Results tagged “Hotels” from Eurasia 2012

Closed the blinds, had aircon that worked, a room that faced northwest, and sheets as well as a blanket. You'd think I'd have had the perfect sleep conditions. But alas, it still took me ages to get to sleep and felt like I was awake for ages early in the night. Sigh. But at least slept til after 7am which was good.

Had breakfast downstairs. There were no checks at all and the place is open to the airport terminal, so really anyone could just come in and eat breakfast there - bizarre!

Checked out and wandered across to the checkin gate for the planes. Turns out the JAL ticket I'd bought was already the boarding pass. Checked our bags, but didn't need to print anything else. Weird! Some confusion as we were trying to figure out how to get boarding passes, when in fact we already had them!

Flight was pretty dull. Clouds just after takeoff til just before landing, except for a small gap in the clouds looking down to the coastline at Sendai where the tsunami last year hit the worst. Sad..

Landed, got our bags, then had to face dragging my broken bag all the way across Tokyo :( The sweetie was the bestest sweetie ever and carried it and/or rolled it on top of his bag. I carried his carry-on bag.

So a monorail ride to Hamamatsucho then it was either a Yamonote line train or a Oedo subway to get to Shinjuku. We took the Yamonote line simply because we were super familiar with it.

Then the long painful walk to the hotel :(

We found the building ok, but walked around it trying to find the actual hotel :( Was quite blah by the time we found it upstairs. But you pay a premium for this hotel for a reason - there's pretty great service. They saw us coming and ran to grab our bags and help us check in, so that was nice. The sweetie thought we should get an upgrade to a corner room. Well we've already spent a fortune on this place, so why not heh.

Got to our room and it's super awesome :) Well the view is super awesome. And there's aircon that seems to work and a huge bed and a funky bathroom area. Hung out for a little while but decided to go out and find some food (it was mid-late afternoon but we still hadn't had lunch).

Wandered towards Shinjuku and ended up in the "geek" area with Yodobashi Camera and other such stores around. Decided to have dinner at a little place there - where you have to decide what you want before you go in, pay on the vending machine, and take the tickets inside for your food. And it turned out to be a super tasty chicken dish that I really really enjoyed. Who needs Michelin stars when you can find great food for under $10!

Stopped in at a Family Mart for some supplies, then came back to the hotel and enjoyed the view while using the internet :)

So after a drinks interlude, we went up to the New York Bar, a-la Lost in Translation. Had a couple of drinks and listened to the jazz band with front row seats.. a very pleasant evening :)


Distance covered on the GPS: 937.1 km
Steps walked: 10118
Photos on the Canon: 150
Photos on the Sony: 111
Videos: 0

Have I ever mentioned that heat in hotels is a major pain? Overheated again last night. And woke up with the sun at 3:45. Grunt.

Bit of a slow start. I headed out a bit before nine to withdraw some money and pick up some supplies for breakfast.

So didn't get out of the hotel til a bit after ten.

Headed up to the Asahiyama Zoo, quite a good little zoo outside of Asahikawa. The enclosures for the penguins and seals (and other animals too) are well thought out and you get some *great* views of the animals. For the penguins there's a tube you walk right through their tank, like the sharks at Darling Harbour. And the seals have this vertical tube they dive through right in the middle of this room you walk through. Sometimes they stop in mid flight and nose the perspex, so there's all these people in a room with a seal floating the middle! Extremelly cool!!

The polar bears looked a little miserable in the heat (or maybe they were just bored). Only gripe about viewing them was you queue for ages in a dark stairwell for who knows what. Turns out there's a little "bubble" you can stick your head up in the middle of their enclosure. OK but not really worth waiting in the heat.

But yeah otherwise a great day and took over four hundred photos in four hours.

Then Japan took another opportunity to completely rip us off. We needed to get to Chitose airport, so programmed the GPS with either the back roads or the expressways. The expressways were 30km longer but a bit quicker, and it quoted us 2250 yen, according to the GPS for the tolls. OK so we did that. And then got quite disappointed that the speed limits on the expressways were 80 km/h .. ???? I thought they were meant to be 100. The road certainly would have handled it. But all the signs we saw said 80. Now it *might* have been that the 80 was only for temporary stuff, like lanes merging in, and the default limit was 100. But if that was the case it certainly wasn't obvious. Give me Australian speed indicators any day (which always make it clear what the speed limit should be when it changes). And give me Australian traffic lights too - everywhere else I've seen doesn't have nearly enough lights. Sometimes in Japan there's *one* light, which is pretty easy to miss. Europe was pretty bad too - there's nothing on the far side of the intersection, so pedestrians can't see what's being shown to the traffic coming. Anyway, where was I? Oh, Japan ripping us off again. The expressway from Asahikawa to Sapporo cost us 3800 yen!!! That's like $50 for 100km of road. Absolutely ridiculous. And for not much time saving either! We should have taken the back roads!!! Blah :(:(

But got out to the airport car rental place without any other dramas (filling up with petrol near the airport at a full service petrol station). Returned the car, and got their shuttle bus to the airport.

From there we just needed to find the airport hotel where we were staying the night. It's right in the domestic terminal which is pretty easy. Sadly no view of the planes from our side of the hotel.

Checked in, then went down to the airport food court to get some dinner and watch the planes while we ate. They even have free wifi! Win!

Then back to do photo stuff and blog.


Distance covered on the GPS: 209.4 km
Steps walked: 11793
Photos on the Canon: 406
Photos on the Sony: 26
Videos: 4

Stoopid east facing windows and stoopid sun that gets up at 4am and stoopid blinds that do nothing to keep out the light or heat :( Blah. So it was very hot in our room. So didn't sleep all that well :(

Breakfast was at the hotel. We'd chosen "western" breakfasts the night before (fish and natto for breakfast? no, don't think so). But they brought out all this food. I couldn't get through it! Saved my bread roll and sweet roll for later.

