Quietly Waiting It Out.

My last day in Jordan has been pretty much a waiting game. The best flight I could get back to Kuwait was at 5pm, so the day was really kind of a bust. The real point of this adventure was seeing Petra. That being done, going back to Amman to catch the plane out of town was strictly logistical. Now, I understand that I could have made a transfer straight to the airport from Petra, but you learn things by doing.

First thought. Jordan is not a cheap travel destination. Their currency has a strong value, compared to the US Dollar, and that affects what things really cost. Also, I went higher end than I normally due. Like I said earlier, it’s not necessarily the safest of places. You have to pay a little bit extra for a certain level of surety.

Also, be prepared to pay extra for everything. The country has steep taxes on everything. And, there are all sorts of hidden fees designed to separate you from your money. Make sure to ask what is included in the price whenever you are getting something. This is especially true at the tourist sites. And, look out for the totes trying to sell you something extra you don’t need at every tourist site.

And — the taxis! I was never charged the same amount for two trips during this whole journey. There is always some reason the meter either doesn’t work or is inaccurate. They just pull a number they like out of their heads. Its a little aggravating.

Okay, rant over. My morning was passed happily at the hotel. A little tv, breakfast by the pool, and some more tv. I made proper use of the nice bathrooms before I checked out. (Hey, its a third world country.) The remainder of my time at he hotel has been spent lounging in the piano bar.

One final thought/opinion. On the whole, Jordanian women are quite beautiful. I haven’t been able to comfortably make that statement with regards to other middle eastern countries I have been to. I’m not sure what the difference is. I suspect it is due to more of a Mediterranean influence.

Now, if I can find that airport shuttle, I’m headed off on a jet plane.

You too can to this. Just get out there. Go see stuff!

Petra, the Almost Grand Tour.

I stayed the night in Wadi Mousa, so I could be in Petra when they open. Getting in before the tour buses arrive with day-trippers helps me see it they way they show it on the Travel Channel.

Petra opens at 0600. After I had breakfast and checked out of the hotel, it was 0715 before I made it back inside the gate. Even that late, I could tell I was still ahead of the game. Most of the ‘camel ride mister’, ‘you need guide mister’, ‘you want to go to High Place’ people weren’t out for the morning yet. It made for a quiet walk in.

I stopped and got the obligatory selfie in the Indiana Jones gap in front of the Treasury. This time it was sans other people. (It was the only picture I wanted, and represented the whole trip. It just is what it is.)

Okay, I actually took half a dozen. But, who’s counting?

From this point, the rest of the place was new to explore. There was the Street of Facades, the Theater, the Colonnade, the Temples of the Kings, and the Basilica. There was a bunch of other stuff too, but I don’t remember the names.

They say that most tourists don’t go any farther than the Treasury, and then they head back out. That’s sad. There is so much to see that you need to go deep into it and look around. From the Basilica hill you can get good pictures of several things that are too big to do up close. This is especially true of the Great Temple, which is a multi-terraced affair.

I made it almost all the way to the Monastery. I turned back from the heat and steepness of the trail. Sorry Travis, I almost got pictures. That being said, the Middle of the complex rests in an open area between two sandstone formations. It holds the bulk of the stuff to see, and offers the best picture taking. Do yourself the service of at least going in that far.

Mission complete. I made my tour of the Canyon of the Crescent Moon and returned out before the heat of the day really got brutal. (Okay, I know it’s not a crescent moon, but I couldn’t resist the Indian Jones reference,)

Now, to kill 5 hours somehow, until my bus heads north to Amman.

As a side note, you can catch a taxi straight to Petra from the airport. They have it listed with a standard rate on the taxi stand board out front on the arrivals level.

Now, only 3 hours left to kill.

I found a quite spot in the back of the museum that nobody was using for a bit. Only 2 hours to go now.

And … I’m in a bus! There was a little bit of In-Sha-Allah in this last part, but that’s what makes life interesting.

Now, get out there. Do stuff!

On My Way To Petra.

