The last 2 days of the exotic tour were spent making our way back to Singapore. We drove to Allenby’s bridge (King Hussein on the Jordan side) and dropped the car off before heading through the immigrations. Crossing back to Jordan felt easier compared to we made our way over to Israel. However, the whole sequence was the same, with the minibuses ferrying passengers between the immigration counters. Once we crossed over, we got onto a taxi that brought us to the last accommodation, Larsa hotel.
We catered some time for the crossing but managed to do it earlier than expected, probably because we tried to do so as early as the counters were opened. Took the afternoon off for shopping in Amman in City Mall and had lunch.
At night we visited yet another mall, Mecca mall and had dinner before packing for the long flight home.
From Larsa hotel, we arranged for a taxi to take us to the airport. Then it was about getting to Doha first then transit back to Singapore, arriving in the afternoon.
This trip was one of my favorite as we were visited the “exotic” places where Jordan and Israel had to offer. The Petra as one of the new wonder of the world left us in awe, the amusing experience with the Dead Sea and the salty mud, the feeling of tension through thousands of years of religious conflict in Jerusalem, the eye opening experience in the visit to Bethlehem in terms of religious history and current isolation and others. Glad I had this checked off my bucket list.
On this day, we ventured southwards from the beautiful Petra towards the famous desert Wadi Rum.
After 2hrs of drive, we arrived at the carpark of the Wadi Rum visitor’s center and proceeded to the center. From there, since we were going to drive in ourselves (we didn’t have a 4WD anyways), we booked the most time practical tour available, a 5hrs jeep tour, considering we were going to drive back to Madaba for the night.
From the office, we were greeted by our English speaking Bedouin guide and boarded our retro looking jeep. The first stop was the Rum village where the guide stopped by a shop and went in to back a plastic bag of food, apparently our lunch.
The desert was huge and driving from point to point took some time. The guide showed some desert map and the different places we were visiting before we drove onwards to Lawrence Spring. Upon reaching the location, the guide allowed us to roam the area gave us some history on the spring and Lawrence. He pointed that the spring can be found high up in the rocks. So I started climbing towards the green bushes and it was tough! There weren’t any path upwards and there were loose rocks. Furthermore, the searing hot weather was adding to the challenge.
When I finally reached, I could not see any water springs. Walked around towards the vegetation nearby and found a tiny pond, wondered if this was it. Incredible though, to see water in this really parch dry desert.
The view at the top was pretty good though.
Back to ground level, where the car parked was some watering points for camels. There was an option to take the camel for the tour, if anybody was crazy enough to do that in this hot weather.
The next location was a sand dune. We didn’t think much about the sand dune, after all it was only sand. Then we attempted to climb it and it was extremely difficult! Brought meaning to 2 steps forward and 1 step back. The sand was so fine and when we stepped onto it, our foot just sang in! Took awhile before making it to the half way point. I guessed sand surfing was probably possible if we had the rug.
Next we would visit the ancient inscriptions on the walls of the desert rocks. These were said to be from the Nabatean people long time ago. These were seen within the Khazali Canyon which was a narrow path between 2 towering rocks. We only managed going some tens of meters into the canyon before some climbing was required that we didn’t attempt. The high rocks provided a temporary reprieve from the heat from the midday sun, with the walls cool to the touch, and nice wind blowing into the gap.
Lunch was settled at a Bedouin tentage not too far drive from Khazali Canyon. Underneath this wide tentage almost size of a basketball court was a carpet for us to sit down and have lunch. There were a couple of bedouins sitting around smoking, taking a rest. Food wasn’t fantastic and mostly dry but we couldn’t expect much in a desert. Bedouin tea was served as usual.
The lunch time provided the opportunity to rest from the rather tiring activities thus far. After we were ready to hop onto the jeep towards the Little bridge. This was a rock bridge formed naturally that linked the top of two rocks together. It was an easy climb up to cross the bridge and get a photo.
The next location was a much bigger natural bridge called the Um Frouth bridge. Similarly formed naturally, this was a little more difficult to climb as it was steeper. Of course this had a better viewpoint than the Little bridge.
Lawrence house was the next location but there weren’t much left as the walls had crumbled. There weren’t much to see either so it was a shoot and go moment.
