Day 74 – Jordan to Carshalton


Day 74 – Jordan to Carshalton
Carshalton, United Kingdom

Carshalton, United Kingdom


Day 74

Flew home. The end.

Mark & Tina
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Coda
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The drive to Amman airport was nice and easy, just a couple of roads so hard to get lost. We drove past Mount Nebo where apparently Moses sat and looked over Jericho & the Jordan valley and was given a view of the promised land then was later buried up there. It’s a bit of a holy pilgrimage site. We didn’t go.

Jordanian Air check in was a bit weird and although the plane was new it wasn’t all that great but nice enough. Tina had no food given yesterday’s problems and it seems I suffered a bit of the same later after their dinner – so maybe Royal Jordanian plane food is the common cause.

Back home in Blighty the only taxis available were black cabs who either refused to take us to Sutton or wanted 130 quid. What a rip off. So we took the bus to Feltham, overground to Clapham, changed to another overground to East Croydon and black cab from there for 25 quid. You travel round the world and the most difficult transfer is from Heathrow with a cab journey being at least 3 times the most anywhere in the world for the same distance. Plus no lifts working so humping cases and people pushing past while I have 50kg of cases in my hands. Typical. So just to break the mold I struck up conversations with commuters. Ha, that’ll teach them!


Day 73 – Dead Sea


Day 73 – Dead Sea
Dead Sea Region, Jordan

Dead Sea Region, Jordan


Day 73

Dead Sea – Jordan

We planned take it easy today, just relaxing in the sun so we got up a bit late and just caught breakfast. Tina had been creating her very own Den of Eternal Stench about 2:30am and could have done with 2 vic sticks, one for each nostril but otherwise no lasting effects yesterday which was good. (Oh Mark, not sure everyone needed to know that haha!)

We waited until after mid-day to get to the sun as it was another blistering 40C so set ourselves up on the beach and did not a great deal. We tried out the dead sea which was a very strange experience, it’s quite hard to balance being so buoyant and swimming is a whole new experience.

Potash turns out to be potassium based salts for fertiliser, beach, and soap. Jordan is a big supplier and I read that the price is expected to rise from $200 to $1,500 over the next 10 years as it becomes a bit more scarce. Maybe it’s time to invest in potash futures….

So we spent the day relaxing on the beach. Actually it’s not really a beach as it is man made and not exactly on the sea, but apart from that it’s a beach. We watched the sun go down over Israel which was nice. Lots of people were covering themselves in dead sea mud which was amusing and lots of kids hopped out crying as it does sting sensitive areas, the life guard seems to basically provide water for rinsing! Oh and it’s the lowest point on earth apparently. And that’s about all we have to say about the dead sea.

Jordan is a nice safe place with some interesting things and helpful people, lots of english spoken and not at all like I expected. It’s a bit rough around the edges but good to travel in.

We are just finishing off our room service dinner as we didn’t want to go out, and I just went to turn off the fan and got a hefty electric shock. Embarrassingly I yelped like a girl but luckily I didn’t wet myself or anything …. going to leave the fan on!

Well, last sunset on this trip, hence the multiple shots – btw those pix looked a bit yellow and I had no UV filter on my point and shooter so I took them through my sunglasses, seemed to work ok.

Our stats page tells me we had almost 2,000 views and more than 300 comments so thanks to everyone who clicked and followed us! That’s about it.

Safe, sound, and shocked

Mark & Tina

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Day 72 – Petra to Dead Sea


Day 72 – Petra to Dead Sea
Dead Sea Region, Jordan

Dead Sea Region, Jordan


Day 72

Petra & Dead Sea

We set the alarm for 6am to be up and out before the major heat of the day. Unfortunately Tina was beset by stomach cramps which didn’t pass and were painful to the point of doubling her over. We waited for a while but decided we had to give Petra a try so off we set about 7.30.

Our hotel is pretty much at the gates of Petra Visitor centre so it was a 2 minute walk. Tickets were quite pricey but we paid up and got our map. Only to discover it was a 4km trek. Still, off we set and were immediately hit by the delightful aroma of horse, donkey and camel dung which gently pervades the route. We hopped off smartly, politely declining the offers of rides, postcards and so on. Sadly it reminded us of Egypt but at least they didn’t persist that much if you said no.