Then we headed up into the mountains again.

Stopped first at the dam at Lake Chubetsu. Cause I like dams. Have I mentioned that? :)

Then into the national park and up to the Asahidake Ropeway.

But first, 500 yen for parking. WTF? When just down the road was a public car park that was free. Grunt. So already feeling ripped off. Then to go up the cable car it's 2800 yen. Each. !! WTF?? I was way pissed off at that point. But we went up anyway and I grumped the whole way :(

Still, it was a fairly nice place at the top. We went up for a wander up into the snow and mud around the walking tracks and saw the little lakes and the fumaroles. Stu definitely enjoyed it. I would have more if hadn't been so badly ripped off. *sigh*

Had some snacks while waiting for a cable car down.

Then we decided to just go to Asahikawa rather than try and do any more mountains.

So got into town and negotiated city streets and got to the hotel ok.

Had a bit of a relax for a little while.

Then we decided to head out to find some dinner. We were going to get ramen (which this place is famous for), but as we were getting ready Stu looked out the window and said "there's a festival" and I'm like "Japanese street food!!!!!" So that's where we went.

It was just in this little park near the river. All around the outer edge of the park, and through the middle were stalls setup selling food and toys. We had some *amazing* food, as well as some average food, and some pretty good food. Love love love Japanese street food :) Not really sure what the festival was for. We asked at the hotel, she said something about the transition between spring and summer. Couldn't find anything online about it, but not really sure what to look for! heh. We were probably the only gaijin there (we certainly didn't see any others).


Distance covered on the GPS: 128.2 km
Steps walked: 10696
Photos on the Canon: 143
Photos on the Sony: 39
Videos: 0

Pretty good day today (although still didn't sleep too well - too hot).

After breakfast had a bit of a slow start getting out the door. Had to plan what we were going to do first.

I waited outside the hotel with our bags (we didn't really feel like carrying my broken bag all the way to the car rental place). And then the sweetie arrived and off we went.

Fortunately this trip, not only do they drive on the correct side of the road, but we got an automatic, and the blinkers are on the correct side!! Yayy for Japanese cars :) (London in 2010 had the correct side of the road, but a manual and backwards blinkers).

So pretty much just headed straight out of Sapporo (after getting a coffee for the sweetie at a Scottish Restaurant we passed). Decided to go via quieter roads rather than expressways.

Except Hokkaido has ridiculously low speed limits. Roads that would be 60, 70, 80 in Australia were all 50, or maybe 40. It was impossibly slow, and we were pissing off the locals, who were all passing us any chance they could. After ages doing this we gave up and drove more to conditions (but still slower than the locals!). I suppose their limits are for when the conditions are bad, which is sure to be much of the year, or to reduce the number of wildlife accidents. But this was the middle of a clear sunny day. Whatevs.

So basically just drove slowly to Furano. Stopped at a dam on the way. Because I like dams.

Had more Scottish Restaurant for a late lunch, then went and checked into the hotel. Crazy design to the room. The bathroom has a big glass window next to the bed, with a blind on the outside! Weird as!

We headed straight out again, deciding to drive up into the mountains.

Drove up towards Tokachidake springs.

The "lavendar road" would sure be pretty in a month's time. But for now it was just green.

Saw a few foxes around the place. Nat would have loved them heh :)

At Tokachidake springs got out and walked up a trail a bit (I was a bit worried about getting eaten by a bear). There was still snow around!

Drove around a bit more, ending up at Bogakudai for a nice lookout (although looking straight into the late afternoon sun).

Then down the hill to the "Blue Pond" which is a famous tourist attaction in the area. The parking lot and one-way paths testify to that. But when I got there I was very disappointed. The "pond" appears to have been created by the damming of a creek, flooding the area and killing a bunch of trees. There's no flow through the pond so it's a stagnent pool full of dead trees. Yuk. OK so yes the water is a pretty blue (in the right light, sadly we were there a little too late in the day), so if you look at the right angle you can see live trees and not the stagnent muck, it's not too bad. If you want pretty blue lakes, go to Canada.

Then back to the hotel (and stopped at another dam).

Had dinner at the hotel. I had some wagyu beef which was *awesome* and the freshest, nicest asparagus I've ever had!

And finally we stayed up *very* late doing our washing (last load of the trip though - yayy!!)


Distance covered on the GPS: 205 km
Steps walked: 6936
Photos on the Canon: 278
Photos on the Sony: 15
Photos on the Video: ?
Videos: ?

Well today was pretty good until the wheels fell off .....

At 4am the sun was rising and it was pretty bright. At 5am the sun was streaming into the room. Grunt. This country could really use daylight saving!!

Breakfast at the hotel.

Then we hopped on a tram three stops up the road and a short walk to the Hakodate ropeway (cable car). Apparently this is one of the world's top three views at night (after Hong Kong and Naples). Sadly I didn't know this until it was too late. Oh well. Next time.. hrmmm. But even during the day it was pretty nice.

Came back down and wandered past some of the churches.

And the brick warehouses.

And was a little spun out by a plaque showing the height of the 2011 tsunami. Looking around the area you'd never know though.

Continued wandering, back through the morning fish market (it wasn't morning anymore but there were still a few things open).

And finally back to the hotel to pick up our bags.

