Sun 26/07/09 13:08

I’m in the Amman airport at about 11 in the morning before I leave for Beirut. It’s been a good day so far and if everything goes as planned I’ll be in Beirut in about 2 hours. Although there was much that I loved about Jordan, there was much that I was not that fond of, to be more precise, the people that I met were without a doubt kind and considerate, but I got the feeling that they looked at me more like a meal ticket than a person. Amman wasn’t that bad, but in Petra I felt extremely uncomfortable trying to buy anything. It didn’t matter where you went it was like the prices of items were based on the nothing more than the emotions of the shopkeeper. That prices changed daily, sometimes lower and sometime higher. Oh Well.

I met up with a French mother and daughter that lived in India the other day, and since it seems like we were on the same schedule. We were in the same hotel in Petra, I saw them in the park, we were on the same bus to Amman, and we shared a taxi from the bus station to the same hotel, and this morning we shared a taxi to the airport. It was something that I really needed. It’s been tough so far traveling by myself, so any company is really welcomed, and Caroline and her daughter were especially fun to be around.

Sun 26/07/09 13:05

So I’ve been in Jordan for five days and except for a half hour I haven’t had internet at all. It’s really starting to annoy me.

This morning I headed down the hill to Petra at about 830 after a cold shower. It was one of those excitement days before I get to see something that I’ve always wanted to see, like Red Square, the Eiffel Tower, or Tiananmen Square, and I was hoping that I’d get there before the massive number of expected tourists arrived. Unfortunately, that was not to be, I got there right when the first group, or wave, of people showed. Not to worry though it was everything that I had hoped for, the buildings, the paths, caves, and even all the people made for a great experience.

The weather started great and soon ended up being very hot, just like it should… but for some reason, and I’d love to hear if this happens to any others, sunscreen doesn’t seem to work very well for me. I put spf 45 sunscreen on three times today, and wore a hat most of the day and when I got back to the hotel I looked like I had been slow roasted. I guess maybe I should have put it on 10 times. J Or maybe it was just that hot, I did drink four liters of water while I was there, and the rocks are white so maybe the heat and the reflection off the stone fried me.

Sorry about the ramble, but back to Petra. For those of you who might not now what Petra is, it is a city that was abandoned about 1000 years ago, but while it was thriving it had a large population that built their houses and buildings by carving them out of the surrounding mountains. The icon for Petra is the treasury that was used as a backdrop for a scene or two in the first Indiana Jones movie. The treasury was in other movies too, but most people remember it in the Indiana Jones movie. It really is impressive, this ornate and huge building just carved into the side of a big rock. Other than the treasury there were many other buildings that weren’t as well preserved or not as large, but all were still really interesting. One of the great things about this place is that you basically can go anywhere you want. With only a few exceptions, if you saw some place that you wanted to explore, you just went. I took it to it’s limit and got lost twice. If not for a deaf Bedouin boy that guided me back to the path –twice, I’d probably still be wandering around the mountains right now. Okay so that’s a little bit of an exaggeration since there’s really no way you can get lost since almost everywhere you go you can see land marks, but some of the paths aren’t really marked, and it is really easy to start following a goat path and get to a spot where the path just ends, and like I said if not for the Bedouin boy that would grunt at me, walk about ten meters in front, stop and then wait for me to catch up and then start walking again, I really would have gotten lost. It was kind of funny though, he was really nimble on the paths, and I was like a lumbering giant trying to stay up with him. As I write this, another example is coming to mind, you know in LOTR when Gollum is leading the hobbits? That’s what it reminded me of.

So now I have to figure out what I’m going to do tomorrow. I’ve pretty much had my fill of Jordan so my next decision is to go to Cairo or to Lebanon. I want to go to Lebanon, but the visa to get through Syria can be a nightmare and if I try to get one at the border there is a chance that my ride will abandon me, at least that’s what I’ve been told. Most people can go through Syria to Lebanon with about an hour wait at any of the borders, but with Americans, it can take up to five hours and sometimes we may not get them at all. If it takes five hours I was told that the bus would just leave me and move on, and I’d have to catch a ride with the next bus, or by some other means. The thing is, is that once I get to Lebanon, I still have a problem getting to Turkey because I have to go through Syria again… but I could go to Greece from Lebanon, which would be really cool. I don’t really want to go to Cairo, mainly because I’ve been there before and once I’m there there’s no place for me to go. So I think I’ll try Lebanon tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Sun 26/07/09 13:00
and taking the scenic journey

This morning was my last morning in Amman. At about nine, I headed out of the hostel to catch a taxi to the bus station for my trip to Petra. There was pretty much only two things that I wanted to see while I was in Jordan, and that Amman and Petra, but I’d be lying if I said that I felt like I wasn’t seeing enough of the country. One of the downfalls of traveling by myself is that to go on excursions that take a day or two is that with one person I’m not able to share the cost of transportation with others. So with some of the things that I wanted to see It was just too expensive… Well this morning as I caught my taxi to the bus station, the driver starts saying that he’d give me a good deal to see some of the sights in Jordan on the way to Petra. We haggled for a little while and although it seemed a little bit too more than I wanted to spend I decided that I would do it. My reasoning is pretty straightforward, I may never get back to Jordan again, and the extra money above what I thought I should pay will be eventually forgotten, but the sights probably won’t ever be, so off we went.

