It was a frustrating, irritating afternoon at work when i started browsing one of my favourite sites – Expedia.com – just to check out where all i could travel. It was more like a wishlist kinduv thing – i wished i couldve been in Europe at that moment (nah… it cost too much) or maybe Thailand…
Thanks to the multitasking abilities of our modern day operating systems – i was also exchanging pleasantries with a friend (Lets call her ‘A’) on google talk – and was telling her about the travel plans i was dreaming of (well, kinduv just told her the travel plans – not the part that i was just dreaming of them) – and i happened to ask her to join me, completely expecting her to laugh it off. The answer i got, and i clearly remember was – “What the hell. Lets do it.”
Now that, was as you call, a ‘life changing moment’. It was like someone burst the dream bubble – and instantly made you believe that you could make it real. Thailand proved to be too expensive (primarily the airfare). And within five minutes of combined expedia-surfing we figured out Jordan was the place to go.
In no time, (well, it did take a day or two) – leave applications were approved, flights were booked, visa was acquired, and hotels reserved. The ‘plan’ was still not finalised – we did not know what we would do there (well, ‘A’ had decided that she had to do the glass bottom boat tour in Aqaba – and that was about it.) – but we did know that we would be spending a night at Dead Sea and two at Aqaba.
The day finally arrived – and we met at an undisclosed location in Dubai at 7am in the morning. ’twas a 9am departure from Terminal 2. Yes, we were flying flydubai.
Dubai’s terminal 2 is a big change from the much more modern terminal 1 and terminal 3. It felt like being in Bangalores old HAL airport. After a long time, i used a bus to get to the aircraft.
The three hour flight went by, while we entertained ourselves by watching ’12 angry men’ on my laptop. Brilliant movie, i must say.
We were landing in Amman – and from the sky we could see that this country was going to be gorgeous. There was desert, there were mountains, there was greenery and in the distance, there was the brilliant blue of the dead sea. Queen Alia international airport reminded me of Mumbai airport. But the people were different. I have never seen such smiling and friendly immigration officers ever. I actually had a conversation with the guy stamping my passport – we even discussed the pro’s and con’s of our professions.
The car had been booked from DXB itself – and it was waiting for us at the exit. A tiny and cute little Kia Picanto. Which i never expected i would end up liking so much. Except for the fact that the AC was (as Jeremy Clarkson would say) as if a mouse was coughing through a straw.
The drive to Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea was beautiful – we went thru the outskirts of Amman, and then drove down the plateau
to the lowest point on Earth (the Dead Sea, as of now, is 402mts below sea level and sinking). Just 45 minutes later, we were cruising with the blue of the sea on our right and mountains on our left. In another ten minutes, we were at the hotel.
The Dead sea is something one should experience at least once in his life. Its weird. As in, you know you will float, thanks to the umpteen photos of people doing so that you have seen, but you never expect the weirdness of it all. Imagine being a cork. In water. You dive in, and you bounce right back up. Trying to stand up, is an effort.
9 times as much salt as regular sea water is what makes the Dead sea behave the way it does. Once you are out of the water, within minutes, your body turns white with a layer of salt as the water evaporates.
Dead sea experience. Check.
D-Day + 1
After a hearty breakfast of pancakes for A and Muesli for me, we set of to ‘sunny’ Aqaba. We took the ‘scenic’ Dead Sea route, which goes along the dead sea and the Israeli border right down to the southernmost tip of Jordan on the red sea.
The drive was beautiful, there was not a moment that i wanted to stop the car, get out and take photos. The brilliant blue of the dead sea on your right, and stark rocky dessert mountains on the left. Hardly any traffic – just miles of empty roads with a gorgeous view. After the dead sea was left behind, the landscape kept changing. One minute we were in the mountains, and the next in the dessert. And then there was greenery. Every 15 minutes, we had something new to look at and admire.
Aqaba is a small little city, thronged with tourists and small shops, selling everything from shawarma to beads to sand bottles. We checked in to the Intercontinental – a gorgeous hotel – huge pool, great beach, friendly staff and a awesome spa. ‘A’ immediately checked out the spa deals, and was booked for a treatment – while i went and hung out at the beach.
The beach at Aqaba is an interesting place – not because of the people, or the sand, or the water – but because of the view. You can actually see Jordan, Israel and Egypt from the beach. The Israeli city of Eliat is literally walking distance. The sunset was beautiful. And Jack Daniels was on call. Again.
Pancakes and muesli after – we left for a walk to find a glass bottom boat tour for ‘A’. We found one on the public beach – who agreed to take us out for a not very expensive deal. Seriously, this is one thing that is a must do in Aqaba. The red sea is known for its corals – and trust me, they are gorgeous.
The boat took us over a military tank that had been sunk to aid the growth of corals – then showed us a sunken ship. And finally, took us to a large colony of corals. Feeling adventurous, i put on a snorkelling kit and went into the water. ‘A’ with her fear for water stayed on the boat, and chatted with the ‘captain’ – who was quite an interesting character. He claimed to be the captain of a ship – and having gotten bored of that, had taken a break to chill out and work glass bottom boats in Aqaba. And he had some interesting stories to tell about his Indian girlfriend, and various others.
Snorkelling in those corals was an experience. The colors were gorgeous – and i wished i had an underwater camera to capture the beauty of those corals. Anyhow – i got back into the boat and we headed back, with a brief visit to the Aqaba Fort. The evening was spent by the pool. Lazing. Sleeping. And listening to music. I happened to discover an awesome song that evening BTW – ‘Down by the sea’ by Men at work.
D-Day + 4
This was our last day in Jordan – and as we had Petra to cover, we left early from Aqaba. The drive to Petra was again heavenly – gorgeous views, and an awesome winding road on the mountains.
Petra is an ancient city, built by the Nabataeans. The awesomeness of this city lies in the fact that it has been carved into solid rock. Every house, temple and structure has been carved into the rock. And its gorgeous. The entrance to Petra is through a winding walkway known as the ‘Siq’. This is where the ‘Indiana Jones’ was shot. It is a beautiful walk with this towering rock faces on both sides, and the walkway being as narrow as 2 meters in some places. A water channel runs right along the Siq, which gave the city a perennial supply of water.
At the end of the Siq, is the most awe inspiring structure in Petra – called the Treasury.
We walked around and saw many other tombs and structures – to properly explore Petra, you need at least three days – and a lot of energy (as it involves a lot of hiking to reach most places) – both of which we were short of (suffering from a upset stomach and having a flight to catch in the evening.
After spending around an hour in Petra, we hiked back to the beginning of the trail and had lunch at the Movenpik Hotel in Petra – and then the drive back to the airport beckoned.
The flight back was boring. We spent our time browsing the song collection on the flydubai’s A/V system. Back in Dubai, ‘A’ went home to sleep – while i had to drive back to Abu Dhabi. Yes, work was next day.
Jordan truly is a gorgeous place – and i cant wait to get back there again. And this time, i will be spending more time in Petra – and also keeping a day for Wadi Rum. Both of which i couldn’t experience properly this time. This trip was purely to getaway. And it achieved that task. 4 days out of work – with no work emails or phone calls, was totally required. We got back re-energized – and with one country of our checklist.
New Zealand anyone??