The walk down was through fantastic canyons carved out by water and wind, a lot like Antelope Canyon in Arizona but on a much bigger scale. Tina was having pains though the whole way which wasn’t nice for her but we carried on noticing it was all downhill but seeing no one come back we hoped/assumed there was a way back from the ‘end’.

Much of it has been destroyed but the major buildings are there and they are very impressive although you can’t go inside. We carried on down the streets and valleys of what was once a pretty remarkable place but now there is not that much left. Canyons were fantastic.

At the end, sadly there was no cable car or taxi waiting so we had to return the way we came. No-one was coming back because we must have been pretty much the first on the route that day. It was now getting hot though, the temp today rose to 40C (103F) and it was quite a steep uphill back. Tina was shattered by the time we got about halfway and rested for a bit, the onlooking French parties stared a bit but I was thinking you wait till you have to clamber back… Anyway we got nearly all the way back but stopped near a shop and I decided to find a buggy to take us back. The shop keeper was very friendly and insisted on a Bedouin herb drink for Tina which I said she’d never drink and was promptly proved wrong! He persuaded her to drink two cups which is amazing and the cramps actually stopped – he also massaged her shoulders and was generally a very decent bloke. All of which is totally against Tina’s normal behaviour so either she fancied the pants off him or was so exhausted she wasn’t thinking straight. Anyway, he called us a buggy and I asked to pay for the tea, when he said this is not Egypt you know! So suitably chagrined we said goodbye and took a horse and buggy the last click.

Tina rested for a bit and I stuffed a quick breakfast then we checked out and headed off to the Dead Sea. We decided on the scenic route which was fun but the road signs were not always clear, still it was an easy 3 hour drive. Lots of checkpoints but friendly chatty police and English spoken everywhere which is good. The only notable thing on the drive though was looking over the plains of Jordan which was spectacular and a potash plant. Now I need to look up potash.

The Dead Sea looks inviting and the resort seems nice so far. We had a good dinner and hopefully this will settle Tina a bit. We rested for a while by the pool which looks nice and tomorrow will try ‘swimming’ in the sea which apparently is hard to do.

Safe, sound, and set to swim the dead sea.

Mark & Tina

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Day 71 – Dubai to Jordan


Day 71 – Dubai to Jordan
Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan


Day 71

Dubai to Jordan

Tina had little tears on leaving Dubai, and tried walking really slowly like little kids do to try to slow it down, but off we must go.

Mid day flight was nice and the lounge in Dubai did not disappoint at all. In fact the food was on par with the best breakfast buffets so that was a bonus. Sadly the Royal Jordanian flight was not quite so good. The stewardess seemed to have a right cob on most of the flight so Tina was afraid to ask for a top up on her G&T which was all G and no T but she was too afraid to ask! Still we got a reasonable dinner which was ok and part of a film. What was a bit weird was the pilot who came out after take off and sat chatting with a passenger, almost drooling in fact. Then the first officer popped out and sat down for a while. Who the hell was flying?

We arrived at Amman on time near enough although we seemed to descend exceptionally quickly. Perhaps the crew were too busy chatting up passengers and forgot. Arriving in Amman was a shock compared to Dubai and finding the car was a bit strange but it turned up and after about a 45 second briefing we were off. It’s a 3 hour drive down south to Petra so we wanted to get there before dark.

It was a pretty simple drive, two roads and little traffic and then we were there. Checked in at Moevenpick which also seems like a nice place and is in walking distance to the city of Petra. Decided not to have dinner as we had been fed on the plane earlier so off to bed early as we are up at 6am to catch Petra before it gets too hot.

Where did the last 10 weeks go. Far too quickly…

Safe, sound & almost home.

Mark & Tina

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Day 70 – Dubai. Gone too quickly.


Day 70 – Dubai. Gone too quickly.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Day 70

Dubai

Tina has settled into dubai like it’s home, except with sun, sea, sand, service, chav free and amazing things to do. We should have booked a bit longer here, will just have to come back.

Today another lazy day at the beach which as you can see from the pix is rammed! Not. All day they come round with little service extras, ice lollies, cold towels, water in a bucket of ice and cucumber slices with everyone helpful & polite. Great stuff, probably the best overall service we’ve seen so far.