It was nearing the end of the tour and the guide gave us some jeep fun in the sand by driving down a steep sand slope, like a roller coaster. It was indeed pretty exciting.
The final stop before heading back was the Nabatean temple. Similarly, the ruins were all that were left for us to look at. Walked around for a while before getting onto the jeep for the return to the visitor’s center.
Once back at the visitor’s center, we disembarked, took a photo with our guide and got ready to long drive back to Madaba.
Along the highway, we saw outlets selling dead sea mud and we stopped for a while to stock up on gifts for people back at home. Rivage looked really familiar and so we got our stash of dead sea minerals mud pack and continued northwards towards Madaba.
The drive back was really long, by the time we arrived, it was already very late at Mosaic City Hotel. Along the way, we had almost ran out of petrol and worst of all, not all the petrol stations were opened 24hrs. Luckily we managed to pump at one station and arrived at the hotel.
The next day would be when we would cross over for the Israel leg of our travel.
Figured that Petra was worth spending another day, and we knew we were right when we visited on the first day. The place was huge, when we considered the other not so well known parts of the Petra complex and definitely worth the walkabout. The day’s sole activity was to roam this vast grounds that were once inhibited by the Nabateans.
Walking through the long Siq became easy already since we had did it a couple of times the day before. Still mesmerising to look up and then feel small as the towering walls enclosed on the people passing through.
There was always the anticipation of seeing the Treasury at the end of the Siq, expecting a different view at different time of the day. True enough, it looked different as the sun highlighted the part it’s sun rays shone true and of course there were camels as accessories.
So it was all about freely walking about to see and feel the entire area that had a culture once thriving in the past. The simplest was to follow the map and go to these points of interest. Though without a guide, there were information board to provide some form of knowledge to the simple traveller. As we walked about, there were offers of donkey rides, which we didn’t take, wife being an animal lover not wanting the poor donkey carry us.
It was a clear day and as much as we loved the fact that the photos will turn out nice, it was just really hot. The climbing of the stairs was made more difficult by the heat.
Roaming around a corner, we was surprised to find another architectural wonder that looked like the Treasury, only bigger! It was called the Monastery.
From the Monastery, there was a path that led to the End of The World. We had to see and trekked on. It wasn’t really fantastic at the end of the path though, just that you could see the vastness of brown, hills and sand. There was what looked like a home built near the cliff and overlooking the End of the World.
The place was really huge, had to settle for late lunch at the only restaurant there.
After our break, it was more of walking. We were looking for a place where we could view the Treasury from the top. The directions were given in the lonely planet and we found our way there. It was quite some climbing before we reached the top. Then there was some climbing down to a ledge. There was a bedouin there and he offered me some tea. I had an awesome photo opportunity there!
We left after sweating the whole day, with aching muscles and memories of this new Wonder of the World, truly worthy of its status. We could stay another day but it was time to explore the other places that Jordan had to offer. Dinner was at some random food place.
One of the biggest highlight for the trip was the visit to one of the seven wonders of the modern world. From the dead sea, we travelled south, visiting some of the crusaders castles along the way. The first one being Karak Castle.
We had a guide to brought us around the castle whom gave us information about the some of the areas. It would not make much sense walking around by ourselves. Left for the next castle, Shobak castle.
We drove towards Petra and checked into a accommodation Cleopetra Hotel, sited at the Wadi Musa town, minutes (of driving) from Petra.
Got out from the hotel and stopped at a local restaurant for lunch.
Continue and drive towards Petra, an immensely popular attraction and stores linked it to the Indiana Jones movie to market their products. Purchase our 2 days entrance tickets.
So we started our walking journey towards the Treasury, the representative image of Petra, hidden from the outside world amongst brown rocky hills.
After some 10mins of walking, we entered a path lined by 2 tall walls of rock known as the Siq. Along the way were what looked like manmade drains carved out by the local people years ago.
Almost 30 minutes of walking on sandy floors and the sight of the Treasury that first greeted us was awesome.
It was a tiring walk but well worth it. We were in awe at the intricate details of this carved in building and the sheer size of this architectural feat. We sat at the bench there just taking in the moment for quite a good amount of time.
