Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Jordan & Israel - amazing race

Jordan in 4 days was a whirlwind affair. We arrived in Jordan in the morning, bagging just 4 hours of sleep coming from Cairo, chucked our bags and went to check out the Roman theatre for a couple of hours before the sun set at 5pm.
We hired a car from our hostel for the next day to the Bethany beyond Jordan ( the site where Jesus was baptized) and the karak castle.
One of the task that we need to complete for the jordan/ israel leg was to visit the Bethany beyond Jordan. The site is now run by a private company hence entry fees is a little steep( JD12 = USD18 per pax)the fees came with an audio guide and a 45min tour to various points like the church where John the baptist was waiting for Jesus and the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized. Our live guide wasn't a guide ... For us. He was heavily intent on servicing a group that was there the day before. As the other guy in our group said, 'that was the most awkward experience ever.' Still, it was a beautiful place and a great time.

Our car meandered through the mountains and passes by the dead sea before we reach the famous Karak castle. Karak was awesome! It was like a playground with countless hiding holes, stairs and passages throughout the ruins. Kirby mentioned there were secret passages that you could bribe your way into but try as we did, we couldn't find them. The guards seemed unbribable (unlike the dudes in the Egyptian ruins) and after a few hours, we gave up.

Turns out, it was under the museum (that we explored) and we had to ask the caretaker to let us in. Wish we had asked for more details beforehand. :p

We headed to Petra the next morning and spent the day climbing and trekking up the high place of sacrifice and the monastery. It was unbelievable!
The treasury, of course was a sight! We saw that a couple of times on TV hence that wasn't a surprise when we walked to the end of the Siq and saw all the carvings.The monastery, on the other hand, was a view that we both didn't expect. See it for yourself and u will know what I mean. Once you climb to the top, what you see in front of you is the 'coffee shop' for tourists to buy their cup of tea. Chris and I were laughing at the placement of the coffee shop and wondering where the monastery was until Chris turned around to face the other side exclaimed "Holy!!!!".
The climb up to the monastery was definitely worth it.

There was this little girl who left such great impressions in my mind, not just because she was bluntly honest and was asking Chris to give her his bag of chips, but also she spoke with such articulation that doesn't really belong to a young 10 yr old. * (Chris's note: I was saving those chips for 2 days and thinking about eating them during the long hike. No way she was getting them. We did give her candy though )

The crossing of the border from Jordan (the king Hussein bridge) to Israel was legendary. We took about 7 hours to clear both sides of the customs!
The Israeli immigration checks were thorough. Not only did they ask if we are married, and where we are heading to in Israel, they took my Singaporean passport and asked me to wait for over 45 minutes before they eventually returned my passport back. - background checks probably.

7 hours later, we finally cleared all immigrations and got out of the building. We had to wait for another 30minutes for the shuttle bus to get us to the damascus gate in Jerusalem. Everyone was cutting queues when the bus came and we ended up fitting 14 people into a 10 seater bus, with Chris and a few Japanese guys sitting on the floor of the bus.

We had another mission to complete for the amazing race- to celebrate Christmas with baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to arrive in Bethlehem on Christmas eve for the midnight mass. We decided to head to the church of Nativity before the crowd set in and then jet back to Jerusalem ; a thunderstorm was to hit us that night. The church of nativity is said to be the place where Jesus was born. The church was later built over it, I supposed.

We were supposed to head to the dead sea for our last task for the amazing race before we head for Tel -Aviv. But due to certain circumstances and it's also winter, we decided to skip floating in the dead sea. Bummer I know.. Ah well...

