Exploring the Middle East - Road Trip to Oman for 5 Days 4 Nights written by แม่นางลำหับ

Do you ever wanna leave your comfort zone??!! Let's try to get out of our AEC countries and stay away a bit from Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan. Oh well, sometimes, going abroad you do want something new, not a feeling like 'may be I'm still in Thailand?' I've had enough of that, so today I try the M

Exploring the Middle East - Road Trip to Oman for 5 Days 4 Nights

Exploring the Middle East - Road Trip to Oman for 5 Days 4 Nights

 Tuesday, February 6, 2018 9:40 AM

Do you ever wanna leave your comfort zone??!! Let's try to get out of our AEC countries and stay away a bit from Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan. Oh well, sometimes, going abroad you do want something new, not a feeling like 'may be I'm still in Thailand?' I've had enough of that, so today I try the Middle East. Don't you just want to see the endless desert, go on a fun road trip, stop anywhere to take photos that your memory card is full, ride a camel, climb up to the seemingly unreachable top (it's so big), swim in the oasis, pick up fresh date palm, or try out the so delicious camel Biryani that it makes you want to cry??!! Well, all of this I see with my eyes and feel with my heart. Let's turn our imagination into reality! Do not be afraid of the heat, it's not as hot as you think (but much more, OMG!!) Do not be afraid of the Middle East, it's really not that scary. Trust me, Oman remains one of my greatest trip in life, trust me!!

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"Oman" or official known as the Sultanate of Oman, the land of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. Do not get panic when you heard the word "Middle East", it really is not that scary. The people here are rather lovely and friendly though this country has yet been the popular destination for Thai tourists. But this country has a lot of interesting things like the nature, arts, culture, architecture, and people's way of life. It is also easy to travel to and the cost of living is not high. Yet, you will surely never seen this atmosphere in your life before. Although I have been to India, Nepal, Switzerland, I'm still very stunt with the view along the way of Oman. So, if you don't know where to go for this year yet, I recommend Oman. Here I have put up all the information you need to know about Oman to help you with your decision :)

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Flight
It is not difficult to travel to Oman as there's a direct flight from Bangkok. Airasia used to offer this route too but it's stopped already (I'm so sad). Also, there are some connecting flights as well.

  • Direct flight: Oman Air ( daily flight )
  • Connecting flight: SriLankan Airlines / Etihad Airways / Emirates

Which airline should we fly with? For me, it's so easy, I choose to go with the cheapest one :) I use this application for my every flight Traveloka ( click >>>> จองตั๋วเครื่องบินราคาถูก ). It is super convenient.


Dress Code
Oman is an Islamic country. It is quite strict with the dress code. Women usually wear a robe covering the whole body in order to pay respect to the place. For every attraction we visit, mosques, or simply walking in downtown, women should dress properly, not too short as a way to respect the culture here :)

Prayer time = Stop working
The Islamic country would have 5 prayers a day. During these prayer times, everyone stops their work.. If you want to buy things, contact someone, you must wait a bit. At first, I was confused as where is everybody gone in the airport. To buy a SIM card or rent a car, it takes so long time. Finally, I come to realize that everyone leaves the shop for their prayers, haha, it is so lovely.


SIM card
We can buy it from the airport. They are quite a few operators but they are not so different, haha. The internet is quite limited, you cannot find an unlimited internet service. I think you have to ask each shop to find our about the plan and how to top up money to use the internet as it's quite confusing. Even now I'm already back, I'm still confused because after the internet is gone, I top up and soon it's out again!!! The point is, you must enter the code for the internet package, otherwise, you money will be gone so quickly. Without applying for the package, your money will all be deducted....


Driving and Transportation
There's no public transportation in Oman. The only way to travel in Oman is by the road trip or with a local tour. The problem is I cannot drive and the local tour is so super expensive. After searching for a while, I come to a good coincidence. From planning to travel alone, I meet 3 more strangers who want to travel there too. That's right, this trip I travel with strangers and no one knows one another before. This coincidence makes 4 of us joining this road trip together. Strange but true, this trip is so fun, it's like we have known one another forever.

Good thing about doing the road trip is we can stop wherever we wanted. We can transform ourselves into Michelle in a desert to wait for the Sheikh, eat lamb, enjoy the oasis in the so hot weather as we wanted.

