Welcome to Jordan

December 30th, 2008 by scott and becky

Yesterday, we spent most of the day on the bus from Aleppo to Amman. The trip took over 10 hours. Until we reached Damascus (about 8 hours) the bus stopped about every 45 minutes and the driver did something with a bottle of water. Becky guesses that there was an issue with coolant, since she saw him take a bottle of something to the back of the bus each time. The bus also had poor shocks, such that we bounced several times with every bump in the road. Scott thought the road was actually pretty good, but we certainly noticed every bump more, especially the speed humps which are quite common in Syria, even on highways.

Crossing the border itself proved to be rather trivial. Leaving Syria cost us 500 Syria Pounds each in exit taxes. Once the tax was paid, the customs official happily stamped our passports. We asked about extending our visas and if we could use the visa when we returned (we have multiple entry visas), and the person said yes. We’ll see if this turns out to be the case when we return in a couple of weeks.

Entering Jordan required that we purchase a 10 Jordanian Dinar (about $20 CAD) Visa. The border officials were very friendly and welcomed us to Jordan with smiles. This was much more relaxing than the ultra serious expressions of the Syrian officials. That said, we’re glad we didn’t try to exceed our duty-free allowance – one person was caught with two cartons of cigarettes, and was hauled off the bus, presumably to pay a fine of some sort.

At first glance Jordan seems much more “modern” than Syria. The buildings are of similar construction (cement and stone) but they look much newer.

Unfortunately, upon arrival in Amman, Scott was afflicted with a nasty gastro-intestinal malady, perhaps the stomach bug that was going around our crowd of cyclists in Aleppo. Not wanting to take the 4 hour bus ride to Aqaba until his stomach was a little more settled, we decided to spend 2 nights in Amman. Becky spent the day wandering about downtown in search of Internet and food while Scott rested.

Becky’s first journey was a trek out to the books@cafe Internet café, restaurant, and English bookstore. It required walking downtown and then up into one of the adjacent hills. Amman is built upon 19 hills. When they say hills, they are not kidding, the hills are all quite steep. Most of the hills are accessed by stair cases, so you do not need to follow the lengthy winding roads when you are afoot. Of course, when the city is projected onto a flat map, the roads do not necessary go the way they appear on the map. After over an hour of wandering, Becky was successful in finding the shop.

She was overjoyed to learn that the restaurant had ginger-ale on the menu. We have not been able to find ginger-ale since we left the US. With our various stomach ailments over the last 6-weeks, we were very much missing it. She enjoyed a ginger-ale and burger while updating emails. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get the web browser to work, so the blog was left for later – it turned out that the browsers had proxies set so they would work in Syria.

After this adventure, Becky returned to see how Scott was doing. He was still flat in bed, and not planning on moving any time soon. Throughout her wanderings she noticed a distinct lack of the little corner stores that sold staples throughout Syria. This was a definite sign that people bought their groceries at a larger store somewhere. She asked at the hotel and was directed to the local C-Town grocery store.

Getting to the grocery store required taking a taxi since it was not close enough to walk. When the taxi drove up one of the large hills, Becky was glad to not be on foot. Amman is not an easy town to walk in. The grocery store turned out to be reasonable and had a few staples that we have been missing (namely oatmeal and ginger-ale). The problems began when she tried to catch a taxi to get back to the hotel. The intersection was rather busy, but it seemed that no matter which side she was on, there were no taxis. There were lots of taxis on the other side, however, changing sides seemed to make no difference.

After about 10 minutes of trying, she finally got in a cab. She showed the taxi the card for the hotel indicating where to go Things did not feel right. Becky noticed that the taxi did not reset his meter. The taxi was going in what felt like the wrong direction. At one point, she was positioning herself to leap out at the next light, as this was not going well. Soon thereafter the taxi stopped someplace and said this was where she was going. Wanting to get out, like the foolish overly polite Canadian she is, she paid the taxi the full amount on the meter and left! She left cursing herself for paying the full fare rather what the fare should have been had the meter been reset. Glad to be away from the taxi, and noticing several 4-star hotels nearby, she sought out an attendant at one of the hotels. Eager to not be ripped off again, she explained to the attendant that she had been ripped off and delivered to the wrong part of town and solicited his assistance in hailing a taxi to take her back to her hotel. The attendant was very helpful and said that she could take a car from the hotel for a flat fee of 5 JD, or take another city taxi with a meter. Knowing that the fare would be less than 1 JD with a regular taxi, she asked that he hail a regular taxi. Soon thereafter she was safely deposited at her hotel for 750 fils (.75 JD or $1.50 CAD). Fortunately, taxis in Amman are very inexpensive, so even the taxi that ripped her off only got about $3 CAD – still it sucks to be taken for a ride!

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