A Travellerspoint blog

Staying connected in the air

I promised Nicole that I would limit posts on airplanes and related topics, but I thought this was one worth mentioning.
Noticed the below indicator on one of our flights on Royal Jordanian. In case you don't figure it out, its a no-phone indicator. This particular flight apparently offered inflight mobile service. Gave it a try, but unfortunately couldn't get it to work.
Probably better to avoid bothering a cabin full of people and running up those international roaming charges.
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Posted by jkirsch 16:56 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

The Good (and the bad) in Madrid

sunny 70 °F

Spent a lovely sunny afternoon in Madrid yesterday during a layover between flights and made it to two of the city's notable cultural institutions: The Museo Prado (though our tastes tend to be a bit more contemporary, it was still very impressive) and the Museo del Jamon (it's actually a chain of restaurants featuring cured pork products).
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We then enjoyed a nice walk across the city before heading back to the airport, happening across the interesting scene below in the Plaza Mayor.
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We weren't sure whether they were one act or two...

Unfortunately, our past tribulations with Madrid Barajas Airport once again reared their head (despite having taken pains on the trip to specifically avoid flying Iberia). Upon arriving at LAN checkin, we were told they no longer accepted paper tickets and moreover suspected the legitimacy of ours, insisting that tickets normally have computer-style printing and barcodes on them. In fairness, that's usually a pretty safe assumption.
Took 2.5 hours of waiting for them to get clearance from the head office in Chile, but we were finally cleared to travel. Another 30 minutes to get through security and we were finally on our way.
On the plus side, we had the pleasure of waking up to this gorgeous sunrise over the Andes this morning and arrived to excellent weather in Santiago (though a not-so-pleasant $130 "reciprocity" entry fee for US citizens).
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Posted by jkirsch 16:24 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Another day, another desert

Or, living la vida Bedouin

sunny 85 °F
View Round the World on nhilde's travel map.

Desert-haters, beware: Jordan is not the vacation destination for you. It seems like 90% of the country is vast, dry, uninhabited - and yet, for the most part, eerily beautiful - desert.

After our adventures in Petra, we were ready for some relaxation, and Wadi Rum (one of Jordan's most picturesque deserts, located about one hour south of Petra) was just the place for it. We arrived at our camp in early afternoon. (For those of you balking at the fact that Jake and I went camping, don't worry: the tents had beds and there was indoor plumbing!) It was a cool place, made even cooler by the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves for the night. After sitting around and enjoying the views for a few hours, we had a late lunch and then headed out in Talat's jeep for an off-road tour of the region.

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Our camp in Wadi Rum

Even though April is high season here, we only encountered two or three other cars during our three-hour drive, which made the experience even more special. Jake's pictures don't quite capture just how quiet, beautiful, and surreal Wadi Rum really is, but they should give you some idea:

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In addition to enjoying the meditative beauty of the desert, we also goofed around a little with Talat and Sami (our driver). Here's a few of my favorite pictures from the day:

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We ended the trip by drinking some tea and watching the sunset atop some particularly red sand dunes in the middle of nowhere.

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Back at the camp, we feasted on fresh local lamb and arabic salad with Talat and Sami, and spent the rest of the night relaxing around the camp fire and looking for shooting stars. The beds in our tent were very comfortable, although we would have slept better if it weren't for the howling of the wild dogs and the incessant "shrieking" of a local camel.

Yesterday, Sami drove us through Wadi Araba (another desert!) to the Dead Sea and on to Amman.

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The shores of the Dead Sea - that white stuff is salt!

After four days of Middle Eastern buffet food, we were craving something a little different, and eventually settled on the Benihana at our hotel. Teppanyaki never tasted so good!

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A few final observations on Jordan:

- Bedouin tea: The Bedouins (the local people that live in the desert in Southern Jordan) love to drink tea, and boy do they like it sweet. When Talat makes tea, he adds about two-and-a-half HANDFULS of sugar to a small pot! It tastes good, but I think I developed a few cavities and an increased risk of Type II diabetes over the past few days. Talat told us that his father drinks about forty cups of the stuff every day; he must be on a constant sugar high!

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Talat making Bedouin tea

- Camels: We've learned a lot about camels during our time in Jordan (and Dubai). They are really tall, they can run almost as fast as a horse, their "bark" is one of the most obnoxious noises ever known to man, and apparently they mate sitting down (although voyeurs would struggle to witness this because camels are very shy and don't like to "be romantic" in front of an audience). I'll miss the camels...but luckily for me, Jake does a pretty decent camel impression! (PS: I wanted to post a funny camel video that we made in Petra here, but we donĀ“t have the bandwidth to upload it right now. It will be posted soon though, so look out for it!)

Posted by nhilde 20:36 Archived in Jordan Comments (1)

When in Petra...