The first stop was Madaba… I think that’s the correct spelling, it’s a small town outside of Amman and a nice change from the hustle of the big city. I wish I could have spent a night there if not only for the change of pace. I went to a couple of museums and visited a church. What I really loved about the church was the chanting/singing by the monks, it was straight out of those horror movies.

Then I went to Mt Nebo. If you don’t know what Mt. Nebo is, don’t be ashamed, neither did I until I was there and walking around the “mount.” If you don’t know, it’s where Moses went to die. The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular, you could see rolling hills all around, and down in the valley was Jericho…I mean I never, ever, thought that I’d see Jericho.

The next stop was to visit the river Jordan, more precisely, the spot where Jesus was baptized. The tour was pretty good, but a bit too much of nothing, if you’re not a religious person, which I’m not. I think what I enjoyed the most was being about 5 yards from Israel. I just got the feeling like I was at the demilitarized border between North and South Korea, for all the ill will that is focused towards Israel. But there it was, Israel, no more that twenty feet away with a big Israeli flag blowing in the wind like it was taunting the Jordanians.

Next it was off to the Dead Sea. Of all the things that I really didn’t care to see, that was one of them. I don’t know why people make such a big deal about it, except for the supposedly super healing powers of the water, but for it to be a big deal to you, you have to believe those claims, and frankly, I don’t. I did go down for some pictures and went into the souvenir shop, which I might add sold medicinal formulas for every ailment that a person could possibly get. It would have been nice to go for a swim… or from what I’ve heard, a “bob” is more accurate since the salt content is so high that you float above the water.

After the Dead Sea, we went to Karak Castle. This was cool, not only for the fact that it is huge, but for the freedom that visitors get to explore it. There are chambers and hallways all open to the public, you can climb up on the highest walls and pretty much do anything that you want there. While I was walking around it struck me that I really respect the way the Jordanians do some things.

I’m in Petra right now and the town is really beautiful. If you’ve never seen photos of the town of Petra, which I don’t think I ever have, it a small town set on a very steep hill. In many ways it’s adopted the tourist trap mentality that I really don’t like. Everything is double the price, and it seems that every local is out to make a buck on the next tourist to come their way. I don’t know if that’s actually fair, but it sure seems that way. I mean, they even have a 17% tax on everything here. Oh well, I guess if you want to play sometimes you have to pay…:)

Tomorrow I head to Petra for a day trip.

Sun 26/07/09 12:46
and I finally am adding this entry

I got into Amman, Jordan yesterday about 11 am and got to my hostel by about 1, maybe a little bit earlier. Since then I’ve been hiking all around the city. Yesterday I spent the day pretty much just walking within a safe distance from the hostel. When I first got here and ventured out onto the streets alone, I was a little bit intimidated. There are cars everywhere and people hanging out in front of shops that sit on narrow streets that wind their way through the city. Most of the streets aren’t marked so I was a little bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find my way back to the hostel if I strayed too far away. Like I said though, that was yesterday, when I first got here. Today I started just walking, and went to most of the regular sites in the city. I went to the citadel, which is an old city that is being excavated and restored. I also went to an old Roman Amphitheater, and a couple of museums. All of it was interesting and for the most part lots of fun.

I also spent a large portion of the day just hiking from one part of the city to another. I think that was the most interesting to me. You have to see the city to understand what I mean, when I say that there is so much culture here, that it’s hard to believe that this is a modern city. From a distance all the buildings look like they were built hundreds of years ago, but once you’re actually on the ground walking along the streets you start to see a city that has turned it’s back on technology. Oh, there are a few Internet cafes, but for the most part my guess is that this city looks the same as it did fifty years ago, and maybe even longer. On my hikes earlier today, there were a few clues that where I’m staying in the city is not truly representative of the rest of the city. The further you get from the downtown area, you start to see nicer cars, malls, fast food restaurants and all the other things that most cities seem to have. I’m not saying that I like KFC or McDonalds, but it seems strange that a city of more than 1.5 million didn’t have them.

Tomorrow I’m going to make my decision on when I go to Petra. I don’t know if I’ll go tomorrow or make arrangements to go on Sunday. I don’t have Internet here so I feel handicapped in making arrangements…