From no frills hostel to 5 star resort and spa

If you’ve been following, you’ll know I’m in Jordan at the moment. My journey began yesterday in Amman (Jordan’s capital) and before it ends six days from now, I plan to travel to both Israel and Palestine (West Bank).

Coming in from Amman’s airport on the bus yesterday evening, I chatted up a friendly-looking Hashemite University student. We discussed briefly his studies in risk management and his brother who had spent time working in Abu Dhabi. I told him of my plans for a trip to Palestine (omitting any mention of Israel since I am unsure of general sentiment here towards that country). Indeed he told me that he was pleased that I referred to Bethlehem as “Palestine” and told me that he himself was Palestinian (with a Jordanian passport) having been born in Ramallah. He also told me that approximately 35% of Jordan’s population consists of Palestinians (migrants or refugees depending on how you look at it) and another 20% of Iraqis. Egyptians and Syrians are another large chunk too. I find myself wondering generally about the attitudes towards Israel in this country and I wonder if Israelis ever visit Jordan for tourism. Note to self to find out what bilateral trade amounts to Israel – Jordan.

Last night, my hotel (see Last-minute booking in Amman), the Sydney Hostel, was right in the heart of Amman in an unimpressive building with fluorescent lighting at street-level. Climbing a flight of stairs I entered a warm-looking hotel lobby with a friendly (and very gay looking) front desk attendant. A computer with Internet access stood at the ready and two other hotel staff sat in a common area watching television. One of them, the hotel manager, enthusiastically promoted their US$60 tour to the Dead Sea.

Before going to sleep, I did a bit of research on the web and quickly discovered that the Dead Sea beach the hotel was planning to take me to (Amman Tourist Beach) is actually quite dodgy (strewn garbage on the beach, dirty toilet facilities, poorly maintained and inadequate refreshment facilities). Basically – stay away!

A bit annoyed that the hotel would charge 60 bucks and pitch it as great I headed to my room thinking about alternative plans,

Two days in Petra? Tour around Amman? Head straight for Tel Aviv? Or splurge and stay at one of the famous Dead Sea Resorts and spas (i.e. Kempinski, Marriot or Movenpick)? I would sleep on it and decide in the morning.
Unfortunately their rooms left a lot to be desired – I was shown to a simple room with a minimum of furnishings. The bed linen was threadbare and on closer inspection, I found stray hairs on the sheets.

Totally disgusted and ridiculously tired (it was half past 1am at that point), I decided to sleep in the clothes I wore on the plane and use my backpack and a sweater as a pillow to avoid being dependent on the linen to keep me warm (no central heating either). At 4am, I awoke to the sound of traffic whizzing by outside my window and being totally frozen from the Amman early morning cold; I woke up the night manager who gave me a heater which was barely capable of heating up a radius of one square metre around itself.

At 10am, having slept fitfully and still very tired and already needing a break after one night of backpacking in Jordan, I decided to book myself into the 200$ a night five-star Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa complete with pick up in Amman by a hotel car. :)

Generally speaking, my assumption is that, when traveling off the beaten path, cheaper is better IF you want to get to know the locals and get a real sense of a country and its culture. Reason being that you’re forced to do more on your own rather than have a hotel concierge arrange it for you. Breakfast at the shawarma place on the corner, shopping for souvenirs at markets rather than in a hotel gift shop, watching the locals shop for groceries or chat on street corners, etc etc you get the point. :)
But I have foregone that for a day or so. I’ll tell you about my day of so-called “luxury” in my next post. :)

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