While Tina was cooking, 10 minutes a side with a rest in between it’s so hot, I hired out a small Hobie Cat and sailed around the bay for an hour which was fun. It’s hot today though, they reckon 45C which is c. 113F – it feels it for sure. The wind dropped away a little so we stayed on the beach all day which was much nicer than the pool.

Highlight of today though was a trip to the Burj al Arab next door for afternoon tea. Quite pricey but worth it for sure. We booked early in the morning and because they are in the same group it was all confirmed and sent to our room. Nice and easy. We took the free resort buggy service and got there a bit early to see the lobby and fountains which was fun, except for the odd person getting in the way of key shots! Everywhere is relatively quiet which is a real bonus after Beijing and it does seem that the traffic flows much better since we were last here, no rush hour snarl ups we could see and the Monorail is now finished. Even that’s perfect – it has 5 carriages so she can always pick the middle, it’s a well known fact that the front and the back carriages take the crunch in a smash!

Up in the skyview lounge overlooking downtown Dubai (although it’s still hazy from the dust in the air) and with the Palm on the other side we indulged in a 7 course afternoon tea. All of which was very good (other than the price!) Still a fantastic service and well worth doing. So after an hour of stuffing our faces we headed back home then went out to the Souk section of the complex by the free water taxis which was fun. Also the Wild Wadi aqua park is free but we never got the chance to go. There is a lot more we want to do here, Tina is now a Dubai freak, I reckon she’d get a season ticket if she could, so we expect to come again when we can.

Anyway, we finally found the turtles and woke the poor thing up with the flash, but after all it is a tourist destination and she’s probably used to it by now. Tina doesn’t want to leave here and is pouting at the thought of moving on. But that’s what we gotta do!

Safe, sound, & satisfied

Mark & Tina

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Day 69 – Dubai


Day 69 – Dubai
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Day 69

Dubai

The hotel is really good, excellent service at check in and off to the room, upgraded apparently. It’s on Jumeirah beach and one of three in a mini complex, dozens of restaurants, shops, pristine beach and not crowded.

We hit the beach fairly early and it was already baking but perfect for swimming and like a bath. So after 4 hours of just sitting we tried out the pool which was also good with excellent service and helpful staff. Then up to get ready to see the world’s tallest building.

We headed of to Dubai mall late afternoon and had a quick bite to eat (starters of Houmous and tabbouleh) in a Lebanese take away then up the Burj Khalifa which we’d seen half built last year. It was fascinating then but now completed it is stunning as is the whole new downtown Dubai complex. There was a Vegas style free water & light show which was amazing from the ground and very clever when seen from the top.

Up 124 floors in maybe 40 seconds in this lovely building. The sky was hazy from dust but great views over the city and the light show in the lagoon area. We wandered around the top for a while then headed back to the lakeside restaurants for the rest of dinner. Everything was pristine, good service, friendly and peaceful. We like Dubai…. Alison you must definitely come. And bring us with you lol!!

Safe, sound, and slightly sandy

Mark & Tina

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Day 68 – Leaving China


Day 68 – Leaving China
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Day 68

Beijing to Dubai

Not much going on today except leaving China for the Middle East. Two flights as via Hong Kong with a 3 hour stopover so a long day.

So up at 5:30 and taxi to the airport, even with no rush hour it’s still a long trek out. Check in was a pain at Beijing, we picked the wrong queue and ended up with a trainee who was painfully slow, then the system insisted we needed a visa for Dubai which we don’t so a supervisor had to come over to check our itinerary and after more confusion had to find a manager. All three of them jabbered at their screen, the trainee wandered off and finally they allowed us through. The airport is massive so it takes a while to get to the gates but we had a little time in their lounge which was ok.

The planes had the weird sideways on pods which are strange when taking off and landing as you get sort of twisted but otherwise comfortable ish. At Hong Kong we found one lounge but it was pants so we wandered the airport and found the other which was a bit better but another massive airport – so big in fact security use segways to get around.

