(Jordan) Wadi Musa >>> (United Arab Emirates) Abu Dhabi >>> (Indonesia) Jakarta >>> (Singapore) >>> (Australia) Cairns
12/3 – Exploring Petra and Quoting Indiana Jones!
12/4 – Minibus North to Amman and then Fly to Abu Dhabi
12/5 – Fly to Jakarta, Indonesia and then to Singapore! Meet up with our friend Tita!
12/6 – Hang out at Tita’s Apartment, Hawker Food for Dinner, and a Stroll along the River.
12/7 – Singaporean Satay Food, Gardens By the Bay, and Exploring the City by Foot!
12/8 – Relaxing Day at Tita’s Apartment Complex, Fly to Bali!
12/9 – Fly to Cairns, Check into Hostel and Explore Cairns
Exploring Petra and Quoting Indiana Jones!
+ Petra would finally be conquered today! The main reason we came to Jordan, the site of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when he was on his search for the Holy Grail! Needless to say, we were excited.
+ So we awoke early and had the unappetizing free breakfast offered by the hostel and then set off on the mile or so walk to the entrance gates. On the way, a guy pulled up and offered to taxi us there but he kept lowering his price until it was at 1.5 Jordanian Dinar (>$2) so we finally accepted to limit the walking we knew would be in store for us later today.
+ Once inside, we began the 2 km walk towards the famous Treasury, which passed through the Siq. The Siq was a long narrow canyon with impressively high walls that had been used by the Nabataeans thousands of years ago and later the Bedouins. The Nabataeans were an impressive group of people who had mastered many difficult skills that seemed far ahead of their time. Things such as their water utilization system which included little side tunnels along this canyon which helped distribute water throughout this vast expanse of dessert! It was truly unfathomable to think of the amount of time, work, knowledge, planning, foresight, and skill required to construct this ancient civilization!
+ When we reached the Treasury, it was as impressive as we’d hoped and we stood for a few minutes admiring it in awe. Then we asked a friendly looking gent to take our picture to which he obliged and actually had his professional photographer/wife take the picture for us! After we returned the favor, we began talking and found out they were from the UK and here touring Petra on their 2nd day. Charlie and Liza were extremely friendly and offered to show us around and tell us a little bit of info that they’d learned yesterday from their tour guide! How Nice!
+ We weren’t entirely sure what to expect and how long their generosity would last, but they ended up showing us around for about 3 hours! We explored many different sites including the Byzantine Church, hidden temples and caves, the Urn, Silk, and Palace Tombs, and we even climbed up high enough to get some great overlooks of Petra and the giant theater carved into the rocks that seated almost 6000 people!
+ Eventually we stopped for a lunch break where we all shared food like the good ‘ol days of Elementary school and then said our goodbyes as we went separate ways. We really really enjoyed their insightful knowledge and helpful guidance while touring Petra! They showed us stuff we would have never found/seen without them and more importantly we made new friends in the process! Hopefully we meet up again one day in the UK or the States!
+ Next up for our tour was the 45 minute hike up the mountain to The Monastery. The hike wasn’t too difficult with the hardest part being politely saying “No” to the 50 different vendors stationed all the way up begging us to come purchase something.
+ At the top, the Monastery was even larger than the Treasury had been and there was a nice seating area situated directly in front to take it all in. These ruins rank right on up there with all the ancient ruins we’d seen in Central and South America, Rome, Athens, and all the other places!
+ After a short walk to an even higher view point that overlooked the Jordan “Grand Canyon” and even provided views into Israel, we headed back down to inside the canyon. Then we walked back to the Treasury a completely different way than we’d come earlier to see even more sights. Our main goal was to make it back to the Treasury again before dark and just sit and enjoy the view. We managed to accomplish that and took pictures from almost every conceivable angle for half an hour until we’d had our fill. Then we hiked the 2+ km back out of the canyon just as it was getting completely dark to the town of Wadi Musa and our tired legs convinced us to pay for a taxi ride back up to the top of the hill to save us that extra mile of walking.
