Thursday, May 1, 2014

Jordan - Madaba Part One

After spending a few days in Amman we went to Madaba. We had a booked a car from our hotel in Madaba to drive us there from Amman. We waited about 45 minutes before Richard, the driver who picked us up from the airport, convinced us that the other driver wasn't coming and he took us instead.

Madaba isn't the prettiest city.

The Mariam Hotel was 40 JOD ($57) a night. The room was clean and comfortable.

Our room had a balcony that overlooked the pool.

Our bathroom had the smallest shower in the history of the world.

Breakfast was included with our stay, and was served on the floor above us. Starting at about 1 AM every night we could hear them moving chairs and tables around for a few hours. The breakfast was ok, but after the delicious Jordanian-style breakfasts at the Pasha Hotel in Amman, this felt a little lacking. (Especially when one of the pancakes I tried to eat bested me at cutting it.)

The morning staff (a woman) was very pleasant and helpful. The man that worked the afternoon/evening shift was totally rude and not helpful. I'm sure he deals with plenty of obnoxious tourists, but we gave him no cause to act that way to us.

The Mariam Hotel also has a restaurant so we decided to try it the first night. It was incredibly disappointing. The food was all American items like hamburgers and french fries, and it took quite awhile to get our food. They brought it in from outside (we think the only kitchen was in the breakfast area in a completely different part of the hotel), and my friend joked that it tasted exactly how he expected McDonald's in Jordan to taste.  

We decided to eat only breakfast at the hotel, and were not disappointed with this decision. We found a little falafel shop with ever-changing prices that was ridiculously cheap and delicious nonetheless. In fact, all the shops had super cheap food, and it was all amazing. 

Hint: don't get the weird pickle-ish things that they always want to add to your sandwiches. 
They don't taste anything like any pickle you've ever had, and that's not a good thing. 

This whole lot only cost 3 JOD ($4.25)
Those cookies were addictive, and we're pretty sure the cake was Chiffon.

I think it's impossible to find anything but mind-blowing sweets in Jordan.
This batch alone was worth flying there.

My friend enjoying his tasty falafel sandwich. 

We mostly ate in our hotel rooms for the trip because people smoke heavily everywhere, there are few places to actually sit down, and we were terrified of getting food poisoning. The added bonus was that we could take pictures of our food without looking like crazy people. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jordan - Ajloun

The day we toured the ancient Roman city of Jerash we also planned to visit Ajloun Forest Reserve. After arriving we discovered that all the trails were closed due to all the rain from the days previous. We were quite bummed about missing out, but decided to make the best of it and tour Ajloun Castle instead. The castle was well worth the 1 JOD ($1.41) entry fee.

My first proper castle tour, it even had a (dry) moat.

The castle was well-lit with modern lighting. 
I can't imagine how people lived here using only candles and lamps.

Me, happily exploring the castle.

Excellent views of the surrounding hills.

We had to admit, it's the perfect place to put a castle. 

We when arrived back at the Amman Pasha Hotel we decided to have dinner at the Pizza Roma Cafe, which is attached to the hotel. They had great food, drinks, and entertainment. The workers tried to lure us into dancing with them, including when one of the men donned women's clothing and gave us quite a show.

I am not cool enough to pull off a fez.

Monday, April 28, 2014

30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project (3-5)

Day 3: Travel Style 

I've traveled by airplane, bus, ferry, train, hitchhiking, walking, coach, taxi, truck, and camel. Trains are my favorite mode of transport, and camels my least.

I've stayed in massive hostels, medium-sized hostels, a bed and breakfast, smaller hostels, private homes in the suburbs, city, and countryside; in flats, hotels, Bedouin tents, under the stars in the desert, and one uncomfortable night in an airport. They were, with the exception of the hostel in Glasgow, fabulous.

Day 4: Favorite Method of Overland Travel

Trains are the best way to get around, if you can afford it. You can take a nap, walk around, eat a meal,  have a beer; whatever you like. You don't have to worry about traffic jams, and they mostly (depending on country) run on time. I usually spend the first part of my journey staring out the window at the scenery, but sooner or later I end up taking a nap. Something about trains puts me right to sleep.

Day 5: Passions Other Than Travel

I think I've devoted enough posts on the subject of strange and wonderful foods for this to not surprise anyone. With each new country I visit I discover a fantastic new food that I will miss when I leave. (If anyone can point me to a restaurant/pub/food stall that sells American style biscuits in the UK I will love you forever.)

I am so glad I brought my Kindle along with me. It has made torturous coach rides tolerable, and kept me entertained while rabbit-sitting in the middle of nowhere on rainy days.

I brought a selection of knitting needles with me from the US. So far I've knit two hats, a shawl that took so long I can't even fathom it, and a Harry Potter scarf bookmark. I need to get to work on some baby toys I promised a certain someone... 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jordan - Jerash

Before going to Jordan I had no idea how many Roman ruins there are there. It's astounding to see half a Roman city surrounded by a modern-day one. If you go to Jordan, you really must see Jerash (12 JOD/$16.95). You need at least 3 hours if you plan to take in the gladiator show.

Hadrian's Arch (built 129 AD)

Roman Forum again with friend for scale

The Forum was seriously massive.

What remains of the never completed Temple to Artemis

We could still see the grooves from chariot wheels.

Just me, hanging out in the old marketplace. 

We watched the Roman Army and Chariot Experience (12 JOD/$16.95) at the hippodrome.

The legionaries demonstrated Roman fighting techniques which were quite interesting. The chariot race left something to be desired. One of the charioteers couldn't get his horses under control. Both charioteers looked absolutely terrified the entire time; I don't blame them. 

