Thursday, June 24, 2010

2010 Vacation: Jordan - Day Zero - Getting There

Day zero ... actually two days, Saturday and Sunday ... was travel day.  We had a flight scheduled to leave in the late afternoon and we were at the airport the requested two hours before our flight time.  When we checked in we discovered that the flight was delayed.  Instead of 4:55 PM our departure was tentatively scheduled for around 8:00 PM.  This was a little distressing as our layover in Chicago was only two and a half hours and a three hour delay guaranteed us missing our Royal Jordanian flight.

We went through security and headed for our gate and waited.  I couldn't sit much so I had some dinner (a BBQ pork sandwich - the last pork I would eat before returning home) and stocked up in bottled water (four bottles - the first water related mistake of many on this trip).

At time went by the news got better as the estimated time of departure slowly creeped earlier.  We boarded our plane at 6:45 PM and our flight made record time arriving at 8:00 PM - an hour before our connecting flight was scheduled to depart.  We hopped on the train and went to the international terminal where we discovered that we had to go through security once again.  Four unopened bottles of water and an unopened bottle of Diet Dew, all bought at inflated airport prices, pulled from our bags and dumped into the trash.

We hurried to our connecting gate, buying more expensive airport water along the way, arriving as they were boarding the flight.  The flight ended up leaving an hour late.  To our relief, we'd had plenty of time.

Our seats turned out to be in the center row, not the best for a 12 hour flight.  Looking around It felt odd being the only Caucasian-Americans.  Everyone else were middle eastern or Arab-American.  Our row mate to my left was a Kurdish gentleman with family in Syria.  He worked for the U.S. Customs office in San Diego.  I have met a few middle eastern people and they all tend to be talkative and very social and our seat mate did not disappoint.  Actually he talked a little too much for my taste.  I was a little relieved, after taking off and pulling out our books and magazines, that he left us to our reading.

Actually very little reading was done.  Probably less than a half hour into the flight the Wife and I both closed our eyes and tried our best to sleep.  I never sleep well on planes but I managed to get some sleep, a fact confirmed by our Kurdish friend when he informed me that I snore.

Twelve hours later we arrived in Amman, Jordan.  I hadn't moved from my seat.  Didn't even need to use the facilities.  So much for that concern.  We got off the plane and were met by a gentleman from the tour agency holding a sign with our name on it - a first for me I think.  We grabbed our bags and headed for immigration.  Our passports and 20 JD ($28.24)  were handed over and he ran off. Before you could ask "where did he go", he was back with our passports with visas stamped inside.  He took us to a private car that took us to our hotel.

At the hotel things got a little weird.  We expected to have our hello - hi there dinner but were told we were on our own and that we would meet our fellow tour mates in the morning.  It kind of felt like we were being dumped off.  It would become obvious the next day why we didn't have the dinner.

We ended up eating alone in the hotel restaurant (Dinners were included with our tour).  The food, a buffet, was a lot of lamb, beef, and chicken along with a lot of stuff I didn't recognize.  It was spiced a little different from what I'm used to - spiced taste not spiced hot.  It was okay and my worries about food were eased a bit.  This first night I skipped the dessert table, an oversight that I corrected on subsequent meals.

We spent the rest of the night in our room checking out the satellite TV (i.e World Cup Futball).  Not the most imaginative way to spend our time but our hotel was not really in a very walkable area and we were a little unsure about what was prudent.  Looking out our window we could see a lot of new construction and at least one of the ubiquitous Mosques (The dark dome is just left of center and the minarets are near the center of the panorama below but are hard to see.)

Hotel View Panorama.
Some observations mostly from the drive to the hotel from the airport:
  • Amman is a rather monochrome city.  All of the buildings are roughly the same color - a sandy beige to pale sandy rose.  Very few buildings are painted.
  • Most housing is multistory apartment/condos.  The buildings are boxy, with regularly space windows, stark, and utilitarian.  I saw very little exterior decoration of residential buildings.  I can only assume that most decoration is on the inside.
  • While there are camels, donkeys are more common.
  • I would not like to drive in Amman where you have to be pretty aggressive to get about.
  • On the plane, between movies, they showed a map showing the progress of the plane.  One of the alternating maps was a compass rose indicating the direction of Mecca.

2 comments:

  1. "the first water related mistake..."

    Whatever the title of the travel book I know you will eventually write will be, that should definitely be the sub-title.

    Sounds like a good way to start the trip. After all, if your biggest loss is expensive water, that's not too bad. I, for one, would have freaked if someone ran off with my passport!

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  2. GH: Fortunately the water related mistakes turn out to be financial, not intestinal.

    The guy knew our names so we felt confident handing our passports over. I have found that when you travel over seas, your passport often leaves your possession. In Peru you had to leave your passports with the front desk to check in. In Jordan we had them on our person the entire time.

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