+ Luckily, today was much sunnier and warmer than yesterday and we had great light and views all day long for our visit! The low season can be tricky because you never know what kind of weather you’ll get (like yesterday with the rain and freezing temperatures) but sometimes you luck out!
+ Tired from exploring, we repeated yesterday’s agenda of watching a few episodes of “Community” before taking a short nap and getting up in time for dinner.
+ Tonight we ate at the top recommendation from everyone we’d asked: Reemi Bladi. The portions were huge and tasty and we left stuffed and carrying 2 containers to go!
+ Before going to sleep we used the internet for an hour or so downstairs in the lounge (only place the internet worked at this hostel) and again had some weird and uncomfortable experiences with some of the locals hanging out said derogatory things to us about Americans and the American government. One friend of the owner overheard that we had just come from Israel. He kind of blew up saying there is no such thing as Israel and went on about the awful things that happen there. It again made for a very uncomfortable situation. Definitely not something guests of a hostel should ever have to experience and one of the reasons why we won’t ever be coming back there!
Minibus North to Amman and then Fly to Abu Dhabi
+ We meant to get up around 7 am to have enough time to pack AND eat breakfast, but we couldn’t free ourselves of the comfy covers until about 7:20 so we had to skip breakfast and just check out. A fellow backpacker from the hostel named Toshi (from Japan) was also heading towards Amman today so he decided to join us for the walk to the bus station where we’d catch a minibus north for the 3+ hour journey.
+ The way the minibuses work is they leave when they’re full or if they don’t have enough passengers you either continue to wait or pay extra like we did 2 days ago. This morning, there were more than enough people wanting to head North but luckily we were the first in line so we got settled into our seats (with our smaller backpacks on our laps) and they eventually crammed so many people into the van that the last 5 or so could only stand. But for only 14 JD instead of the 60 or so they wanted for a taxi, this was the most logical choice.
+ On the ride we read Lonely Planet and took notes on Evernote and before we knew it, it was our turn to hop off. The potential hitch in this plan was that the minibus only dropped us off at the intersection of the 2 highways, which meant we were still 4 km away from the Airport. So we needed to catch a ride somehow as 4km is a far walk with bags.
+ Thankfully we only had to attempt to hail a taxi or hitch-hike for 15 minutes or so before a friendly guy who worked for a rental car company at the airport stopped and picked us up. He didn’t want to charge us anything for the trip, but when Corey got out we discovered his bag had squished some of the guys breakfast (on the car floor!) so we apologized gave him a few dollars to at least cover the cost of that.
+ If you would’ve told us before this trip that we’d be hitch-hiking in Jordan in December, we would’ve thought you were insane! We’ll just chalk this up to one of the unexpected joys of travel!
+ Once we passed through the airport’s double security system, we headed to our favorite place to chill: a Priority Pass Lounge! Seriously, these places were the best! Free food, wifi, charging stations, and drinks! including beer! The beer here in Jordan was like $7/bottle (which is why we didn’t buy any) but when it was free, heck yeah!
+ The time to board the plane eventually snuck up on us and we rushed over to our gate and boarded the plane to leave Jordan and head towards our final destination of Singapore! There, we’d be visiting our friend Tita whom we met in Croatia just a few weeks ago. But first, we had 2 connections and with the layovers and time change differences, it meant we’d leave at 2 pm on the 4th and arrive at 9 pm on the 5th!
+ The flight was very pleasant as Etihad Airlines is a major upgrade from RyanAir and we enjoyed our free in-flight movies, alcoholic beverages and hot meals. Then we landed in our first layover destination: Abu Dhabi!
+ We really wanted to leave the airport to go explore Abu Dhabi since we had a 7 hour layover, but since it was already dark, it didn’t make any sense to do it this time around. Plus we had a lot of work to catch up on (like writing this!) so we just found another Priority Pass lounge and spent the time eating and drinking and whiling away on our devices and trying to ignore the 2 year old (very cute) asian child running around with absolutely ZERO parental supervision.
+ One funny thing that happened was when we were sitting with our sandals off (trying to relieve swollen feet) and a fancy businessman was sitting across from Corey. Corey stretched out his legs for a moment and when the guy saw Corey’s bare feet his eyes grew super wide in shock! I guess we were too fancy for him! lol. We were definitely putting the backpacker flair in the business lounge!