That concluded the task #1 of the amazing race world tour edition.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Amazing Race (world travel edition)

When we boarded the plane that's bound for Egypt, Chris excitedly whipped out a tiny stainless steel ring out of nowhere and said,"this ring is for you!" I looked at him blankly and took a full minute to digest that action. I needed time to choose the next few questions carefully in case it is a proposal ring and he was waiting for my answer. In case you don't know, the ring doesn't look anything like a proposal ring and it had the words 'Bethlehem - Dec 2011' . (plus it looked so tiny that I would think it belonged to a child).
Instead of asking him if it was a proposal, that would really hurt his feelings if it was, I told him that the ring looked so small and wondered if it'd fit. "it's size 11!" (oh, my ring size... So IT IS mine)
I guessed I was speechless for too long because Chris impatiently pulled out 2 envelopes and gave it to me. As I read the cards in each envelope, I silently let out a sigh of relief. Chris told me he had 12 rings made for this trip, each one came with some tasks for both of us to complete.
I could see an exciting 6 months ahead of us!

Chris says the rings are made with pure silver AND he doesn't have the proposal ring made for the trip.

Our last night in Cairo is really quite an experience.We were staying in this hostel that is near the Tahrir square and at 3am in the morning, I was woken by gun shots, people shouting and chantings. I remembered the few days ago, they burned down their library during one of the demonstrations and hence i immediately got up, opened the window and looked out to check. I was worried that we might not make it in time to leave for the airport as we were due to leave in 3 hours. Turned out the demonstration is at the Tahrir square and we are a few street away, so we were safe.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Egypt: Cairo pyramids

We arrived in Cairo at 6am this morning and headed straight to the Sakkara pyramid, Dashur pyramid and of course the highly anticipated trip to the pyramid of Giza.

Still tired from the lack of sleep from our plane ride, we battled the cold and our lethargy to climb up the Sakkara pyramid and down the narrow & low passageway ( not advisable for the claustrophobic) into the tomb of king Titi.
Not sure if we are really not allowed to do that, but the guide made me lie in the mummy's tomb! It was really cool except that i kept wondering if any curse is going to strike me dead soon.

Chris is really allergic to cats and horses, we thought he should be a little careful in case he got killed by his allergic reactions on our 1st day of the RTW trip! BUT we really wanted to try the camel ride at the pyramid of Giza so Chris said," screw it, let's do it and see what happens!". Turns out Chris can ride camels! Yay!

Egypt has always been the #1 place to visit on Chris's list since he was a kid. A huge, happy checkmark on that list of things to do after today! :)

Cairo is colder than we expected! We thought it was going to be 20degrees max; turned out to be 10-12 the WHOLE day today.

Up next: Luxor
Stay tuned!
P/s: the little kitty that was snuggling between us while we wrote this had curled up into a sleeping ball of cuteness!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Gastronomically Great Taiwan

Sorry about the delay, but after a great trip to Taiwan, we needed to recover from all the fantastic food we ate. Chris got bronchitus for the first week there and was given some Chinese herbal cough syrup that contained 'opium' (really?!). It worked but we didn't dare take it back to Singapore due to the death penalty for possession of drugs.

 After Chris recovered (Jaime got a bit sick too - Chris's fault), the trip picked up and we hung out with family, friends, and food.  Lots of food.

We started off in Taipei for a couple of days to visit aunts and uncles and friends.  Then, we headed off to Tainan for a while and then toured around the island with Chris's dad to:

- Kenting - where we stayed in a palatial youth center hostel

- Hua Lian - Toroko Gorge filled with tourists from China, wearing helmets that 'don't guarantee protection' (see photo)

- Sun Moon Lake 

After that, we had some brilliant sushi (where we ate soft-shelled turtle for the first time - see photo below for its 'paw') and went prawning in Ping Dong with the sushi chefs.  A trip to the aboriginal village was a surprising fun day and we both walked out with glass bead necklaces which will come with us on the trip.

We spent the several days in Taipei hanging out with friends and seeing the sites before heading back to Singapore to pack and prep for the BIG part of our around the world tour.  6 months coming up...starting tomorrow (Dec 13th).  See you at the airport!!!

Chris & Jaime