The flight to Dubai was ok, Tina was convinced the luggage would not appear but it was fine. Wrong queue in immigration again, but out quickly enough then a taxi to the hotel and sleep. Gained 4 hours so it was about 2am body time by the time we hit the sack. All we’ve done all day is eat on planes! It’s hot here, 105 as we touched down and the sun was already set. But at least Tina has perked up now we have left China, just too many people and overwhelming.

Safe, sound, back in the sun

Mark & Tina

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Day 67 – Beijing & Forbidden City


Day 67 – Beijing & Forbidden City
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Day 67

Beijing – Forbidden City

Today’s plan is the Forbidden City, which was forbidden to all as only the emperors lived there, with their 1,500 place eunuchs of course, after all – how can one survive without a few eunuchs to tend to one.

We were a bit late starting out as the Chef Dong’s special shrimp held me up a little, but we were off and marching up Wangfujing street again by 12ish towards the city. The crowds were out again but this time we only received two invites to the art exhibition before negotiating the streets. We must stick out like a sore thumb big time. People seem to have zero spatial awareness (or don’t care) though. They wander, meander, stop/start, stop in doorways randomly. Plus the umbrellas were out in force today with a bit of sunshine, they bang them into you at regular occasions and being generally shorter than us that is usually the side of the head.

At the south gate by Tian’Anmen square aka The Gate of Heavenly Peace, the crowds were streaming in through the entrances complete with umbrellas and occasionally being barked at by the guards, not sure what they were saying but it sounded pretty annoyed. Mostly the people being told off just ignored them. Through the Heavenly Peace gate we enter the Gate of Supreme Harmony and walked though (somewhat disharmoniously) through the crowd where Merry, Sunny, and Katherin managed to press into my palm a card/brochure for tours. We declined several more personal guide offers and ice lolly vendors and entered the Hall of Supreme Harmony. We bypassed the Hall of Military Eminence and its West Glorious Gate and headed for the Hall of Mental Cultivation which was nice.

After some Mental Cultivation we opted for The Palace of Heavenly Purity which was just next door and the Imperial Gardens which had some sculptures and interesting signage (which people also ignored). Sadly you can’t go into any of the buildings but we did stop and check out some treasures which Tina reckoned were not real, the real ones are locked away just like in our museums and copies are in their place. Maybe so. We missed off the Hall of Literary Glory, Hall of Clocks, and Hall of Ceramics and traced our steps back through Mental Cultivation into Supreme Harmony and back out through Heavenly Peace. Which, by comparison to inside was not too badly named…

By now we are pretty exhausted and a bit hungry so strolled back home and had room service.

The architecture of the City is quite unique, although with very similar buildings, and to think 24 emperors lived there over 500 years in that opulence is quite something. What they did there all day long who knows, but now it is a massive tourist operation with apparently 7 million visitors per year. Mind you at that rate it would take 185 years before every Chinese person (in China) actually went there. Sadly they have no concept of rubbish bins so there was rubbish everywhere and the hawking at your feet turned Tina’s stomach several times. She’s not too good with that….

Off to Dubai tomorrow, change via Hong Kong so a long day mainly on a plane.

Safe, sound, & shagged out

Mark & Tina

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Day 66 – Beijing and (almost) the Forbidden City


Day 66 – Beijing and (almost) the Forbidden City
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Day 66

Beijing – Forbidden City

On the breakfast menus today were ‘miscellaneous sheep soup’, kebabs, and a whole host of Chinese & Japanese dishes – none of which really appealed this morning so we played safe. Again. But did get a fresh cooked omelette at least. It’s amazing how much some folk put away though and they are so tiny!

Thanks for the picture in the Jade shop mum, I reckon it was the same shop. Who buys those massive things anyway?

Well we woke up to rain this morning so rather then get soaked we decided to stay in for a bit and ventured out late in the afternoon. This time we managed to find the Forbidden City quite easily and the thrilling pix today were of Tiananmen Square and the first part of the Forbidden City, but as it was late it was closing so we just wandered a bit to get our bearings and will do our own thing tomorrow when the forecast says the weather will improve a bit to only 50% cloud cover!