To rent a car, you must have an international license. The petrol in Oman is so cheap so we can drive around the country easily. The road is easy to drive but with speed limit. Do not drive too fast regardless how much you wanted to, otherwise, you would get a fine ticket after coming back to Thailand like what we had. Well, we didn't see any checkpoint, but the cameras are everywhere.


Omanis
Omanis are so special and deeply impressive people. Our impression on Middle East people might be rough and stiff but they are so kind and lovely. While wandering around, Omanis pull over and get down to talk to us " How's Oman?" , "Thank you for choosing to travel to Oman", "We Omanis warmly welcome you", "Do you guys love Oman?", "Be happy and have fun traveling in Oman". Everyone is so ready to be a good host and welcomes their guests :) They are just so lovely. We are much happier because of this energy along the way. I think this is the charm of travel, the charm of Oman.

Resize_OMAN2016OMAN2016IMG_1121The Omani who tries to help up find places we wanted to go from the photos we saved. Even after 3 mountains and it's still no where to be found, he still is ready to go :)

Visa ( VOA )
We need to apply for a visa to visit Oman, is it difficult? Not at all, we can simply do the VOA (Visa on Arrival) which means we can apply for a visa upon arrival to Oman without having to apply in advance( I haven't heard anyone being sent back yet so you can be at ease and apply a visa there which is quite convenient).

  • Tourist visa for staying in Oman no longer than 10 days is 5 OMR ~ 450 THB.
  • Tourist visa for staying in Oman no longer than 30 days is 20 OMR ~ 1,800 THB.

Visa Procedure

  1. Type in details in the automatic machine, please look for Travelex machine :)
    • Stay duration in Oman
    • Passport No.
    • Nationality
    • Pay according to the stay time (only accept OMR)
    • Take a receipt
  2. Hand over a receipt and passport to the immigration officer. They might ask some details of the travel so please prepare travel plan, hotel booking confirmation and round trip tickets in a printed version in case they ask to see it (in case we travel in group, they will ask us to show in group). Overall, it'd cost no problem, we just have to follow this procedure and we will easily go through the immigration.

Food
Typical Omani food also comes with spices like Indian food but with less spices which I think I can handle though it's not my favorite. The food can be found from street restaurants to the luxurious ones. I have tried a camel Biryani which is so tasty. The meat is melted in my mouth. If I didn't know it was camel meat, I'd have thought that it's Wagyu beef. It's a bit difficult to find restaurant in a daytime, so we will have to eat in a wrong time. Hence, please prepare water, snack, food anywhere we go, so that we have something to eat. oman-review-pantip-8895



Hotel
I recommend you to choose hotel apartment which is a great option for a group of friends and family as it comes with living room, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. We cook here, like instant noodle, rice porridge, toasted bread, and such because we are not so a good friend with Omani food. Therefore, hotel apartment is a great choice for us :) Here are where we have stayed. Every place is so great, clean, comfortable, and convenient. If you do not want to plan too much, you can follow our choices.


MUSCAT
- Weekend Hotel Apartments is 37 OMR / Room ( 2 bedrooms ).
- It is not far from the airport and attractions.
- Buffet breakfast is includes which comes in quite a good variety.

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The view behind our room :) I'm loving it.

SUR
- Al Ayjah Plaza Hotel is 22.66 OMR / Room.
- Breakfast is included, you can choose a set from several sets.
- It is near the viewpoint where we can walk from the back of the hotel.

oman-review-pantip-9555A viewpoint from the back of our hotel


Wahiba sands
- Same al basil Desert Camp is 45 OMR / Room.
- Breakfast and dinner is included. The service is excellent with beverages and date palm served at all time.

oman-review-pantip-0425That is our hotel surrounded by a desert.


NIZWA - Nizwa hotel Apartment 35 OMR / Room ( 2 bedrooms ).


Date palm
Date palm is so tasty, especially the fresh ones. That we are at the local date palm place, we must enjoy it as we cannot find it in Thailand. It is such a signature fruit here that we must not miss. Enjoy it as much as you can because it'd be a long time before we can be back again.oman-pantip180126_0716

Currency

Oman uses Oman Rial which 1 OMR is about 90 THB. We can exchange it from Thailand. I recommend you to exchange for both OMR and USD. USD is easier than THB to exchange later in Oman and if we have left, we can save it for our next trip.

