Saturday, September 13, 2008

Egypt, Jordan, Syria & Turkey 2008

Egypt, Jordan, Syria & Turkey

The Pyramid, Egypt
Petra, Jordan
Troy, Turkey
Palmyra, Syria
Abu Simbel, Egypt
Pamukkale, Turkey
Cappadocia, Turkey

" A journey of a thousand mile begins with a single step from the moment a travel plan is hatched " 

" My 37 days solo visit to Jordan, Syria, Turkey & Egypt from 16/9 - 23/10/2008 - chasing the UNESCO world heritage sites and my first visit to Middle East, African countries " 

Total expenses incurred (37 days) : Rm7,610

Kuwait Airways Flight Itinerary
Booking Date: 19 August 2008
Flight No: KU416
Depart KLIA 0315am ( transit in Kuwait for 2hrs 40mins) 16 September 2008 Tuesday
Arrive Amman, Jordan 11.20am 16 September 2008 Tuesday
Return KU562
Depart Amman 12.20pm ( transit in Kuwait for 9hrs 30mins ) 22 October 2008 Wednesday
Arrive KLIA 13.20pm 23 October 2008 Thursday
Kuwait Airways Flight: RM1,815
Airport & Fuel Tax: RM535
Travel Insurance: RM205
Airport shuttle bus fare: RM20
Visa fee: RM126 ( multiple entry to Jordan)

Cost breakdown per country ( includes only hostels, food, entrance fee & ground transport ):

1) Jordan
Hostels ( 7 nights in Amman, 1 each in Wadi Musa & Aqaba ) : 37JOD (RM196)
Transport: 60JOD (RM320) + US$75 ( ferry crossing from Jordan to Egypt ) = RM581
Entrance fee: 30JOD (RM160)
Food & sundries: 38JOD (RM202)
Total expenditure: RM1,139
Currency conversion:
Euro$1= 0.94JOD (Jordanian Dinar)
1JOD= RM5.32

Hostels ( 2 nights in Damascus, 1 each in Homs & Aleppo ) : 1,900SP (RM144)
Transport: 1,725SP (RM131)
Entrance fee: 375SP (RM28)
Food & sundries: 2,512SP (RM191)
Total expenditure: RM494
Currency conversion:
Euro$1= 65SYP (Syrian Pound)
1SYP= RM0.076

3) Turkey
Hostels (3 nights in Istanbul, 2 in Goreme, 1 each in Canakkale, Selcuk, Bodrum & Pamukkale ):
133TRY (RM379)
Transport: 317TRY (RM903)
Entrance fee: 120TRY (342)
Food & sundries: 109TRY (RM310)
Total expenditure: RM1,934
Currency conversion:
Euro$1=1.75TRY (Turkish New Lira)

4) Egypt
Hostels ( 5 nights in Cairo, 2 each in Aswan & Luxor ) : 294EGP (RM200)
Transport: 556EGP + US70 (ferry crossing from Egypt to Jordan) = RM623
Entrance fee: 348EGP (RM236)
Food & sundries: 417EGP (RM283)
Total expenditure: RM1,342
Currency conversion:
Euro$1=7.31EGP ( Egyptian Pound)

I hope you enjoy reading my travel blog covering my recent trip to Jordan, Syria, Turkey & Egypt ( 16 Sept - 22 Oct 08 )

For this trip, I focussed my visit on 19 places which had been described as the world wonders in two of the travel books entitled "Civilised Wonders of The World" & "Natural Wonders fo The World". Prior to retirement in 2006, I yearned to see the Great Wonders of The World. To fulfil this dream, I have to walk the talk. In 2006 , I visited the Angor Wat in Cambodia and in 2007, Taj Mahal of India. I had earlier visited The Great Wall of China twice in 1997 & 2002. As for 2008, I finally made it to see The Great Pyramid & Petra !

The 19 places of interest I visited were:
Civilised Wonders of The World:

1) The Great Pyramids
2) The Sphinx
3) Abu Simbel Temple
4) Luxor Temple
5) Karnak Temple
6) Valley of the Kings
7) Alexandria
8) Suez Canal

9) Petra
10) Jerash

11) Damascus
12) Palmyra

13) Hagia Sophia
14) Troy
15) Mausoluem of King Mausolus
16) Temple of Artemis

Natural Wonders of the World:

17) River Nile, Egypt
18) Cappadocia, Turkey
19) Dead Sea, Jordan

In preparing this trip, I had taken into considerations of the following

1) Ramandan
2) Hot and dry wheather
3) Travelling solo
4) Border crossings from Jordan to Syria, Turkey & Egypt
5) English vs Arabic
6) Currency exchange

"Indeed it was a journey of a lifetime. For this trip, my travel trophies were 1,642 pictures taken during the trip; interesting experiences and the memory will linger for some years to come"

Day-1 Amman, Jordan (2008)

At the departure lounge of KLIA, I met 5-6 Jordanian post graduate students who were returning home to celebrate Ramandan and EID. I befriended them and they provided me with a great deal of advice on Jordan. What a great start for my trip to Jordan !