For the evening we researched and booked the ‘best’ according to tripadvisor Peking duck experience at Da Dong in Jinbao Street which turned out to only be a 10 minute walk. Nice and easy to get to, very 5 star but good prices with the ducks all cooked in a central open space like the pizza ovens. The duck was good and excellently presented etc but sadly we must be too used to the local takeaway to really appreciate it. However Chef Dong’s signature chilli prawns and the sautéed broccoli were excellent.

So a quick walk back dodging the traffic that does not give way even when the green man is on and that’s it for the day. Oh except I did thrash Tina at cards, with skill this time apparently.

Forbidden City tomorrow…

Safe, sound, and looking for silence

Mark & Tina

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Day 65 – Beijing


Day 65 – Beijing
Beijing, China

Beijing, China


Day 65

Beijing

We were late planning in the end so we opted for a concierge organised mini tour which was probably not that cost effective but never mind, basically us in a car with a guide. We wanted to see the Great Wall and Summer Palace and that was a full day. Tina was not so keen on the amount of time in the car so took a travel sick pill but they make you a bit sleepy which is not so good.

Breakfast is amazing here with almost too much choice. Several Asian styles as well as the usual stuff. Tina has take a fancy to stir fried bok choi from Hong Kong so that might be on the cards tomorrow, but for today as it’s a bit overwhelming we just went for the obvious. How unadventurous we are!

The weather was very overcast, reported as cloud cover 100% so quite dense and humid but at least not too hot. Beijing is massive and with 17 million peeps and who knows how many extra tourists it is rammed everywhere. We met our guide ‘Andy’ which is surely not his real name and he was a nice chap but he has obviously been a guide for many years and it’s starting to show – he reckoned he has been to the Summer Palace maybe 1,000 times…. He was knowledgeable though so we had some Chin and Ming history, Boxer rebellion, farmer revolt and so on. Beijing is so huge everything takes a long time, there are 6 ring roads round the city built roughly on the old administrative boundaries, Emperor in the middle, then nobles, then senior officials, etc until the peasant farmers. The central Forbidden City was only opened up to tourism in the late 70s – including the Chinese as it was forbidden to all – so Beijing has grown from maybe 7 million to nearly 20 million in 30 years.

Anyway, we meandered to the Summer Palace which has been destroyed and rebuilt several times and was basically a massive private garden with lakes, walks, and summer houses for the dowager empress. Nice if you can afford it, I suppose with 1.3 billion people under your control you can. The sign on the door said they had 32,000 visitors yesterday and expected 40,000 today! There were people everywhere! It does make it a little difficult to appreciate as the noise is high and people are milling about everywhere. Nice though, with things like a 700m covered painted walkway to take a stroll, pavilions to take tea when it rains and other such things emperors and empresses can get up to. No-one hassles you though, just some covert stares and pictures. A couple of bolder kids asked for a picture with us so maybe we are famous in a village somewhere – not facebook or youtube as they are still banned.

Next stop was a restaurant with the inevitable jade factory outlet but we resisted and they are not too pushy unlike Egypt. The lunch was specially designed for western tourists but was pretty good, too much to eat but quite tasty. Then off to the Great Wall at Badaling. Another fairly long drive. At the bottom of a steep hill were hundreds of coaches and the local tourists climbed up a 2km road with no path to the Wall, It looked hard. For us softees we took the car up to the entrance of this section. ‘Doing’ the Wall is not exactly correct when it spans 6,000 km but it was quite a sight. Very steep climbs and you could see it curving round the mountains but lost in the cloud cover. It seemed like half Beijing was up there! Still, quite a feat to build and apparently successfully repelled several Mongol invasion back in time.

After a steep climb and equally steep descent we meandered our way back down and into a coffee shop cleverly disguised as a souvenir shop which we also resisted. Then back in the car for the trip back for another hour or so, stopping at a photo op – the birds nest aka Olympic stadium where you can also buy Chinese kites if you like. Also there was a building shaped a bit like a Chinese dragon.

So many people and all chatting endlessly plus driving in the heat made it a tiring day but it was good to see, shame about the clouds.

Back to the hotel to recover and an early night, we are going to wing it in the city and find our own way to the Forbidden City. How hard can it be? We are going to watch carefully for pick pockets pretending to be friendlies and people inviting us ‘for a drink’!

Safe, sound, and sleepy

Mark & Tina

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