So…today started out as chaos. I got up super early, so I could get to the Jett Bus station and be the first one in line. The man I talked with yesterday on the phone said to be at the bus station at 0600 to get a ticket. Figuring earlier is better, I decided to get there at 0530. By the time I checked out and caught a taxi to the bus station, I got there at 0510. (If you read this blog a lot, you’ll notice I tend to be early for things.)

The scene out front for the little bus station office was something akin to a scene from The Warriors. Dark, shuttered store fronts, trash blowing randomly about, and not a soul to be had save the dude that was opening his little corner store/coffee vending place next door. I sat on the ledge of the sidewalk and waited out the sunrise.

The station opened promptly at 0600. Unlike the phone conversations, most of the people there did not have a reservation. Unlike the internet, there was more than one 0630 bus running (this may be for he holiday. I’m not sure about this part.) also, unlike the internet, it was cheaper than planned.

I purchased a round trip ticket for 18 JD, instead of 22 JD on the internet. I was glad this worked out. My alternate option was a private taxi hire for 90 to 180 JD.

As a general note, plan on paying cash for your ticket. Also plan on having exact change. They aren’t big on giving change when they first open.

The scene outside after I got ahold of a ticket was also chaos. There was a dude out at the curb attempting to act as a barker, but it wasn’t completely helpful. I had a nice conversation with a Lufthansa flight attendant who was Day-tripping on her layover. She saved me when I left my passport on the ticket counter. (I shouldn’t be allowed to function before coffee.)

Chaos aside, I got in 0630 bus number 2, and we headed south!

The trip from Amman to Petra took about 4 hours. There was one stop for snacks and suck. The roads in the middle of Jordan are not the best, so hopefully you’re a sound sleeper. If not, you’re going to be looking out at desert for a while.

The bus pulled straight into the Petra bus parking lot. Its a short walk to the entrance gate. A 2 day entry ticket cost 55 JD. It comes with a free horse ride, if you so desire.

The entry into the Petra site is filled with more totes than you can shake a stick at. The only time I think I’ve seen more totes was at the pyramids. You just have to not respond to them when they talk.

It was a 45 minute walk down to the Treasury, which is what I picked as my initial inspection point. I say downhill because it was downhill the entire way to the Treasury. 45 minutes down, and a casual 1.25 hour walk back up.

Take water, its hot out! The weather is hotter than in Amman. The sun is brighter out as well. Take the necessary precautions.

The walk down to the Treasury is the movie version of Petra. Indiana Jones took that route. Or he did, as near as I could tell.

After the walk, there was need for downtime. I picked up a headscarf because the sales guy broke me down. Then it was lunch. Local Jordanian fare. Not much for yogurt based soups, but this was pretty good. Then, it was time to head off to the hotel and chill for a while.

Get out there. Go see UNESCO stuff!

Out In Amman For The Day.

Today kind of went a little sideways out of the gate. I got up late and wandered downstairs for the big breakfast. Hey, its vacation, right? After a suitable wait, I made a call to the Jett Bus service desk to check on a bus to Petra tomorrow. The response was; yes we are running tomorrow, and sorry it’s already full. He told me I could go on a standby list if I wanted.

At this point, I paused. Every option i could think of was bad. Check out and no bus, stuck in Amman. Extend stay plus cancel hotel in Wadi Musa plus day trip from Amman, supper bad money deal. Get a private transfer from Amman to Wadi Musa and back, expensive but maybe.

I stopped at the taxi stand in the lobby and quizzed the three gentlemen there. They seemed to like the standby and then private transfer idea. Money is money, so they say.

I decided to check the standby list later in the day. So, I caught a cab down to the Citadel and went site seeing. The Mount of the Citadel sits in the middle of Amman, and dates back to the Bronze Age, though the Romans are best known for being here. The site is sparse, but worth the time. I enjoyed it quite well.

From the Citadel, I walked down to the valley bottom and over to the Roman Theater. The Theater is well preserved and in good repair. I’m betting that it still gets use in modern times. The wood stage floor was in good repair. Due to the holiday, the Theater was kind of overrun with loud shouting groups of kids, throwing water bottles down the stairways to see if they would bust open. It brought the Guards out to yell several times and drove me onward.