Hakodate is a pretty user-friendly town. There's maps and signs all over the place, including in the pavement. I won't object if we ever have to come back here :)

Headed to the station. The next train was about an hour away. Couldn't get a reservation (they were all taken). Found some lunch at the station then went to get the train. Luckily we got seats no problems.

The train trip was quite nice. A lot of it was around the water so we had a pretty good view. It reminded me a lot of the day we took a train around the Kii peninsula.

Arrived in Sapporo and was walking to the hotel when one of the wheels fell off my suitcase :(:(:(:( This is going to prove very problematic over the next week :( What is it with me and luggage this trip? First my backpack, now my suitcase :( Blah.

Got to our hotel and checked in. It seems it must be a Chisun rule to have *tiny* rooms, not just an Osaka thing (our Loisir hotel in Hakodate had much more space).

Then wandered out to find dinner. Went to a little soba place hidden inside a building. Was pretty tasty.

Then back here to charge things and figure out what we're going to do on this island..


Distance covered on the GPS: 325.7 km
Steps walked: 11336
Photos on the Canon: 173
Photos on the Sony: 35
Videos: 0

So had to wake up at stoopid o'clock this morning so I could get to Hamburg by lunch time. So up, ready, out the door and at the station by 6:30. Three trains and six hours later and I'm in Hamburg (and I'm well over half way through my book).

Couldn't check in yet, so dumped my suitcase and walked down to Miniatur Wunderland!!

I saw this on the internet some time last year, and added a night in Hamburg to my trip just so I could see it. It's incredible!! The dioramas are of Hamburg and Germany, Austria/Switzerland, Scandanavia and the Americas. Most of the fun of the show is looking closely at the figures to find them doing funny (or rude) stuff. There's action going on everywhere. It's just amazing. I got there just after 1:30pm and stayed til nearly closing time (5:45pm). The crowds were starting to thin out by 3:30 and it was pretty empty by 4:30, so afternoon is definitely the time to go.

The biggest trouble I had was finding the entrance and actually getting in. The Hamburg Dungeon is right next door and gets all the big signage. The Miniatur Wunderland just a portable sign by a door further along the building. I wasn't sure if I was going in the exit (and it's up a few flights of stairs - next time - catch the lift up!). There's not a word in English so I wasn't sure if the line I was getting into was for people with or without tickets. There was only one line though, and it was all a big mess. Even when you got your ticket you're in the middle of the shop that's selling stuff and that's where the exit is too. It was just chaos. This is pretty abysmal for Germans who are usually so much more organised at that sort of thing.

Anyway, so after that I just wandered up through the city, passing St Nikolai's (which is being renovated - don't know what the view will be like) and the Rathaus and Binnenalster.

Went through the station, and looked for local beer and/or hamburgers for dinner. No local beers, but did find a hamburger (patty), but it was pretty dry.

Finally back to the hotel and checked in. This is a nice hotel from what I've seen so far, pity I only have the one night!


Distance covered on the GPS: 487.5 km (a bit more than this but the GPS kept dropping out on the last train :( )
Steps walked: 12415
Photos on the Canon: 421
Photos on the Sony: 71
Videos: 23
EUR Spent: ?

Dear Travel Agents,

When people ask for a window seat on aeroplanes, it's because they want a view of the ground, NOT THE FRICKEN WING!!!!

Not happy.


So anyway.

Up at stoopid o'clock (4:40am, although I'd been awake since 4:00). Breakfast, checkout, and off to the airport.

The other couples all went their separate ways, although did run into a couple of them in my wanderings. Made use of Cairo airport's free wifi (thanks Cairo!).

And then off we went. I was depressed about my seat, so put on some movies. The EgyptAir 777's entertainment systems are pretty good. Nice touch screen, and several options for the GPS maps. Even between-seat dialling (which I didn't use because I didn't know anyone on the plane heh).

I watched Midnight in Paris first up. Knew absolutely nothing about it, so quite enjoyed it, even if it was all a bit silly and extreme coincidences.

Then watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which I also really enjoyed seeing a second time. Still a few things about the movie I disagree with (having just reread the book didn't help).

The alps looked stunning. Have I mentioned how much wing seats suck?

Our approach to London was "interesting". I swear air traffic controllers are just playing Flight Control on their phones, and our planes follow their paths..

So after reading an article DC sent me about the queues at Heathrow, I was fully expecting to have to wait hours to get through immigration. But when I walked into the hall it was practically deserted! Win! So getting through the airport was a breeze. Changed my leftover shekels into pounds (noone in Egypt would do it), although could probably have gotten a better deal in a bank. Then did the long walk to the tube station.

Got to my hotel and checked in. Perfectly adequate hotel, although no safe, and breakfast doesn't start til 7am, 8am on Sundays. And a little too warm. But I have a lovely view of the gardens opposite, and it has free wifi!! Seriously why can't fancy hotels do this??

Pretty much headed straight out again to go pickup my London Pass before the office closed. That was in Leicester Square, so wandered up to Piccadilly Circus, which we'd somehow missed out on doing last time.

Then down to Trafalgar Square (Nelson's column was in sunlight!!).

Past the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic (they were doing construction work last time we were here - turns out they've put in all these bollards along the footpath).

A quick look at the Household Cavalry museum from the courtyard, that we'd also missed seeing last time.

A walkby 10 Downing Street, because last time for some reason I thought the Prime Minister's house was on the other side of the road.

And ended up at Westminster station, where I think I found the escalator used in Order of the Phoenix (there's a *lot* of escalators at Westminster station!) as well as taking another pic of the entrance gates used in the movie.

I really only came back early because I didn't know what time the laundromat closed. Otherwise I would have kept wandering! It was so much fun with such nice weather and lots of people about being Friday night.