Credit card
At first I was worried if I can use it too, in fact, we can use it. But most of hotels do not accept it, please check with the hotels beforehand. However, most supermarkets would take it, let it be Visa / master card / American Express. Now you can enjoy shopping :)

Other facts:

  • Electricity here is 220 volt. The plug is 3 holes, you can prepare a universal adapter or extension cord too.
  • Weather in Oman is similar to Thailand. Summer is from April to October, rainy season from May-March and winter is from November to March. The summer is so super hot, it's like fire. I travel in June and the desert is like a fire. Still, it's very beautiful. I recommend you to travel here during winter which could help your trip to be much more enjoyable.
  • Thursdays and Fridays are their weekend. Government offices, markets, and shops are usually closed, please plan well for your trip.
  • Lunch for Omani is from 14.00-15.00 and dinner is between 20.00-21.00. Their eating time is quite late. Certain restaurants open according to this time.
  • During the Ramadan, all restaurants and shops are closed in the daytime and only open in the nighttime. So if you travel during this time, it'd be very difficult. Drinking, food, chewing gum in the public is prohibited. I highly recommend you to avoid traveling here during this time.

Interesting attractions in Oman?

Mainly, I'd say it's a desert, oasis, and mosques :) Houses are also cute. The landscape also looks different from what I used to see. It's like this place is not on the earth. If I have to imagine for the Mars, Oman would be it. I'm glad to have visited the Mars. Now, please enjoy our 5 days 4 nights trip here :)

OMAN PLAN
DAY 1 - BKK - Muscut
DAY 2 - Muscat -Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque - Matrah - Al Alam palace - Bimmah silkhole - Wadi shab - Sur
Day 3 - Sur - Sunaysilah Fort - Bilad Castel-Wadi Bani Khalid - Wahiba sands
Day 4 - Wahiba sands - Birka al nawz - Bala Fort - Nizwa
Day 5- Nizwa Fort- Al hamra- Jebel Sham - Muscat - BKK

001 Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
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Here is where we start our first visit. It is such a grand mosque located in Muscat, the capital city of Oman. The interior is beautifully decorated with stained glass, carpet and world's largest chandeliers. It is so super beautiful. I was so deeply appreciated with the interior beauty that I forgot to take photos (haha). This mosque can hold up to 20,000 people. It was built from several hundreds of thousands of sandstone imported from India. Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, wanted to build this mosque as the most beautiful one possible as per the pride of Omani. He has arranged for the design competition and put great effort in building this mosque which lasts for 6 years and 4 months.
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Resize_OMAN2016IMG_8923As a Buddhist, it is quite striking to have a chance to visit the full and official mosque for the first time. I walk around for hours as I'm really impressed with its architecture.
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Notes : To travel here, we must dress properly where we must cover every part of our body including head. A woman must also wear a veil too in order to pay respect to the place. Since this place also performs religious rituals, it only opens for visit from 8.00-11.00 a.m. on Saturday to Thursday. Please plan well for your visit.


002 Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq is the market of Muscat. It is one of the oldest Arab markets in the Middle East. Mutrah Souq is located near the Old Town harbor (Old Muscat). It sells everything, from clothes, souvenirs, and all local food. Most of the shops sell similar things. Omani clothes are also available here but please negotiate the price too as it was set quite high. Do not worry, Omani is very kind. I also got an Omani cloth here (but I buy a male dress as it's easy to wear). He gives me quite a good discount and also give us headwear for free. If you want clothes like us, please stop by his shop, he is very kind :) ( If you want some postcards, you can also buy it here. I was thinking to buy later, but nowhere else sells it, so I didn't get any).

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Resize_IMG_9065This shopkeeper is very cute, discount and gives us free item too :) You are more than welcome to stop for some souvenir also.

Here is the atmosphere near the market which is right opposite to the sea, what a great atmosphere.
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003 Al Alam palace

It is the official palace of Sultan Qaboos which is located in the heart of Old Muscat, overlooking to see the Gulf of Oman. It opens for visit all year round. However, it's closed on the day we visited so we can only appreciate its beauty from the outside, haha. oman-pantip180126_0449.JPG
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004 Bimmah Sinkhole

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Then, we drive to Bimmah Sinkhole. It is a large pool formed by natural collapse.The water is crystal clear so many tourists are swimming around. For me, I'm quite scared of the water and a bit lazy so I just enjoy myself with the fish spa, so good.
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The water is so clear. It is said that this is the most beautiful sinkhole in the world (see, we see the most in the world again). It is not big but warm and water is cool. It's like a bunker and a small oasis for us to rest along the way.