As a side note, the city of Amman is founded upon seven hilltops. The terrain is surprisingly steep and changing. You should not look at google maps and assume the you are strolling down a semi-level grade. You, most certainly, are not. The streets are twisting and turning affair that constantly double back on themselves. Between the streets are small sets of stairs ways that allow you to go semi-straight up and down.

The downhill sections are as demanding as the uphill section of the city. It is really designed for taking a taxi or driving a rental car.

From the Roman Theater, I made my way on foot across town to where google maps said the Harley Davidson shop was located. It was not. Also, the up and down steep sections of twisty roads and steps almost gave me Heat Stroke! By the time I found a corner shove to buy water, I was about done for. Half a liter of water and a shady corner led to a wait for a passing taxi. Taxi guy spoke no English. I speak no Arabic. Nevertheless, I made it back to the hotel without a lot of problems. He did super gouge me, however! Got screwed by the cabbie. Think I was back in NY or something.

Air condition and more water have made the heat issue pass. I have to stop and remind myself sometimes that I’m not 20 anymore. I survived. That’s what matters.

A cross-section of Amman, in the form of some walking around pictures.

PM follow up. Just got off the phone with the Jett Bus people. I have a seat reserved for tomorrow. Things are looking okay. I’m off to have a celebratory beer!

Keep after it. Keep the dream alive!

While you’re at it, get out there and see stuff!

A Quick Tour of Jordan.

With my normal day off and the Eid holiday giving me a five day break, it was time to head out on another quick adventure. This definitely falls into what I call the weekender category. With travel to-from-and-around the country I’ve really only got about 3 days of doing stuff.

I decided on Jordan for one reason, Petra. Its an absolute must-see spot, if you’re on this side of the world. I couldn’t pass up the chance to do it.

I think everyone that travels has that list of places that are kind of a mirage. You tell everyone; ‘yeah I’m going there some day. Its for sure.’ But in the back of your head you know you’re never really going there. We all have them. Pretty soon I’ll be able to say that I’ve given that list two good dents. Both Angkor Wat and Petra have always been on that list. Angkor Wat is done. Petra will be soon. You truly never know where you’re going to end up eventually.

Today, I was up long before the sun. Caught a taxi to the airport at about 03:45. Considering the holiday, the airport wasn’t packed. That was super nice. I was planning for the opposite. Plane left on time with no issues. I chose Royal Jordanian Air. They had a direct flight from Kuwait to Amman, and the price was good.

I bought a visa at the airport, which cost me 40 JD and caught a taxi into the city. The taxi from the airport to the Marriott was 25 JD. The main airport in Amman is about 35 km south of the city, so this seemed a reasonable amount. Taxi guy was nice enough as well.

I couldn’t seem to make my arrival match up with check-in time at the hotel. So, I put my bag in their bag drop and headed out to wander around town a little.

A quick note on the wandering around part. Considering that this is not the safest of places, sandwiched between the upheavals of the holy land and the wars of the Middle East region, it pays to be situationally aware. The Marriott, like all other hotels around it, has fenced in property and metal detectors at the entrances. I checked with the staff before heading out, just to make sure the area was currently unbothered.

Once out on the town, I found it to be basically the same as other parts of the Middle East that I’ve visited. Once you look part the cosmetic differences, people are friendly enough. Jordan seems one of those places where it would be good to know the language. It is not nearly as bilingual as Kuwait or the UAE, or Bahrain for that matter. Still shop keepers seem to know a little bit of English. I managed a water and a Pepsi purchase without much embarrassment.

Back at the hotel after my walk, I still have some time to kill. Probably going to spend it at the bar. I picked this hotel because of the word bar. If you’re traveling, you might as well live a little, right?

Tang! At the airport. NASA would be proud.

Looking down on Jordan.

Downtown Amman.

A little local flavor.

I don’t know what he’s selling, but I’m buying.

More local flavor.

Don’t think they’re big on oil here?

I guess that’s a good start. Time for a beer. Make sure you get out there. Go do stuff.

And, the bags are stuffed with stuff.

We all like stuff. One could say that travel is partially the acquisition of stuff. Pictures, nick-knacks, t-shirts, ticket stubs and receipts, and memories. All the things that make travel rewarding collect in our bags and end up leaving them overstuffed. Its the great part of the experience.