The treasury was just part of the Petra archaeological park which was huge. We only noticed after we started to move further inwards and realised there wasn’t much time left as the sun began to sat. As we were intending to do Petra by night, we had to walk around quickly before the area closed for the night.
We had to leave the park first before reentering for the Petra by night. It was again a long walk out and we drove back to our hotel to get some quick snacks before heading back to Petra. Separate tickets were sold for the night event and there sure was quite a crowd.
There were much different walking at night except that it was cooler. The made the walking a little easier.
The walk ended at the treasury. We were the first few in line luckily and as we arrived into the opening, we were ushered to sit in rows on the mat, and were not too far from the performing area, served with some mint tea.
Then the show began. First there was some old flute blowing then followed by some singing. To be honest, it wasn’t really interesting. Before you knew it, it was over
Then we had to walk that same distance back again. Drove back to the hotel for the night after this long day. More to explore the next day.
Morning we returned to Mt. Nebo after checking out of the hotel. Our first attraction for the day was Memorial of Moses.
Didn’t spend much time there since there weren’t a lot to see due to the renovation. After admiration of the view, we left for Bethany Beyond the Jordan, a UNESCO site where Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River. It was not a long drive from Mt. Nebo. The closest we could drive was however only to the visitor’s center, and taking guided tour from there.
We went on to check in at the Holiday Inn Resort Dead Sea Hotel, one of the more affordable ones along the Dead Sea. We were quite early and they provided a free upgrade for our room to a suite! Lovely surprise. Had our lunch at one of the many eating places available in the resort, beside the pool.
During the tour the baptism site, we met a tourist from Iraq whom said that we should visit the Ma’in hot springs while here. So we took a drive out and as we drove, we saw a Dead Sea Panoramic Complex which we visited for a while. Here we learnt how the Dead Sea was formed and how it was drying up.
There after, we drove on to Ma’in hot springs to have a look. There was a huge waterfall and cave that was opened for public. There were also some other springs meant for families and for ladies only. The water from the waterfall was actually quite hot! I had to purchase a pair of shots to get a piece of the action in the waterfall.
We didn’t stay long as I was only one in the springs while my wife waited outside. I couldn’t stay too long as well since the water was really hot and the weather was hot too. Drove back to the hotel to enjoy the room for a bit before heading to the private beach of the resort for some Dead Sea experience.
There were some bowls of mud that were already collected from the shore and we could just apply it onto our face and bodies. However, the saltiness of the mud bit into our skin, took some time to get used to this. There was a clean water facility for us to wash down after we were happy with the application.
The other experience was of course to float on the Dead Sea. It was quite amusing to do so although it must take a little bit of balancing. The risk to this was at the water getting into the eye that would make you cry since the saltiness was so much higher than normal sea water.
Got back to the room and clean up before dinner. We settled for dinner at the resort itself, not knowing where else we could get dinner nearby. It was a dining under the stars experience, with the cool breeze coming in.
Then it was the end of a short but amazing experience at the dead sea.
Taking a cab to return to our room in Jordan Tower Hotel, the activities for today would be to visit the various attractions within the city of Amman before moving on to another town. One of the reasons the choice of the accommodation was because of its proximity to these attractions, all within walking distance. But it also meant more noises unfortunately.
From the accommodation, we walked towards the Citadel. From the map it seemed like a straight forward walk but had some slope to climb. Furthermore, we had to make a detour along the road to reach the main entrance to the Citadel. Guide service was available and we engaged him to understand the culture and the history of this grand site.
The guide was very informative and brought us around the site, introducing the different buildings and their period of significance. We were then left to roam the area and visit the Archaeological museum within the Citadel after he was done.
Our next stop was to visit the Roman Amphitheatre just across the road from the Citadel. Didn’t stay long as it was just like another Amphitheatre elsewhere. We visited the small museum where they were some exhibits but mostly to take cover from the heat.
It was lunch time and we found one (couldn’t remember the name) that served lunch and offered sweet pastries. Returned back to the hotel for check out and to take over our car from the Reliable Rent a Car representative for travel onwards. As it was challenging to drive out of Amman, we were driven to the outskirts by the representative to the outskirt before I took over as driver. Onwards to Madaba, the Mosaic City.
The drive was pretty easy on the highways though there were many manned portable speed traps. I learnt that drivers tend to share the information if there are speed traps ahead and these drivers coming from the opposite lane would usually flash their headlights to give warnings to slow down. Nice!