005 Wadi Shab

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From the book, today I see the real oasis. It's much more beautiful than what I have imagined. It's like we have transcended into another world. On the way into this oasis, I feel like it's the Moon. This place is like a scene set for movie shooting. To reach this oasis, we must further take a boat in. The fee is 100 THB for a 300 m distance (what!) haha. Oh well, it's like we have a choice, haha. But in comparison to the beauty inside, it's very worth the money. It is very cool inside, just like what I have read in Thai famous adventurous novel called Petch Pra Uma.

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oman-review-pantip-9981The entrance is a giant rocky mountain feeling like a journey into the dinosaurs era.

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oman-review-pantip-9966oman-review-pantip-9994oman-review-pantip-9922oman-review-pantip-9891While walking, we see the actual date palm trees. It is both tasty and gives us a huge pleasure taking photos like we have a quiet week of fashion poses. Local people here plant the date palm just like Northeast people farm the rice and Southern people do rubber plantation in Thailand. The big date palm farm here is fenced like the Great Wall, I can't imagine how wealthy they could be to be able to fence their farm.

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oman-review-pantip-9833Sometimes, it's quite bad as the photos taken here are so cool regardless of where it's taken.

The fun of the road trip lies at freedom. We can stop anywhere we wanted with no time limitation. We can plan of when to wake up, when to eat, how long to stop at each attraction, it's like we have destiny in our hands. More importantly, the road in Oman is so so good and It is also rich with oil, we can drive as fast as we wanted, haha, except you could get a fine ticket afterwards, Resize_IMG_9149Resize_IMG_9170
Here is the view along the way where we can stop anywhere we wanted.

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There's no traffic police checkpoint here except the camera as if to tells us "I know you would drive fast". Therefore, please keep in mind about the speed limit if you don't want a fine ticket afterwards (like us ><).


006 Sur

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It is a pastel seaside town, given the landscape of Oman, I'm totally speechless. Houses in Oman are lovely as they are all pastel rectangle, let's say the shape and the color is in the same theme.

oman-review-pantip-9513-2oman-review-pantip-9563oman-review-pantip-9492I think daytime is already beautiful but the sunset is much more beautiful. We spend a night here so we get to see something like this. I think this is the reward of the heat with about 40 Celsius in exchange for the beautiful sunset everyday.
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007 Sunaysilah Fort
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008 Bilad Castel
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009 Wadi Bani Khalid
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Here is another oasis. It is so difficult to reach because there's no sign whatsoever but we make it anyway, haha. We ask the direction from Omani, all of which point to different direction :) Don't get me wrong, they are very willing to give us direction which impress us a lot. I think this oasis is more developed than the first place as it has a small pavilion for us to enjoy the view. Regardless of how hot the outside is, it's suddenly cool downwhen you are in the oasis!! OMAN2016oman-review-pantip-0921
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There's a beautiful pool for us to swim once we walk in. Oh well, we didn't reach the destination as we are so caught up with the view along the way. It's so beautiful. We simply sit there and fully enjoy the moment. We didn't care what the destination would give us but we care to enjoy along the way more!! The weather here is so chill that we can just sit here all day long. Also, you can swim too if you'd like.


010 Wahiba sands

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oman-review-pantip-0514oman-review-pantip-0158After roaming here and there for 2 days, we are now with our main destination for this trip which is the desert. I have been to Mui Ne Desert and I thought it was so exciting already. But I have to tell you that seeing this desert makes me feel like that one was a fake one. The real desert is as high as the sky, as far as the sight can see. We have driven around for about an hour, still, we have not covered the entire desert yet. I think this is what the real desert should look like. It is certainly one of the must see places in Oman that you must visit. Coming this far to the Middle East, if you miss the desert, it'd be a total loss.
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How can you miss camels in the desert right? It's my first time seeing them, I'm so thrilled. I'm falling in love with them the minutes I see them, also it comes with the feeling that I wanted to eat them too, haha. Didn't you just have a camel Biryani yesterday? Again? Here, you can also buy another activity called dune bashing. Basically it's the 4WD drive and drift on the sand dunes which is very fun especially on the high dunes. Also, the camel riding service is available too. All of these services, you can contact your local hotel.
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Resize_OMAN2016IMG_0680His face doesn't tell me that he wants to pull this camel.