Fly to Jakarta, Indonesia and then to Singapore! Meet up with our friend Tita!
+ Our flight to depart Abu Dhabi wasn’t until almost 3 am and we were pretty tired by then. So we boarded the plane and settled in for the long ride to our next stopover destination of Jakarta, Indonesia! This was officially the longest plane ride of Corey’s life but Liz had crossed the Atlantic each way as a child so she had technically done a long-haul like this once before.
+ Etihad flight attendant had to be very stern with silly passengers!
+ Corey finished watching the movie The Infiltrator he’d been watching on the previous Etihad flight and then passed out! Liz had already beat him to that!
+ Extremely tired and groggy, we awoke in Jakarta and had to get through customs and immigration and grab our bags before making a 180 degree turn and heading right back to the ticket counter and security to catch our next flight.
+ Our flight to Singapore was actually cheaper to book these legs separately with different airlines, but that meant we had to go through the hassle of this kind of stuff and get 2 new stamps on our passports just to enter and exit the country in a span of a couple of hours!
+ When we were getting our boarding pass we were informed our flight was delayed by over 3 hours which meant we wouldn’t be getting into Singapore until after midnight!
+ Luckily we had our free airport lounges to fall back on so we headed to one of those and settled in for another multiple hour hang out where we filled up on food, wifi, and beer. Oh, what a life! Seriously though, this Priority Pass was making such a huge difference and saving us such a large amount of money that we’d otherwise spend during these layovers.
+ One thing we did notice in the Jakarta airport was that the Airport helpers were in roller skates! So they were skating around helping everybody! How funny!
+ Also, we felt really tall here. Especially Corey who seemed to tower over all of the locals by about 2 feet!
+ Finally when we were both very tired and ready to finally get a move on we boarded the flight and got ready for take off. Corey immediately passed out and Liz had wanted to do the same but was too awake so instead she watched the lightning storm outside the plane for a good long while. It was really impressive!
Hang out at Tita’s Apartment, Hawker Food for Dinner, and a Stroll along the River.
+ We finally landed in Singapore around 1 am! After collecting our luggage and ordering an Uber to get to the other side of town where we’d be staying with our friend Tita, we finally walked in her door at 2 am!
+ This meant we left our hostel at about 7:30 am on the 4th and arrived to our destination at 2 am on the 6th! Whew! Over 36 hours of travel!
+ Tita and her brother (who was also visiting) went back to bed after greeting us. After unwinding for a second, we did the same.
+ In the morning, we slept super late to make up for the past 2 days, and because with the Jet Lag it felt like it was 6 hours earlier.
+ Said goodbye to Tita’s brother who left for a roadtrip in Vietnam and then we headed down to the condo’s giant pool area. Since Tita didn’t have wifi in her apartment yet (she just moved in a couple weeks ago), we had to use the free wifi near the Clubhouse downstairs to get any connection.
+ For the next few hours we hung out down there enjoying the warm weather, surfing the web, and watching all the parents give swimming lessons to their little babies.
+ When Tita got home from work, she came down with some beers to join us. We all talked for a while and caught up with how everything had been going since we’d last seen her 5 or 6 weeks ago in Bol, Croatia.
+ We were now starving since all we’d had to eat all day was leftover snacks we’d gotten for free on the airplanes. So we all took an Uber into town to a good food court Tita knew about called Telak Ayer. The place was really big and had tons of options to choose from. We were excited to be trying some of Singapore’s famous “Hawker Food”!
+ We all ordered something different and enjoyed sampling the different dishes. Liz and Tita got some sort of spicy KimChi soup and Corey got a spicy Beef BBQ meal. When that was over, we set off to walk through Singapore all the way back to Tita’s house!
+ The walk was interesting and we spent most of the time strolling alongside the river. One thing we noticed was how clean and safe Singapore felt. And since the city was only 50 years old, everything was extremely new and modern! Including their bridges which were always colorful and different than each one before it.