Our first stop was to check into Mosaic City Hotel. The hotel was pretty new and within walking distance to the town where the attractions were. Parked our car at the carpark next to the hotel and checked in.
With a map in hand, given by the receptionist, we continued on foot to the attractions Madaba had to offer. St. George church was our first stop.
Below the surface was a museum to explore. There was a really old Moabite well that was said to be functional till date.
Then we walked to the end of main attractions area where the sat the Church of Apostles. This was a church that had the biggest mosaic, covering the whole floor of it. There were some footpath for us to walk about as we explore the massive area to look at the mosaic pictures.
The day was planned for a full day exploration of sites away from Amman. It started with a simple breakfast at the hotel. Had some time and so we went to the roof for a panoramic view of Amman city.
Booked a tour with Reliable Rent a Car (where we got our car as well of course) and the private vehicle picked us from the hotel and drove us an hour to the dessert castles first stop. As we left the city, the land started to become more and more barren till it was just sand all around. It was only when we arrived that we arrived at UNESCO site of Quseir Amra that we see a building.
After taking refuge from the sun in the cooling baths, we left for the next site along the same highway.
There were quite a bit of story telling by the tour guide as we roamed around this castle. As we were heading to another area some distance away, we had to skip Qasr Kharana and head for lunch, a buffet lunch at a restaurant.
Our next stop was the ancient city of Jerash, from the east of Jordan it was some driving to the north. This place reminded us of Rome, with its massive arches and pillars and amphitheatres, all within a compound smacked rite in the middle of the residential area.
Stayed for about an hour before heading to the final destination of the day, Aljoun castle, which was about another short drive. The castle was perched atop a knoll, overlooking the area, therefore a good vantage point for defense in the past and for a panoramic view for the tourists today.
Journey back to town was smooth on the outskirts but got worse the nearer to town we were. On the way, we went past one of the tallest free standing flag pole in the world, the Raghadan flagpole, it was huge!
Once back at the hotel, we packed a haversack with stuff that we require for a night away from the hotel, as we couldn’t imagine another sleepless night there due to the noise. Took a taxi to Imperial Palace hotel, one that we searched online that had ok reviews and was at least a local 4 stars hotel. Walk in rate was higher but worth it.
Checked with the reception on the nearest shopping center in order to get dinner. Got on a taxi and headed to Sweifieh Avenue Mall, less than 10 mins drive away.
Didn’t spend much time since we weren’t that into shopping (it is only the start of the trip). Had our dinner and left soon after back to the hotel with ample taxis waiting on the outside of the mall. Rested well for the night.
Total duration 16D17N Singapore is 5hrs ahead of Doha,Jordan and Israel. Flight time is 7,5hrs direct flight on Qatar Airways from Singapore to Doha. Night flight on 20th April and arrival in Doha at just after midnight.. Return flight is a slightly more than 2.5hrs direct flight on Qatar Airlines from Amman to Doha, a transit of 5.5hrs and another 8hrs flight back to Singapore. Return journey started on a Saturday afternoon and touching down in Singapore on Sunday mid-day.
This escape plan was planned as our long trip for the year. We chose this trip because we wanted to see one of the wonder of the world, Petra in Jordan and also to hop over to Israel for a visit (though we aren’t the religious sort).
Budget nature: Budget buster.
This trip took some time for saving up as the Singapore dollars are smaller than the currencies of the Jordanian Dinar and although it is bigger than the Israeli New Sheqel and the Qatari Rial, the expenses there are expensive too. Petrol prices in Jordan are cheaper than Singapore but not in Israel. Accommodation have been chosen for the affordability and thus not luxurious. Food prices are higher than Singapore but still affordable. Entrance fees and transportation to attractions are also contributing the the costs.
Complexity: Driving a car is required to move around Jordan and Israel.
These two countries are huge and a car to move around is the most ideal. We did not take any of the public transportation during our time except in Doha where it was just a stopover for us and taxi is the easy way around and in Amman, where driving in the city is too challenging.
With a GPS on hand, navigation is a breeze. Speedtraps in Jordan were especially common and thus one has to be careful not to get caught or risk a fine on the spot.