The day we stayed here is a bit cloudy so we didn't get to enjoy the sunset. The good news is the weather also not that hot. I think it would reach 50 Celsius if it's sunny.
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How can you miss sleeping in the desert watching million stars when you are in the desert? Another must do activity is to spend a night in a camp in the middle of the desert. It is a summer when we visited so it's a bit difficult to find a desert camp. Luckily, we found Sama Al Wasil Desert Camp. This camp is very lovely. I think only get to take this photo is already all worth it.
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oman-review-pantip-0760This is an Arab style lobby, I love it so much that I want to have it in my house too.

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This place truly makes my Oman trip one of the greatest. I can say that it is my favorite :) So, coming to Oman, you must not miss staying at the camp inside the desert :)
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If you travel here in the winter, you will get to party around a fire camp which is indeed another cool activity. But since we are here during summer, we could be burn with that activity so there's no fire camp in the summer time.

Expenses( We spend a lot at this place but I think it's so worth it.)
- The camp is 45 OMR / room ~ 4,000 THB/room (accommodate 2 people including breakfast and dinner).
- Pick up service from the meeting point at Al Maha Petro to the dessert camp is 30 OMR ( the camp locates in the middle of the desert which is very far, we could easily get lost or our car could stuck in the sand, so I think please take this service).
- Dune bashing fee is 30 OMR.
- Camel riding is 5 OMR each person.

Reservation: you can make your reservation with this Email: [email protected]


011 Birkat Al Mawr
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We try to climb up and enjoy the city from a high angle in order to see the Birkat Al Mawr, with a city view, mountains, and date palm as a background, but we failed :) Anyhow, we got different view instead. This place looks like a deserted city which makes me wonder why I'm here, but after wandering around, I find this beautiful view at last.
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Resize_IMG_1185 My shoes after trying to go up here and there.


012 Nizwa

Nizwa is the second largest city in Oman, after Muscat. It is located in the middle of Oman. It is Oman's most famous place for a historic and ancient civilization of the Middle East. The tourists are quite a lot here as it is the main city before you travel around to other cities. It has two famous large ancient forts: Nizwa Fort and Bahla Fort. Both forts open for visit from 09.00-16.00. The entrance fee is 1 OMR. We reach Nizwa just in time for the sunset. I say we can simply enjoy the sunset scene in Oman everyday as the sky is wide open everyday.

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013 Nizwa Fort
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014 Bahla Fort
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015 Al hamra
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Al hamra is another small lovely town just a few minutes from Nizwa. We found it after half an hour drive as it's located along the way before we reach Jebel Shams. The great thing about this place is we get to have a wide panoramic view of mountains, ancient soil houses, and carpeted with green date palms. We are here in the afternoon and the light is too stiff and bright. I recommend you guys to visit here in the morning and you will find the beautiful light as well.


013 Jebel Shams
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Jebel Shams is the highest mountain in Oman, it is known as the Grand Canyon of Oman too. Actually, we must travel here with 4WD but we are up with a sedan. It's a bit dangerous and I do not recommend at all. We thus are up like this because we didn't know it.

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Since we come with a sedan, it's difficult to drive and takes quite a time long. Even after coming up here, we are not sure where is our destination. That we must return home that evening too, we just assume our destination as somewhere there, haha. Then, we found 4 Dutch guys tuna barbecuing up there too, hehe, I mean our trip is not a waste now right?,! Anyway, one thing for sure is that the view along the way is so magnificent :) My way of life is to be brave enough to write our own path. Though the future is unpredictable, in reality, we can choose our own lives. It is this unpredictable fun which is a charm that makes me falling so deep in love with this road trip. It is not so much about destinations, though we have a clear plan of where we wanted to visit, it is more about the happiness along the way. And here is the end of this so happy trip of 5 days 4 nights in Oman :)

OMAN2016oman-review-pantip-9341Everyone can certainly write your own path and everything is dependent on our choices. You don't necessarily have to go abroad, just go wherever you wanted. It could be the same place or the new one. I believe it will fulfill your life experiences, love experiences, and fun experiences. All of which start with a cheap air ticket. In summary, I spent about 10,000 THB excluding flight ticket for this trip.

I hope to see you guys someday somewhere in this world :)

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