"We travel not to escape our life, but to stop life from escaping us"
When you're thinking about a holiday destination lets all be honest, relaxing with a coffee at Stars and Bucks (the West Bank version of Starbucks) doesn't usually come up, but it should. So here are my 5 reasons to visit the West Bank and Palestine sooner rather than later.
1. Whatever you think you, you’re wrong
We all think we know what going on in the West Bank and have our preconceptions of what it’s like. I did, I’m not afraid to say that I was even a little apprehensive traveling there with my wife and young children. How wrong I was. Spending even a little time in the West Bank is enlighten, saddening, uplifting, and educational all at the same time. There are so many facets to this place it’s hard to process everything but I can guarantee you that you will still be thinking and talking about your visit there long after you’ve left.
2. Palestinian's can’t wait to meet you
Palestinian people literally can’t wait to meet you. A smile and a welcome from nearly everyone we pass. They are a warm and friendly people, happy to sit and tell their story. My girls played dolls with the daughter of our host and then ran out to play football in the street with some local kids while we ate an amazing lunch and chatted about life, the world and social media. When we had to leave all Lucy wanted to know was when they could come back and play.
3. You get a bang for you buck.
Because the tourist industry is still building up you’ll see a lot for your money. Especially if you can spend a few days with the same guide. From lunches with locals to hidden gems the money you pay to travel in Palestine will give you more experience than you can ever think of.
4. The guides are passionate
I’ve been on a lot of tours in a lot of countries and sometimes you can see they are just going through the motions, especially in place with a fully developed tourist industry. However Palestine is different, the tourist industry is still building. This means that the guides still talk with verdant enthusiasm about the place they live, the history, the culture and the life they live. They aren’t reeling off lines from a script they are educating tourists with a passion that I love when I’m seeing a new part of the world. (If you are looking for a guide contact Muhanned, he is a great local guide)
5. It’s disappearing
Although it shouldn’t be, the Palestinian area of the West Bank is shrinking. With the building of the separation wall and new Israel settlement being developed every year its making it harder and harder for people to justify staying. In reality if you are planning to visit Palestine in 5-10 years time you may have missed the boat (although I hope this isn’t so). We visited one area now called the ghost town in Hebron where a once thriving market street now has only three Palestinian families living there and nothing but closed store fronts. So the best thing to do. Book now and book with a local.
Our taxi drive waves to the man in uniform standing at a big metal gate and he swings it open to let us pass. We step out and are greeted immediate by Sharon who takes us to the main building for a glass of fresh lemonade as our bags are taken to our room. On the way we meet Vikrum who is carrying on his fathers dream of turning a once baron piece of land into a beautiful yet natural place to stay. Looking at what it is now, the dream is alive and healthy, because it feels like we're in an oasis and we're definitely going to make the most of it.
The jungle hut is one of the oldest accommodations in the area and already from the customer service and the beautiful surrounding I can see why it's kept going from strength to strength. We pass the kids area with tree house and trampoline and up for our lemonade. A tour of the main area let's us see the games cupboard (which both my girls loved) and the swimming pool (also a huge hit) and then we sat down for a delicious lunch.
Post lunch it's time to check out the room. Down to hut 5, a small building with a wrap around veranda. Opening the door the cool AC is a welcome break from the dry heat outside and we lay our bags down as the girls jump on the bed and check out the bathroom. The room is simple but has everything we need and we love it!
Over the course of the next two days we take tours (temples and tigers) and enjoy the included meals at breakfast lunch and dinner. Each meal is tastier than the last. A mix of cuisines from traditional Indian to lasagna. Malay chats with us in the dinning room and gives advice on flavor combinations to try. Relaxing while the girls make the most of the games cupboard, Sharon sits down with us and talks about the area and how they source all organic and pesticide free veg for their cooking. Her love for the area and the jungle hut family are apparent in the the way she talks about it lovingly.
By the morning of our last day we've climbed into the tree house, taken a dip in the pool and eaten more delicious meals than I can describe. The girls say goodbye as do we and we hop in our taxi to Mysore almost sad to be leaving such a friendly beautiful place. I think the jungle hut is a pretty special place and the people there are amazing, if you come to southern India and miss the it, you're missing out, in a big way!