Back toward the beginning of this blog I championed the idea that less stuff was better. That downsizing was a good way to make a travel lifestyle easier. Where this was, and still is, quite true … it doesn’t address how we usually end up collecting all that stuff to begin with. It would seem that I acquire mine through travel.

In the last year I have spent in the deserts of the Middle East, I have given in to my inherent need to collect stuff. I find that stuff gives memories context. They are memories in physical form.

My particular weakness in life is t-shirts. I collect t-shirts. I can’t seem to help myself. I own bins and packing totes full of t-shirts from far-flung parts of the globe. Some have been worn once, and others many times. A couple hadn’t been worn at all. That being said, I continue to buy more. It seems true that I really can’t help myself. I see a t-shirt … and after talking myself through not needing another one, I go buy it anyway.

Sometimes, buying the shirt is the memory itself. I remember talking to this older gentleman in a shop in Lisbon, Portugal. After pointing to the t-shirt in the window and saying something like ‘extra-grande’, he laughed and countered with ‘no-American size. Too big’. Needless to say, we both laughed and then went back to the business of making a sale. I still have and wear my Lisboa t-shirt, though I admit it is a little small.

Since I have been in the Middle East I have acquired several new pieces for my collection. Got me some t-shirts, a coffee mug, countless pictures, and a random stack of ticket stubs, receipts, brochures, and change.

Where I am still a proponent of less is more, every experience should have a souvenir. Wether that be a t-shirt, a fridge magnet or a scar. Don’t short yourself the chance of reliving the memories later-on. Travel makes memories.

A footlocker full of memories, headed for the storage unit. Hahahahaha

Get out there. See stuff. Buy t-shirts!

Picking the right side-hustle.

A couple posts back I was promoting the idea that everybody needs a distraction from what they are doing, now and again. My normal distraction from the realities of daily life is writing fictional novels. There are many times when fiction is much more comforting than the drudgery of reality. This is especially true in the Middle East.

The problem with escapism is when it too becomes reality. (I don’t mean as in mental collapse. Just stay with me for a second.) The writing of stories is cathartic and makes me happy. It can be done basically anywhere, and every new place you go to adds locations and ideas that can be used in new stories. The publishing of those stories, and the book making process in general, too can also be done basically anywhere. It is not, however, cathartic or enjoyable when you are working with a publisher on the other side of the planet. This logistical inconvenience is where fantasy becomes reality.

I’ve been continuing on with the writing while abroad, independent of the work hours. It helps keep me distracted. Somewhere in this, I decided to publish my next book. Where the publishing process is never one I have anything good to say about, I quickly learned that doing it while abroad gave it another layer of issues. Publisher people and consultants all like to talk on the phone, usually at length. They all think whatever they have to say is life altering. Obviously, with the time difference back to the USA, I don’t like to talk on the phone. So, I had to explain to each new person that email was the best approach. I mean, if you can run multi-million dollar project via email, you can certainly publish a book that way.

….. this actually wasn’t intended to be a ranting type of post. Not sure where I started sliding off topic?

Anyway! I guess what I’m trying to say here is that some hobbies are better suited for the vagabond lifestyle than others are. The writing part definitely is. I like to write. It clears my mind of clutter.

Now in my travels, I’ve learned that actually publishing the stories is best left for when I’m back in the states. I wouldn’t have thought that at first, but we learn by doing. And, isn’t that the point of travel? To have new experiences and learn new things?

I find that writing, wether it is books or blogging, is a great travel distraction. It helps compile and organize thoughts into memories. It also hopefully adds something enjoyable to someone else’s day … eventually. Just keep in mind that some distractions are better than others. Some add to the experience, and some detract from it. For me, personally, the writing adds and the publishing detracts. But, as with every new place I go and every new experience I have, I’ve learned something from it. And that, my friends, is why we do this thing call travel.

In an act of shameless self-promotion, which I’m not very good at, Shadow Of The Fall is out now, and available at most online book sellers, in paperback and ebook formats. (I recommend searching Amazon by title and author) (okay, I’m done.)

Keep traveling. Keep doing. Keep having new adventures!