So grabbed my washing and loaded it up. Only twenty minutes for a cycle which is pretty good. So I wandered up and down Earl's Court Road looking for somewhere to have dinner. Did the drying, and went to a Chinese place. Had something I haven't had in a month - pork!! It was pretty good, but too much meat and not enough veggies. My bowels *won't* thank me for that!

Then back here to blog and do photos.


Distance covered on the GPS: 3712.5 km
Steps walked: 15005
Photos on the Canon: 19
Photos on the Sony: 163
Videos: 2
EGP Spent: 10
GBP Spent: 18.40

Pretty quiet day today.

Breakfast was no more inspiring than yesterday. Checked out and was not sorry to see the back of that hotel.

We stopped briefly at the rest stop we stopped at on the way down. Then continued onto Karak Castle, built by the Crusaders.

I wasn't in the best of moods (lack of sleep and annoyance with hotel and hitting my head on the bus didn't help), so didn't take many photos.

Had lunch in a little restaurant in Karak, I think that belonged to a relative of our tour guide.

Our guide said he hated coming to Karak because of the traffic, and we could see why. We had to walk a couple of hundred metres up the hill because someone had just parked in the road so there wasn't enough room for the bus to get past. Then after lunch we had to get around this tiny corner with cars parked all around it. It took a miracle and some pretty skillful driving for the driver to get us out of that one! On the way down the hill we were going slow enough through all the traffic to actually watch the people going about their business, and looking at all the stores. It was actually pretty cool.

Then continued to Amman airport.

First step is security getting into the airport itself - everything is xrayed, metal detector and brief frisk search.

Getting through immigration was relatively painless, and then had two hours to kill. We were in a spot that was close enough to the Royal Jordanian lounge to pick up their wifi, so sat and read news feeds on my phone.

They didn't open the gate itself until just before boarding, when it was security again to get to the gate.

Had a little Embraer 195 jet that was only about 1/2 to 2/3 full. And it conveniently has a small hook on the seat in front for hanging GPSes :)

Had a grumpy flight attendant who made us all put our backpacks in the overhead lockers, which is a first for me - every other flight I've ever taken I've been able to keep it under my seat.

It was pretty hazy and cloudy and the aeroplane windows were filthy so didn't see much, but did fly into Cairo from the south east, then looped around to fly across the city and land. We saw several pyramids and our hotel so that was pretty cool.

Getting through immigration at Cairo was also relatively painless. Withdrew some money and paid 95EGP for a Visa (cash only, not credit card - lame).

Then the tour bus to our hotel which took at least an hour.

This hotel is pretty damned fancy, but at least lives up to its price tag (which incidentally I have no idea what that is). This is the nicest of the "fancy" hotels we've stayed in. Haven't figured out how much the internet is here, it wouldn't connect me properly.

I am *exhausted*. Didn't get to bed til after 11pm, then woke up at 5am. But this afternoon I came down with the cold that's been going around the group (Dad's had it pretty bad the last couple of days). There's a 5am wakeup call to go to Alexandria tomorrow. I debated skipping it, but at least there'll be five hours on the bus to snooze.


Distance covered on the GPS: 1013 km
Steps walked: 13690, but I'm taking off 5500 due to bumpy roads screwing up the count
Photos on the Canon: 107
Photos on the Sony: 173
Videos: 1
JD Spent: 0.9
EGP Spent: 97.5

Urrrgh. I hate drama. Hate stress. Blah.

Breakfast at this hotel was ok - the nicest thing was meats at breakfast!! Haven't had meat at breakfast this whole trip (except for some tuna on the first day).

Loaded up in the coach and got driven through the most affluent part of Amman, with the tour guide doing a whole PR spiel for the country. It certainly was nicer that the first impression we got of the country.

Our first stop was the "Memorial of Moses" on Mount Nebo - possibly the place that Moses came up to see into the Promised Land before he died. There were a couple of nice mosaics there and you could just barely see Jerusalem through the haze.

Came down from there and stopped at a mosaic-making workshop where they make some stunning mosaics from cut stone. They can take months to complete, depending on the size of stones and intricacy.

Then into Madaba. Traffic was a little crazy as traffic lights were out, and did I mention they don't really have road rules here?

We parked and walked up to see St George's Church and the amazing mosaic they have of the middle east something like 1500 years ago. But the buttheads decided to build a church on top of it, and stuck a supporting pillar *right in the middle of the mosaic* !?!?!? Idiots.

And then back to the bus back through the market street.

For some reason this town had a nice feel to it. Maybe because the shops looked more familiar (a lot of English and selling more western products), maybe because the locals were friendly and waving, maybe because the vendors weren't aggressive. Who knows.

Headed a way out of town to a new restaurant for lunch and it was really nice (with nice clean free toilets - a major bonus in this country!). They even had this camel milk custard dessert!

Next up - another one of Herod's palaces at Mukawer, traditionally the location that they beheaded John the Baptist. A good little climb up and a great view.

This country is amazingly water poor, but we did see a couple of interesting things. One thing was temporary water tanks with tubing to irrigate roadside trees they're trying to grow. At another point we saw a burst water pipe on the side of a mountain gushing water in a huge geyser half way down the side of the mountain.

Then to the "Grand Canyon of Jordan" - Wadi Mujib.

Then headed south. The landscape changed dramatically from farmland to semi-arid.

Had a pitsop along the way, but had to pay for the toilets here.

Continued south (then west) to Petra (Wadi Musa), arriving just on sunset (behind the clouds anyway).

Navigating this hotel is a drama. You have to take two separate lifts, but there's only two at each site, and they only hold six people at a very tight squeeze. Found some stairs and decided they were much easier and faster.

