited: The Sheraton Bahrain and the Diplomat Raddisson.

The location is the only possible issue, if you like to walk to everything in the area, but taxis are plentiful and inexpensive.

The Diplomat Raddisson is also close to the water and with 3 restaurants and live music in the evenings, it’s also a great place to park your evenings. The Crown Plaza next door has great nightlife with a singing band, but the F-1 Bar is a great place to taxi it to with its pool tables and live Canadian band 7 nights a week between 10 pm and 1am. Afterwards BJ’s is a great place for dancing from 1130 pm to 230 am.

Driving around the island was straightforward through the Raddison Diplomat’s World rental cars, where a jeep ran about $65/day with unlimited mileage. Gas here is about $1US per gallon, but you wouldn’t take more than 4 hours to drive around the entire island, although finding the famous tree of life in the middle of the desert is kind of a challenge, especially when all the sand and pipelines look the same, but it is an enjoyable finding once you figure the misleading street signs.

The Wildlife park for $3US includes an hour tour of middle eastern wildlife and the park is pleasant to visit and not far from the Formula 1 race track where every year around April 2-4th, a giant race with over 40,000 people occurs. The hotels in the area become quickly booked up at this point and should definitely be booked well in advance.

There are many malls with modern movie theaters, Starbucks and every other main department store you would want to shop at.

You can also venture to one of the many “Souk’s” in the area, local markets where discount merchandise of every variety abounds, especially tailor-to-fit jeans and dress shirts, cologne and a variety of local dried fruits and nuts.

Bahrain is one of the more lenient muslim countries, so don’t worry as much about covering up, except if you should decide to visit one of the many mosques in the area, where prayer is served 5 times a day and visiting hours are recommended between local prayer times.

There is a great Bahrain museum that has interesting artifacts and historical facts and figures that are well worth the inexpensive entrance fees.

Finally, diving in the gulf is definitely worth doing, if you have enough time and hire a private boat. The visibility along the shore is not the greatest but further out at sea, the diving is supposed to be fantastic and the visibility amazing.

Seattle’s Best Coffee with internet for $1/hour and leather lounges makes for a pleasant place to start your day and the cinnabon counter is right next to the coffee counter, so a good donut can be bought to go with your coffee if you like.

There are several great Indian restaurants in the area, most of them provide lunch and dinner buffets for about $5USD.

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