I arrived at the Queen Alia International Airport, Amman around 11.30am and after immigration clearance and luggage collection, I took an airport express bus ( 3JOD=Rm16 ) to Downtown , Amman city. The airport bus stopped at Trababour bus terminal. From there, I took a local bus (0.5JOD=Rm2.60) to my hostel ( Mansour Hotel - 4JOD=Rm21 for a dorm bed) , located in King Faisal street. The entire bus ride from airport to Trababour and then to Downtown took around 2 hours. Most young Jordanians could understand and speak some basic English, so it was quite easy for me to ask for directions and inquired on public transport to get to the city area. 

After the hostel check-in, I began to explore the Downtown & the old Souq area. As it was Ramandan period, I noticed most shops were closed for business in the afternoon. I found my way to the Roman Theatre & Nymphaeum (fountain), the ancient ruins which reflects the historic character of the city. A row of columns was seen standing tall at the site.                                            
The Citadel, located up a hill along a main road could be seen from a distance but I did not visit the site.

In the evening , I walked to the King Hussein mosque ( built in 1924), which is close to the old Souq area. The mosque was filled with people offering their prayers and having their feasts as it was well past the time of breaking fast for all Muslims. I had a felafel meal ( bread with fresh salads ) as dinner at a local food stall before heading back to the hostel.

Amman city (1.8mil) is really a modern and progressive Arab city. The city is surrounded by hills. The people were generally friendly and most willing to offer their help to overseas travellers when asked. I felt very at home so looked like I had made the right decision in selecting Jordan as the first country to land.

"Hello Jordan ! Thank you for your great hospitality & generosity ! I Can't wait to see Petra and take a dip in the Dead Sea"

Dessert Landscape, Jordan

D-2 Damascus, Syria (2008)

As the current weather during the days was hot and dry in Jordan, I decided to head north to Syria, to escape the heat. At around 7.30am, I took a service taxis ( 1JOD=Rm5.30) to the JETT bus office at ( Muhajireen bus station ) and bought a bus ticket ( 8.50JOD=Rm45) for my journey to Damascus. The bus departed at around 9.00am and arrived at the Syrian border around 10.00am. All passengers had to get down from the bus and present their passports for immigration clearance. No hassle encountered by all our bus passengers at this border crossing. Malaysian passports do not require a visa so no visa fee was paid. I arrived at Damascus around 1.00pm and together with two backpackers from UK, we shared a taxis (100SP=Rm7.60 each) and check in to our hostel (Al-Rabie - 500SP=Rm38 for a dorm bed) in Sharia Bahsa , Souq Saroujah, Central Damascus.

After a short rest at the hostel, three of us went to a local Syrian bank to change some money. Next we walked to the old Damascus area. We passed the Damascus citadel surrounded by walls, Roman Arch, the great Omayyard mosque ( built in 705AD ) and the Souk Al-Hamiddieyeh (Bazaar). The bazaar has hundreds of shops selling a diversified range of clothing, gifts, accessories & perfumes.

Lunch was at a restaurant in Old Souq and my main menu ordered was a kebab dish ( made from beef, chicken & lamb) and together with a glass of juice & side dish, I shared the food bill by paying 600SP=Rm45.60 per person. After the meal, we parted and I was on my own taking my own sweet time to explore the old Damascus area .

Tonight, I took a stroll at the busy shopping arcade in Downtown Damascus. In contrast with the old Damascus, all the shops in this place were brightly lighted up and full of people, a real shopping haven !

Syria has has a dessert type of landscape. Damascus has a 4,000 years history, no wonder is gazetted as a civilised wonder of the world !

"Citadels, Roman arches, souks , ancient mosques, castles, fortresses, khans, amphitheaters, old churches, historical baths etc - Awe & magnificence especially their architecture design, superb structure & color reflecting the greatness of an ancient, mysterious civilization"

D-3 Palmyra, Syrian (2008)

This morning , I took a local bus to Harasta garage ( bus terminal ) and bought a bus ticket ( 200SP=Rm15.20 ) to Palmyra. From Damascus to Palmyra, the journey took three hours. We arrived in Palmyra at around 12.30pm. On arrival, we saw the ugly side of a group of local taxi drivers hustling us to use their services - a real nuisance ! One took my luggage into his taxi without my permission and agreement on the price.

Palmyra is featured in the "Civilized Wonders of the World" so this was one of my top priority destination. I paid 150SP=Rm11.40 for entry to Palmyra and another 75SP=Rm5.70 for the castle, located up the hill. During the bus trip, I met a local Syrian guy travelling with his Serbian guest. After some haggling, three of us shared a taxi (100SP each=Rm7.60) which took us to the Palmyra's main site and the castle.

While touring the site, I came to know that both of them had plan to visit the Krac Des Chevaliers castle, located an hour by bus from Homs. My original plan was to head for Hama after the Palmyra's visit. As I too was keen to see the Chevallier castle, I ended up joining them.

So at around 3.00pm, we departed from Palmyra and headed to Homs ( bus ticket 150SP=Rm11.40 ) a university town. We arrived at Homs in the late evening and put up a night at a hotel recommended by the Syrian's cousin. I took a single room and paid US20 for a night's stay.

In the evening, we explored Homs by night. We walked around the town centre and visted two old churches along the way.

"Palmyra, a well preserved Roman ruins - leaving behind a legacy for the modern world to admire and appreciate"