Dinner was a total drama. First the parents arguing about which way up or down the table to move to not leave odd seats, so abanonded them. But then getting food was a *massive* drama because of a bunch of rude Europeans (Italian I think but could have been French - both are in the building) pushing in and making everything take longer. Hate.

Internet is $5 for the whole stay, but another couple gave me a couple of dollars to use it briefly. But it's so slow I may not be able to get my blog entries online anyway. Plus the only place you can use it is in the lobby, and that's where all the Europeans come to smoke :( *sigh*

Now it's stoopidly late because we got here late and have to get up stoopidly early. Which means my chances of getting any decent sleep tonight are about zero..


Distance covered on the GPS: 351.5
Steps walked: 16414, but I'm taking off 5000 due to bumpy roads screwing up the count
Photos on the Canon: 335
Photos on the Sony: 49
Videos: 11
USD Spent: 5-2
JD Spent: 0.5+2

Dear Jordan,

Please find a big garbage bin and use it.

Love,
Kazza


So very early morning this morning. First at breakfast at 6:30, then on the bus by 7:20. Arrived at the King Hussein border crossing a little after 9am. Here we said goodbye to our Israeli driver and guide and went across the border into Jordan. As much as I was frustrated with the hurry up and stand still pace of our guide, at least he was very well organised and coordinated everything for us beautifully. We crammed a *lot* into our Israel trip with him.

Took a little while (over an hour) to get through the rigmarole of passport control on one side, then crossing the Jordan, then passport control and security on the other side. But they let us all through so all good.

Continued driving north.

This is where we really started to notice the differences in countries. But the saddest thing was the run down nature of all the homes and businesses, and the *rubbish* lying all along the sides of the road. Don't these people have any respect for the cleanliness of their own country? Very sad.

The country does seem pretty friendly though - out in the country areas *lots* of people waved to us which was pretty cool. Other than the fact that they have some pretty heavily armed military check points, an armed guard on our coach, and metal detectors and xray machines on the hotel entrance. Not sure if I feel safter or more threatened with all that. Safer because they have it, but less safe because of the need they have for it.

Other observations:


  • Their highway system is pretty good. Dual carriage way in a lot of places. But city streets don't have lane markings so people just drive wherever. They also park wherever they like and double park all the time.

  • Noone seemed to be in any real hurry - we overtook *lots* of cars. Maybe because it was their weekend and a lot of people were out having family picnics.

  • Families have one car, no matter how big their family. This usually means a bunch of kids in the back seat (no seatbelts) and often another kid on mum's lap in the front.

  • They love the king here and his picture is everywhere (admittedly he's a very cool king!)

  • Street-side vendors selling food and pots and stuff are everywhere.

  • Vendors at the tourist places are a lot more aggressive than in Israel. But still probably nowhere near as bad as Egypt will be.

So anyway.

Our first stop was Gadara, an ancient Roman city with a cool collonaded street and theatre and a great view over the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias. Really didn't spend much time there before we had to leave.

We had a late lunch in Jerash. This was pretty good actually. They assured us that the salads were safe to eat because they were washed properly, but we all bought drinks as the water is not the best for drinking.

Then we went up to the ruins. Another ancient Roman city, but this one was *huge* and they've been putting in a lot of effort to restore things, including gates and temples and collonaded streets and a couple of theatres. Had a decent amount of time there which was great.

Then we headed for Amman and our hotel.

Hotel is pretty average. At least we have plenty power points (with a mix of both UK and Europe sockets). But the waiting staff at dinner were pretty hopeless. And dinner wasn't great either - the hot food was lukewarm at best. I didn't eat too much because I wasn't feeling the best and we'd had a big lunch. Plus we got rejected by people at various tables who claimed that seats had been taken. But I think they just didn't want us there, and me being a single certainly screws up the whole system of paired seats :(

Did a bunch of underwear washing before dinner as well as last night's photo sorting, and finished today's after dinner. Time for bed!


Distance covered on the GPS: 276.9 km
Steps walked: 17161
Photos on the Canon: 275
Photos on the Sony: 41
Videos: 15
NIS Spent: 22.5
USD Spent: 9
JD Spent: 3

Urrrghhh.
Today started off pretty crap. Woke up at 3:45 and really didn't get back to sleep. Have one of those stoopied mattresses that moulds to your body shape. Which is fine until you roll over and it's all lumpy in odd places :(

Breakfast was a bit average. Although that's probably coloured by my mood with this place. Someone having their phone stolen within a minute or two of her leaving it on one of the service benches also made me lose confidence in the security of the place. I was paranoid about leaving the window wide open all day after that, but of course then mum had a whinge because the washing hadn't dried by this afternoon (majority of stuff not even needed until tomorrow anyway). *sigh*

So headed out at the usual time (8:30).

First stop was the Israel Museum. Had a look at the 1:50 scale model of ancient Jerusalem which was pretty cool. Also went into the Shrine of the Book which was a little museum about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which even had a fragment from Isaiah on display which was also pretty cool.

Entrance to The Israel Museum
Entrance to The Israel Museum

Model of Jerusalem
Model of Jerusalem

Model of the temple
Model of the temple

Model of Jerusalem
Model of Jerusalem

Model of the temple
Model of the temple

Model of lower Jerusalem
Model of lower Jerusalem

The Shrine of the Book, containing the Dead Sea Scrolls<br>Photo by Dad
The Shrine of the Book, containing the Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo by Dad

Black basalt wall next to the Shrine of the Book<br>Photo by Mum
Black basalt wall next to the Shrine of the Book
Photo by Mum

Next we headed back into Palestinian territory to Bethlehem. Security on this place was a bit more serious including massive concrete walls all the way around. Our regular guide didn't come with us as he's a Jew, and didn't want to make anything tense. Got a different guide instead for the day.