Do as the Nabateans do!

sunny 77 °F

(The Nabateans being Petra's original inhabitants and builders of much of the site we see today. Though it might not be confirmed in the historical record, I'm sure they would have made efforts to capture similar sunset scenes as below.)
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Our two days here have been action-packed. We've been especially lucky to have an incredible guide named Talat. Not only has he helped us understand the history of the site and taken us off the beaten path, but has also provided great insight into modern Jordanian culture. Last night, we even had the privilege of joining him for what I'm sure will rank as our best meal in Jordan at his family home (5 or 6 of his 11 brothers and sisters and some of their own families were also there!).
We've spent a total of 20 hours at the site over the past two days and have really had a chance to cover a lot of ground. Yesterday began with a walk down the Siq (gorge) to the Treasury (if you don't know Petra, you might still recognize it from Indiana Jones). The structure is truly spectacular and remarkably well-preserved, owing to the fact that its actually inset into the cliff face and therefore protected from the elements. The treasury, like almost all other structures in Petra, is actually a tomb - built to ensure that the Nabateans would live comfortably during the afterlife.
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The afternoon was mainly spent hiking up to the "Monastery" - another tomb in the mountains above the site that also featured a very unique scenic view.
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In case you're wondering, it wasn't really...

Today, Talat led us off-piste in the mountains around Petra and we enjoyed a mid-morning Tea on the cliffs above the Treasury. It was really something to look down at the groups gathered below, though we tried to keep as far away from the edge as possible. After lunch, we discovered a path leading up the other side of the canyon and ended up with an incredible vantage point on the other side of the structure (yes, that's us mugging for the camera with the Treasury below).
All-in-all, an active couple of days in Petra that have left us in need for a warm soak and a bit of rest - hopefully a lie-in tomorrow should be just what the doctor ordered!
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Yes, those are people (well) below
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We couldn't resist

We'll be going off the grid in the desert tomorrow, but stay tuned for Nicole's dispatch on our last few days in Jordan.

NB: If you're looking for an excellent guide in Jordan, Talat can be reached at talatpetra@hotmail.com or through his travel agency www.seejordantours.com.

Posted by jkirsch 11:09 Archived in Jordan Comments (2)

Dubai, A City of Extremes

sunny 85 °F
View Round the World on nhilde's travel map.

What struck us most about Dubai was the stark contrast between "wealthy" Dubai - the Jumeirah beach resorts, air-conditioned Western-style shopping malls, luxury SUVs - and the everyday, working-class Dubai that is interspersed throughout. Given our limited budget (and our interest in getting off the beaten path a bit), we made a concerted effort to experience both sides of the city. I'm glad we did. Many people seemed surprised that we had chosen to go to such an "inauthentic" place, but I think that if they experienced what we have over the past few days, they would see that beyond the veneer of seven-star hotels and shopping centers, Dubai is a vibrant, multi-cultural, and very "real" city. Here's a quick recap.

On Wednesday, we spent the morning driving 4x4 dune buggies in the desert. Jake did the driving, and I documented the experience - a video will be posted later so stay tuned!

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We spent the afternoon exploring the Bastakiya quarter of Bur Dubai, which showcases the traditional architecture of the area:

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We also saw Hindi Lane and the Bur Dubai souq, and took a quick walk through the Dubai Museum. The best part of the afternoon was lunch at a little Indian hole in the wall (see the picture below). There was no menu and the waiter's English was pretty limited, but the food was plentiful and delicious, and at 27 dirhams ($8), it was a real bargain!

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On Thursday, we attempted to take a taxi to the Madinat Jumeirah, one of the fancy beach hotels for which Dubai is known. Unfortunately, our cab driver didn't quite know where he was going, and dropped us off at the other end of Jumeirah beach. We thought we could walk the rest of the way...until we realized that the beach is about 6 miles long! About one mile in, we gave up and sought refuge in the Mercato mall, where we spent $50 on sandwiches and juice at Paul (it would have only cost about 15 British pounds in London!). A short cab ride later, we finally reached the Madinat Jumeirah, and got some great photos of the world-famous Burj al-Arab hotel (the only seven-star hotel in the world!):

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Short on funds, we took the bus back to our hotel. At 2 dirhams ($0.50) each, it was significantly cheaper than the $12 cab ride there. Jake was a little cramped at the back of the bus, but I was very comfortable up front in the "women's only" section!

Thursday night was perhaps the highlight of our time in Dubai. We took an abra (little wooden boat) across the Dubai Creek to Deira, and walked through the souqs. The Gold Souq was particularly happening that night. Afterwards, we stopped for dinner at a little shwarma place right outside of the markets and feasted on shwarma, juice and falafel. All in all, a great night!

Posted by nhilde 01:05 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

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