+ Speaking of the river, there must’ve been some monster sized fish living in it because every now and then some fish (or Asian monster?) would make a very large splash and make us wonder what in the world it was chasing after to eat. We continued along just glad it wasn’t us!
+ Back at her place, Tita went to bed and we went back down to the pool to do some more research and planning for our time in Singapore and later in Australia. Finally when it was way too late we went to sleep ourselves so we wouldn’t ruin our remaining days here in Singapore.
Singaporean Satay Food, Gardens By the Bay, and Exploring the City by Foot!
+ We again slept in a little since we were still tired/had Jetlag from the big time change.
+ Liz wasn’t feeling great and had a bad headache so we hung out at the apartment for another couple of hours until she was feeling better, then we caught an Uber to a popular food court called Satay by the Bay.
+ This place was a little smaller than last night and not as populated since it wasn’t peak meal hours, but we had some chicken and beef Satay sticks with a peanut sauce. The sauce was meh but the meat sticks were delicious!
+ From the food court, there was a really nice walkway through a jungle like garden area to one of the most popular attractions in Singapore – Gardens by the Bay! Just on the approach walk alone we saw a lot of cool things that we deemed picture worthy.
+ Once we got to the entrance, we were greeted by huge Man-made “Super Trees” that were probably 70 feet tall and then spread out in a big circle at the top. They had all sorts of unique plants, flowers, and vines growing on them that made them really pretty and picturesque.
+ After way too many pictures of those, we went inside. There were options to go in little Bio-Domes/Green-Houses, but they cost a lot more and we were content to just stroll through the grounds and admire the free stuff while eating our yummy chocolate and Lychee ice cream we had picked up!
+ We did opt to pay a little more to go into the Super-Tree Grove area which is normally cool enough, but at this time of year they had everything decorated for Christmas so all the trees were covered with Christmas lights and decorations.
+ Once we’d had our fill of watching people lose their money at the carnival games, we went back to the Trees just in time to catch their light show, which was extremely underwhelming. It did end in a flurry of fake snow being shot up over our heads though so at least that salvaged the experience a little.
+ The visit was definitely enjoyable though as not only did we get to enjoy a little bit of celebration of Christmas (with some excellent music choices), but we even saw a couple that had been being video-taped the whole time get engaged! How nice.
+ After that we headed towards the giant Marina Bay Sands hotel to get some wifi and soak up their A/C while we organized a meetup with Tita. Man, we were only a few days away from the cold of the Middle East and we were already growing tired of the hot and humid weather. A/C was our best friend again!
+ The mall was humongous and the stores all way too expensive for our budget so, once we were able to find the exit 20 minutes later, we headed across the fancy footbridge to another food court called Makensutra where we met up with Tita.
+ When we’d all cleaned our plates of the tasty ( and spicy) Asian food, we set off on a walk through town with Tita. Although she’d only lived here for a few weeks, she had walked through this area before and knew of some cool places to show us. It culminated with a stop at a giant collection of restaurants and bars, including many western chains (Hooters, Chili’s, etc.) that would give Orlando’s City Walk a run for it’s money!
+ With each beer or cocktail costing between $10-$20!!! we opted not to partake in the partying and instead we ordered another Uber to take us the rest of the way home where we enjoyed some Tiger beer poolside with Tita.
+ Since it was already pretty late and Tita had work the next day, we said goodnight ( and goodbye since this was the last time we’d see her) and she went upstairs to bed. We stayed down a little while longer to take care of some business on the internet and apply for another Australian housesit.
+ Eventually we headed up ourselves and after some showers and starting laundry, we finally hit the hay.
Relaxing Day at Tita’s Apartment Complex, Fly to Bali!
+ We really wanted to go to the Singapore Zoo today, and we even woke up relatively early around 9 to do so, but by the time we finished the necessary stuff with wifi we needed to do, got the laundry out and packed our bags, and ate lunch, it was already after noon! And we’d only have less than 4 hours to visit the zoo. The transportation and tickets would’ve been at least $72 so we made the hard decision to skip it and save the money.
+That ended up being a good decision as we were at Tita’s apartment to let in the internet repair guys and she finally got her wifi properly installed! Woohoo! We also got to enjoy a semi lazy day before the next bunch of hectic, fast-paced travel days.