Berlin wall style wall separating Palestinian territories
Berlin wall style wall separating Palestinian territories

Our first stop was a shop, The Three Arches, where they strongly encouraged us to support the local Christian business. I did end up buying something (against my better judgement - I hate buying things at "tour recommended" stores because they mark everything up enormously; I saw the same thing I bought at a street store a little while later - I was tempted to ask how much but knew I'd get hounded mercilessly by the vendor unless I bought it).

Beautiful wood carvings for sale in the Three Arches in Bethlehem
Beautiful wood carvings for sale in the Three Arches in Bethlehem

Some of the town of Bethlehem
Some of the town of Bethlehem

Next up was the Church of the Nativity, or the Church of the Sepulchre or something. This church's claim to fame is that it is built on the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Yah.

So they had the great idea that we should queue for nearly an hour and a half to see a silver star marking the birthplace and a marble manger. Yeah we were all pretty cynical about it by the end of it.

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity
Entrance to the Church of the Nativity

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

Mosaics in the Church of the Nativity
Mosaics in the Church of the Nativity

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

I loved these Christmas decorations on the chandeliers
I loved these Christmas decorations on the chandeliers

Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity

Crowding into a tiny entrance
Crowding into a tiny entrance

Our tour group waiting to get in
Our tour group waiting to get in

All to see this.  Supposedly the location of the birth of Jesus<br>Photo by Dad
All to see this. Supposedly the location of the birth of Jesus
Photo by Dad

And Jesus really had a marble manger, didn't you know?<br>Photo by Dad
And Jesus really had a marble manger, didn't you know?
Photo by Dad

Church of St. Catherine
Church of St. Catherine

Church of St. Catherine<br>Photo by Dad
Church of St. Catherine
Photo by Dad

Then to lunch. They served us this time, with bread and dips to start, and kebabs and fries following. Too much food as usual :/

Stars & Bucks Cafe
Stars & Bucks Cafe

The funny thing about Bethlehem is that it's Christmas every day there. It'd be cool to go there at night to see all the Christmas lights up in the streets.

Next stop was "The Shepherd's Field" - more churches, more vendors trying to sell stuff. But what was nice about this place is that we went and found somewhere to sit down and had a little Church service ourselves. It was good to just stop and get away from all the crazy crowds and just reflect. Plus it was overlooking another hill still used by shepherds, and who's to say it wasn't on that hill that angels appeared to the shepherds. Building churches and saying "this is the spot" seems a tad ridiculous to me.

Hillside in Bethlehem<br>Photo by Mum
Hillside in Bethlehem
Photo by Mum

Our final stop of the day was Herodium, which is a big hill where Herod the great had built a fortress, and they've only just recently discovered his tomb. There were no other tourists here so quite enjoyed the little time we had there.

Herodium
Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Tunnels in Herodium
Tunnels in Herodium

Cistern in Herodium
Cistern in Herodium

Tunnels in Herodium
Tunnels in Herodium

Herodium
Herodium

Rocks used to roll down the hills on enemies
Rocks used to roll down the hills on enemies

Then back to the hotel. Did all my photo stuff then got completely bored waiting to go down to dinner. Stoopid lack of internet :( Didn't eat much at dinner - was still full from lunch.

Our hotel
Our hotel

View towards the cemetery from near our hotel
View towards the cemetery from near our hotel

Flowers on a roundabout near our hotel
Flowers on a roundabout near our hotel

Oh, this hotel failed again. When we checked in there were only two towels so we had to ask for another one. Tonight there was only one towel. At that rate there won't be any tomorrow.

There was a wedding downstairs tonight. It was super loud before but is a bit quieter now. Be quieter if I was allowed to close the window.. hrmmm..


Distance covered on the GPS: 50.5 km
Steps walked: 10320
Photos on the Canon: 334
Photos on the Sony: 40
Videos: 11
USD spent: 32

Urrrgghhhh. Today was not a good day. We did see some pretty cool stuff, but lots of stresses too :(

To start with I slept like crap. It was just too hot in the room (and Israel, like Europe, doesn't believe in layers (sheets). It's all or nothing with a blanket). There might have been air conditioning but I didn't feel like fussing about with it in the middle of the night. Woke up at 5:30 to go the toilet and the parents took this as their cue to turn the lights on >:( I think I might have gotten a little bit more sleep.

Then I got rejected at breakfast. Most of the tables only sat four people so I couldn't easily join people. In the end I went and sat by myself on a bigger table, and felt like a nigel, and only got joined near the end.

Went for a little walk after breakfast to photograph the beach and the hotel.

Daniel Hotel, Dead Sea
Daniel Hotel, Dead Sea

View from someone else's room (we got crappy rooms pretty much the entire trip)
View from someone else's room (we got crappy rooms pretty much the entire trip)

Checked out, then headed north back up the shores of the Dead Sea, this time with the light on the canyons.

Our first stop was Masada, which is this super cool fortress built by Herod atop a rocky mountain, and accessed by cable car. It finally fell to the Romans after a lengthy seige. It was another case of hurry up and wait and not enough time to really explore the place. So that was a bit frustrating, but I think we saw the majority of it.