The legionnaire that held my friend's hand.
Jordanians are a really friendly bunch.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jordan - Amman

Amman is a massive, sprawling city. We stayed in the older part. Older, as in, going back to the time where it was part of the Roman Empire, and even earlier. People are quite conservative in this area. The only people we saw wearing shirts that didn't cover them to the wrist were tourists. Couples should refrain from public displays of affection, including holding hands, as this is not appropriate. Two men, however, may hold hands in public, as it is merely a sign of friendship.

Amman's Roman Amphitheater, as seen from the roof of the Amman Pasha Hotel. 

View of older Amman from the Citadel. 

You can find just about everything in the shops in Amman.

We walked up one of the many big hills behind our hotel and explored the Citadel. It was well worth the 2 JOD/$2.82 entry fee. This place is ancient, possibly being inhabited since the Neolithic period. 

Me, next to part of the Temple of Hercules at the Citadel.

We also explored the Roman Theater. Entry fee was 2 JOD/$2.82. There are two museums on the site, one on the left, the other on the right as you enter the main area of the amphitheater, make sure not to overlook them. The climb up the steps of the theater was quite the workout, and to be honest, a little scary. Some of the steps have been worn down quite a bit. I saw women in high heels climbing the steps; how they managed to not break their necks I have no idea. (The steps on the far left as you climb up appear to have been replaced and are a little safer to climb up/down than the ones in the center.) 

For some reason neither of us took pictures of the amphitheater while we were in it. I blame the cold weather that day (it was only in the low 50s F). 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jordan - Arriving in Amman

My friend and I decided to go on holiday (yeah I went on holiday while traveling) to a warmer climate. Turns out, Jordan can be down right chilly in March.

We landed at Queen Alia International Airport, near Amman, and were met by our driver, Richard. Passport control at the airport was simple enough, at least for UK and US travelers. Present your passport and 25 JOD (Jordanian Dinar) to the man at the desk, he stamps it, passes it to the guy next to him, he puts stickers on it, gives it back to you, and off you go. You must pay the fee in JOD. I saw an ATM before we got to passport control, but you should probably make sure you have 25 JOD on you before leaving your home country.

That's me, my friend, and Richard at Al Mujib Dam. 
(A bit on driving in Jordan-
We could have rented a car, but there's no way I would have been able to cope with driving there, and my friend doesn't drive. While there seem to be few rules of the road, there are plenty of speed bumps that sometimes appear out of nowhere. Sometimes two-way streets become one-way because there are a lot of cars going one direction and they just decide to drive in the oncoming lanes. Most lanes aren't really marked, and even when they are they sometimes disappear suddenly. Parking is a nightmare. People manage to squeeze their cars into spots that seemed to defy the laws of space and time. Everyone speeds, everywhere, even on winding mountain roads. There are few traffic lights. The traffic jams during rush hours (morning, lunch, evening) are crazy. You don't get a turn, you take it or you'll be sitting in one spot for a few hours. If you have nerves of steel and can be very aggressive while driving, give it a chance, you'll see way more of the country that way. If you don't, get a driver, we recommend Richard.)
Richard took us to the Amman Pasha Hotel for 25 JOD ($35) which is the standard fare. It takes roughly an hour during light traffic. The hotel was excellent. I highly recommend it, although some of their rooms are significantly better than others.

Our first room 33 JOD ($46.60) a night.
It was quite a large room, and the bed was comfy.

Lovely spacious bathroom in first room.

For some reason I didn't take a picture of our second room. 
It was also 33 JOD ($46.60) a night, but it was just big enough to fit a queen bed in and shuffle around. 

Bathroom in second room. No tub this time.

I took this standing in the shower. 
It was a bit of an awkward bathroom to be honest.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project (1-2)

I'm participating in the BootsnAll 30 Days of Indie Travel Art Project. I'll post about my Jordan trip once I've settled in at my new home in Vienna.

Day One: A Changing Worldview

When I was packing for my trip in October I wasn't really sure what to bring. I expected the UK to be really cold and for it to rain everyday. When I got to Scotland I was shocked to see palm trees on the west coast. Yes, it was cooler in Scotland in October than it was back home, but once November rolled around it was still the about same temperature (45F/7C), but Missouri was having its usual wild temperature fluctuations between freezing cold and rather pleasant.
And yes, it did rain a lot, but not terribly hard, and generally not all day. An umbrella really did keep you dry, a remarkable feat when one is used to sideways downpours like we often get in the midwest.
What I enjoyed most about the weather though was how the Scots loved to complain about it. It might be sunny and 50F/10C and they'd stand around at bus stops bemoaning the terrible cold. Here I was, thinking the whole of the UK would be a frozen, miserable place for the winter, to the point where I packed ice gripers for my shoes, and at no point have I needed them.

One stereotype that has been reinforced has been that the British love their tea. Upon stepping foot through the door of each of my new house-sits the first thing my hosts said to me was, "Would you like a cup of tea?" Apparently the answer must always be "yes" because the few times I declined I was met with awkward looks and asked again until I accepted. I even had afternoon tea twice a week with the mother/mother-in-law of my first host. I have met a few Brits who don't care much for tea, but they seem to be the definite minority.

Day Two: Travel Origin

My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Gibbs, used to tell us stories about her travels in South East Asia. Most of the other kids seemed bored, but I was fascinated. When people ask me what made me want to travel I tell them about Mrs. Gibbs. My wanderlust/fernweh started then, in that classroom. She ignited something within me that slowly built with every photo, article, documentary, and House Hunters International episode I saw. If I knew a way to contact my teacher, I'd send her a thank you card. Although, there's really no way to repay her for all the amazing things I've seen and wonderful people I've met since I started traveling 168 days ago.