+ Hung out at apartment until it was time to go. Got an Uber to the airport.
+ Once we got through security, we hung out at an airport lounge enjoying the free Asian food and drinks, including Singapore beer! Luckily we found one that would accept our digital version of the Priority Pass card, since the physical card still hadn’t gotten to us in the mail yet.
+ We boarded our flight headed to Bali where we then had to gather our bags, go through immigration and customs, and then reverse the process to get back into the boarding area for our next flight to Cairns! What a long, unnecessary process! We’d much prefer layovers, but this was so much cheaper!
Fly to Cairns, Check into Hostel and Explore Cairns
+ Our flight from Bali to Cairns left at about 1:50am Bali time (40 minutes late).
+ We weren’t feeling tired at all so we discussed our plans for Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, and then we spoke with our seat neighbors (who were from Melbourne and the Cairns area) for a good long while about traveling in Australia and got a lot of great tips! Then with only about 2 hours left until we touched down, we tried to get some sleep in.
+ Unfortunately we weren’t successful and just spent the time tossing and turning with our minds running a million miles a minute thinking of all the things we needed to do and stuff coming up.
+ Although we were both tired and a bit grumpy (*Cough Cough Liz*), we were happy to be in Australia! New Zealand and Australia were the top 2 places we wanted to make in our entire trip and here we were! about 11.5 months into our trip we had finally made it!
+ Once we got through all the formalities and gathered our bags, we caught an overpriced shuttle bus that took us straight to our hostel in Cairns. We were staying at JJ’s Backpackers and the staff were all very nice and welcoming on our arrival. They explained everything and then to our delight let us check in to our room even though it wasn’t even 10 am yet.
+ When we were settled, we eagerly climbed into bed and laid down. To unwind and get ready for sleep we watched a couple episodes of Community and then passed out for our (really long) nap!
+ Of course it’s us so we slept way too long and by the time we woke up it was almost dark! But we felt re-energized and ready to go out exploring. So we strapped on our stinky (*Cough Cough Corey*) sandals and walked the 20 or so minutes into the main part of town.
+ Wow! It was wayyy more touristy than we’d anticipated and a bit more expensive too. We were still torn on what we wanted to do here in Cairns and whether we wanted to do a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef, or an overnight stay. And if we wanted to do a tour to other hotspots like the Daintree Rainforest and Kuranda National Park or wait til we had our campervan.
+ About 2 days ago when researching places to stay in Cairns, we came across a live-aboard dive boat option that we could book like a hotel using our Chase points and were interested and we wanted to find out more info. So we went to that company’s shop to find out more info and after a 90 minute sit down with the nice Canadian chick working there, we decided to pull the trigger and book a 3 day/2 night stay on the Reef Encounter!
+ Although it used A LOT of points, it meant we’d have a private cabin with 3 gourmet meals a day, 4 daily snorkeling sessions, and a bunch of other stuff included in this package. It normally would’ve cost over $1000 but with the Chase points we weren’t paying a dime! And even if we had chosen just a day trip out to the reef and back we would’ve paid at least $300 and only gotten to do 1 dive session on probably an inferior reef. So although we didn’t analyze the decision for hours (or days) like we normally do, we were happy with our decision!
+ Feeling excited for our trip tomorrow, we kept walking around town checking out all the touristy bars and restaurants. Pretty much everything was outside of our price range so we ended up choosing to eat in the Nighttime Food Court, which was predominantly made up of Chinese food stalls.
+ We chose the place that looked the least sketchy and then paid for our plates. The deal was you were allowed to load up your plate as much as you wanted, but you could only make 1 trip to the buffet line. So Corey took it as a challenge and piled his plate about 4 inches high and precariously balanced everything until he was seated back at the table. Liz chose the less embarrassing option of only getting a normal amount of food. Boring!
+ When we’d finished eating and exploring town, we had to walk back to the hostel since the free shuttle buses from JJ’s had already stopped running.
+ That night we used wifi for a bit since we wouldn’t be able to out on the water, and then showered and packed our bags in preparation for the early departure the next day!