Masada<br>Photo by Dad
Masada
Photo by Dad

Cistern in Masada
Cistern in Masada

Water collection trenches
Water collection trenches

Top of the cable car at Masada
Top of the cable car at Masada

Top of Masada
Top of Masada

Room in Masada.  The black line was the height of the wall when they found it.  They then rebuilt the walls on top<br>Photo by Dad
Room in Masada. The black line was the height of the wall when they found it. They then rebuilt the walls on top
Photo by Dad

Store rooms in Masada
Store rooms in Masada

Tristram's starlings at Masada
Tristram's starlings at Masada

Dead Sea from Masada
Dead Sea from Masada

Top view of Herod's Palace
Top view of Herod's Palace

Roman seige camp
Roman seige camp

Herod's Palace
Herod's Palace

Herod's Palace
Herod's Palace

Herod's Palace
Herod's Palace

Masada<br>Photo by Dad
Masada
Photo by Dad

Dude writing the torah, wrote a blessing for Bruce
Dude writing the torah, wrote a blessing for Bruce

Pigeon roosts
Pigeon roosts

Where the romans attacked from
Where the romans attacked from

Dead Sea from Masada
Dead Sea from Masada

Continued north, back into Palestinian territory to Qumran (unless it was Masada in Palestinian territory, can't remember) where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. I didn't realise there was an ancient town excavated there as well. But can you guess what happened? That's right, rushed from one point to another with little time to take it in. Fortunately after lunch they gave everyone an hour to go shopping, so Dad and I went back in. This was sooo much better just wandering around at my own pace and exploring stuff.

Hills on the west side of the Dead Sea
Hills on the west side of the Dead Sea

Location of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Location of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found
Cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

Location of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Location of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Yeah so lunch at Qumran. Worst experience of the trip so far. Had to battle your way through the shop then hundreds of people all jostling each other to get to the food and the tables. When we found a free table we got told to move. Then as I was trying to take a seat and dump my crap people kept telling me to move up and down the table to let people come or go as they changed their minds and then a heap of others were all trying to push past. I basically lost it. I *hate* crowds like that :(:(:( And the food was pretty average, probably the worst of the trip so far as well. Maybe just because I was too stressed/depressed, although someone else commented as well.

So left there and headed for Jerusalem. And we were there in like half an hour. Bizarre. Especially since everywhere east of Jerusalem is completely arid, but Jerusalem itself is relatively green.

Headed up to the Mount of Olives first up for a nice view of the old city.

Temple mount from the Mount of Olives
Temple mount from the Mount of Olives

The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock

Eastern (Golden) Gate
Eastern (Golden) Gate

Then started walking down the hill.

Cemetery opposite the city
Cemetery opposite the city

Cemetery opposite the city
Cemetery opposite the city

First stopping in at Dominus Flevit, or the Jesus wept church.

Dominus Flevit
Dominus Flevit

Temple mount from Dominus Flevit
Temple mount from Dominus Flevit

Then at the bottom of the hill in the Garden of Gethsemane to the basilica there.

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane<br>Photo by Dad
Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane
Photo by Dad

Church of All Nations
Church of All Nations

Church of All Nations
Church of All Nations

Church of All Nations
Church of All Nations

East side of the Temple Mount
East side of the Temple Mount

Then we got taken in the coach up to the old temple walls.

Mount of Olives from the east side of the Temple Mount
Mount of Olives from the east side of the Temple Mount

Cemetery opposite the Temple Mount
Cemetery opposite the Temple Mount

South west corner of the Temple Mount showing the remnants of Robinson's Arch
South west corner of the Temple Mount showing the remnants of Robinson's Arch

Went in and through the security check (and apparently there was a bit of a scene because some of the girls went through the men's line).

And there was the Wailing Wall. Went and touched it. And probably got dirty looks from the Jews who apparently resent us gentiles being there.

The Wailing Wall<br>Photo by Dad
The Wailing Wall
Photo by Dad

Prayers in the Wailing Wall<br>Photo by Dad
Prayers in the Wailing Wall
Photo by Dad

Then we got to go underneath the walls through a bunch of tunnels which was way cool.

Western wall tunnels
Western wall tunnels

These massive Herodian ashlar stones support the western wall of the temple<br>Photo by Mum
These massive Herodian ashlar stones support the western wall of the temple
Photo by Mum

Western wall tunnels
Western wall tunnels

Struthion Pool
Struthion Pool

And then to the hotel. Have I ever mentioned how much I *hate* fancy hotels? Internet: $15/day. Laundry facilities: non-existent (except for a massive fee). Sink plug: none. Power points: none spare, had to disconnect lamps and kettles stuck behind a cabinet. Table to work on laptop: none really, but can use one on the side of the room with no electricity nearby. We have a wonderful view .. of the lobby. No elevator to our floor. I'm sleeping on a cot taking up most of the free space in the room. The waiting staff at dinner were pretty useless. I don't know about the food, I was too depressed to even feel like eating much. And I forgot to even document my food, that's how bad a day I was having.

Our hotel - the Mount Zion Hotel
Our hotel - the Mount Zion Hotel

Our hotel room - I got a cot bed
Our hotel room - I got a cot bed

So now I have the aircon trying to cool the room down so I can sleep tonight, and then the parents come in and complain its freezing.

Can I go home now?

Distance covered on the GPS: 128.1km
Steps walked: 17373
Photos on the Canon: 512
Photos on the Sony: 31
Videos: 17
NIS spent: 2

Woke up a couple of times in the night, but eventually slept through til 6:45am.. w00t!

Today we headed south. Drove first through Tiberias, which was easy because it was the Sabbath so nothing was open and no traffic around.

The first stop was Yardenit, an area on the Jordan river just south of the Sea of Galilee. This area has been completely commercialised and is used to perform baptisms. So we get there and are told we can spend half an hour looking around. And I'm like.. you rush us through cool stuff but give us half an hour at a tourist trap? The river was cool and all, but hardly "authentic" (they think Jesus was baptised a lot closer to Jericho, but that whole area is sealed off by the military; plus, the river is completely surrounded by eucalypts which makes it seem like just any other Australian river, not a biblical one). Fortunately Bruce hated the commercialisation of it and got us out of there a little early.

People being baptised in the Jordan River<br>Photo by Dad
People being baptised in the Jordan River
Photo by Dad

Jordan River.  Looks like somewhere in New South Wales.
Jordan River. Looks like somewhere in New South Wales.

Next stop was Bet She'an, a cool old Roman city. We had a few talks at the beginning then we had half an hour to roam ourselves. Could have used a bit (lot) longer but did get to go up the hill so got a bunch of cool photos of the city.

End of the hippodrome in Bet She'an<br>Photo by Dad
End of the hippodrome in Bet She'an
Photo by Dad

Bet She'an park sign.  Notice the bushes of rosemary - this stuff was everywhere!
Bet She'an park sign. Notice the bushes of rosemary - this stuff was everywhere!

Bet She'an<br>Photo by Dad
Bet She'an
Photo by Dad

Bet She'an
Bet She'an

Roman bath house in Bet She'an
Roman bath house in Bet She'an

Toilet block in Bet She'an
Toilet block in Bet She'an

Tree stump on a hill next to the town.  This was put there for the movie Jesus Christ Superstar filmed there in 1973
Tree stump on a hill next to the town. This was put there for the movie Jesus Christ Superstar filmed there in 1973

Main street of Bet She'an
Main street of Bet She'an

Mosaic in Bet She'an
Mosaic in Bet She'an

Collanade in Bet She'an<br>Photo by Dad
Collanade in Bet She'an
Photo by Dad

At the top of Tel Bet She'an
At the top of Tel Bet She'an

Bet She'an from above
Bet She'an from above

Theatre and main street
Theatre and main street

Byzantine Sigma
Byzantine Sigma

Bet She'an<br>Photo by Dad
Bet She'an
Photo by Dad

Bet She'an<br>Photo by Dad
Bet She'an
Photo by Dad

Theatre
Theatre

Theatre
Theatre

Drove through a checkpoint and into the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. Was a little nervous about this actually.

By this point the landscape was a lot more arid, and a lot more like I imagined Israel would be like. By the time we got to Jericho it was *very* arid.

Arid hills in the Jordan valley<br>Photo by Dad
Arid hills in the Jordan valley
Photo by Dad

Looking up the monastery in Jericho
Looking up the monastery in Jericho

Monastery in Jericho
Monastery in Jericho

At Jericho we had lunch at the "Temptation" restaurant (supposedly this is where Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the desert). Really it's just a big tourist trap, with shops attached to the restaurant and kickbacks for the tour operators. Still, the food was pretty good, even if the toilets were a nightmare.

Glassware for sale in Jericho
Glassware for sale in Jericho

Cable car over ancient Jericho<br>Photo by Dad
Cable car over ancient Jericho
Photo by Dad

Elisha Spring Fountain
Elisha Spring Fountain

Peacock jump
Peacock jump

After lunch we took the cable car up the side of the mountain. Had a whole ten minutes at the top which by the time we went for a walk up to see if we could see the monastery gave us really no time at all to enjoy the view, I just got all hot and sweaty (good for the step count though I suppose).

Township from the cable car
Township from the cable car

Going up the cable car
Going up the cable car

Mountainside
Mountainside

Looking back down towards Jericho<br>Photo by Dad
Looking back down towards Jericho
Photo by Dad

Monastery in Jericho
Monastery in Jericho

Came back down and had a wander around the ruins of the old city. The place was made of mudbricks so there's nothing much left, but there is a tower that they think is one of the oldest human constructions still surviving on the planet.

Ancient tower in Jericho - one of the oldest man-made structures in existence
Ancient tower in Jericho - one of the oldest man-made structures in existence

Ancient Jericho
Ancient Jericho

Ancient Jericho
Ancient Jericho

Continued driving south through lots of desert and past the odd random camel just standing around.

Random camel
Random camel

Then it was driving past the Dead Sea on the left and cliffs and canyons of very loose looking rocks on the right. I was vaguely worried we'd be crushed in a rock slide. The Dead Sea sure was pretty though.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

Canal entrance to the southern Dead Sea
Canal entrance to the southern Dead Sea

Dead Sea hotels
Dead Sea hotels

Got to our hotel on the Dead Sea (I was right - the "fancier" the hotel the less likely you are to get free internet - $15/day here. And "fancy" prices for drinks here too - about two and a half times the prices of the last hotel. I used the drink voucher we got, but didn't buy any more).

Our hotel room with nice big bed for me
Our hotel room with nice big bed for me

Of course the first thing we all had to do was go for a swim in the Dead Sea. Which was bizarre and cool and slimy and salty.

So yeah, you totally float much much higher than you do in regular water. It's really hard to describe what it was like. Crazy!

Floating in the Dead Sea<br>Photo by Dad
Floating in the Dead Sea
Photo by Dad

Floating in the Dead Sea<br>Photo by Dad
Floating in the Dead Sea
Photo by Dad

Floating in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea

After we'd had enough we headed back to the hotel pools for a more regular swim (although they had a pool with Dead Sea water in it, so had another float there too).

Then washed my hair, had a drink with some of the others, had dinner, downloaded photos and suddenly it's 10pm.. hrmmm..

Hotel pool by night
Hotel pool by night


Distance covered on the GPS: 226.4km (didn't get above sea level all day!)
Steps walked: 15371
Photos on the Canon: 731
Photos on the Sony: 86
Videos: 22
NIS spent: 10