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camel sitting cover

Lively Amman and the Dead Sea

By on July 29, 2014

I boarded the plane in the wet wetness of Sri Lanka, and got off in the dry desert of Amman, Jordan. I navigated the visa/entry fee lines in the airport and toyed with the idea of buying a SIM card with some data for my phone on my way through the airport.  Only planning to be in Jordan for a week, I opted to go without. When I got outside the airport, I was in somewhat of a culture shock. You mean… I just get a ticket for the shuttle for a fixed price, give them my bags, and hop on? Seems too easy. On the shuttle to the cab area, I met a solo travelling Chinese girl, and we shared a cab to the city center. The cab ride was very pleasant, a huge change from Sri Lankan tuk-tuks and buses, and the cab driver even stayed within the lines in the highway (crazy stuff)!

The Chinese girl didn’t have anything booked for the night, so I told her that the hostel I booked was recommended to me by a guy who lives in Jordan. So it was me and her (I forget her name) in the cab supposedly getting dropped off at Sydney Hostel in central Amman.  The cab driver was clueless and after he dropped us off, it took us an hour of using the map, asking locals on the street, and trekking with our packs up and down the steep streets to FINALLY find Sydney Hostel (hostel is awesome though, definitely recommend).

Anyways, so Jordan right. Aren’t you scared to go to the Middle East? Isn’t the world so scary and cruel? THINK AGAIN. There are definitely pockets of turmoil in the Middle East, but it’s not all AK-47s and Muslim extremists. Thinking Jordan is unsafe is the equivalent of thinking that the localized violence and police action of Ferguson means that the whole city of St. Louis is a warzone. Untrue. Jordan is one of the safest and most stable countries in the region, and just like most places, the locals are so extremely nice and helpful that you can’t help but fall in love with the country.

OH, I should also mention that my week in Jordan coincided with Ramadan. For those that don’t know, Ramadan is a month-long holiday celebrated by Muslims with fasting, feasting, religious prayer, and many family gatherings. The fasting takes place whenever the sun is up… so no eating or drinking until sundown for followers of Islam. They take this very seriously too, and while I am not Muslim, it is still seen as very rude for non-followers to be eating or drinking in public during Ramadan. This means that it is almost impossible to buy any real food during the day. So you either go hungry (most of the time), or you plan ahead and buy stuff the previous night.

At Sydney Hostel, there were tons of cool people, and as far as hostels go, I have never heard more intelligent, honest, respectful debates on current events and world politics.  I met this guy Kyle from Pittsburgh who was also traveling long-term and solo at the moment. Turns out we had real similar travels around Southeast Asia and were on the same flight out of Jordan in a weeks’ time. With that coincidence, we also wanted to do the same stuff while in Jordan, so we ended up traveling together.

amman citadel steveFirst stop was the ancient Citadel of Amman.  Perched atop a hill in central Amman, these Roman ruins of the Temple of Hercules are from 162 AD.  With evidence of civilization since 1600 BC, Amman is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on earth.  It felt a little like Athens, Greece, but older. We walked around the ruins for awhile, then took a stroll around some of the main streets of Amman. As we were walking, we started to see bakeries open and sell some food. At around 5pm! Good news, I was starving. We bought loads of pita bread, a medley of different dips (hummus, baba ganoush, cucumber, some other stuff), found a hidden spot by the Roman amphitheater and CHOWED DOWN.

CHOWED DOWN

We hid and ate like little kids who found a candy stash.

A good first day in Jordan.

The next day I ate as much breakfast as I could fit in my stomach, and our plan for the day was to head to the Dead Sea.  We met up with another traveler that Kyle met on his way into Amman, Gary (Chinese), and the three of us set out. Now there are two ways to do the Dead Sea. One is to take a tour that goes to one of the resorts on the Dead Sea and use their beach, showers, and facilities. The second way is to wing it. Since the tour costs money, we took the road less traveled and tried to figure out how to do the Dead Sea on the cheap.

We had heard that there was a “free beach” where you could just drive up and walk in. Sounds pretty easy except we don’t have a ride, towels, or a shower afterward. And a shower is KEY (explained later). So we head to the streets of Amman to try to explain to a taxi driver what we want to do. On the fourth try, success. I forget what the fare was but we split it and before you know it, we are getting close to the Dead Sea.  BUT not before our cab driver got a speeding ticket and we stopped at the Sea Level sign.

OOPS

OOPS

sea level sign

So we pull up to the free beach and you can kinda tell it used to be something. Like people used to come here to enjoy the sea, but now it’s just full of trash and sand and salt. We park, walk down to the water, and change into our swim stuff. I was the first one in, and boy was it WEIRD. They say you float, but I didn’t expect to not be able to sink. I floated so well that it was hard to turn over without losing balance. Yea… that’s right… you have to pseudo balance in the water.

salty trash free beach

Salt chunks washed up on shore… along with a lot of trash.

steve dead sea float

kyle steve gary dead sea

Humans are so buoyant in this salty water that you can easily lay back and read a book in the sea.

book reading float steve

While we were swimming, this man on a camel came up and told us we had to pay him. We called bullshit and ignored him. I don’t know what our taxi driver said to him but I like to think he told him to fuck off in Arabic. He had our back. His camel was pretty cool though. It was the first real one I had seen in my life.

camel free beach steve

This must be the skinniest I’ve been in years.

After we had our fill in the Dead Sea, we set to clean up. With the amount of salt that’s in that sea, the water is REALLY SLIMY. You have to wash off. At one point in the dry sun, my wet arm dried and I had flakes of salt on my arm hair. We knew that the free beach wouldn’t have anything so we picked up big bottles of fresh water on the way to the sea. Definitely a waste of good bottled water, but we took turns dumping the bottles on either other and washing each other off.

Can you do the Dead Sea on the cheap? YES.   ….. But I might pay for the shower next time.

We headed back to Amman without any more speeding tickets, and the three of us headed to Hashem Restaurant that night for food. Being Ramadan, we hadn’t eaten all day and were starving. Good thing Hashem is awesome. Even the KING OF JORDAN goes there. All you can eat falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, pita, and tea for a good price. I highly recommend if you are ever in Amman.

hashem restaurant

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monks on tracks

Hike Surf Eat Sleep

By on July 22, 2014

After a night’s sleep in Kandy, I boarded the early morning and highly hyped train south into the Sri Lanka hill country. News was that the train was the best way to get around in the mountains, mainly because it

sigiriya walking in

On To Sri Lanka – The Tear Drop Of India

By on July 3, 2014

I landed at midday, after a little 3 hour flight. It was an unbelievably quick and cheap trip from Bangkok to Sri Lanka, which was partly the reason for choosing to go to Sri Lanka. The other reasons were that

maria steve afro boat

The Tao of Laos

By on June 23, 2014

On the craziest night bus of all time, we met two French Canadians guys on our way to the Laos (pronounced La-oh) border. We arrived early at the border and almost didn’t have enough money for the visa fees! Actually,

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Happy Water for Happy People

By on June 12, 2014

We flew into Hanoi and took a taxi to the hotel where we met our friends from the states! We had planned to meet up with some fellow ultimate frisbee players who had just winning Women’s College Nationals! It was

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Southern Vietnam: A Scurry up the Coast

By on June 5, 2014

Nursing hangovers, we hopped on the bus to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The southern Vietnamese also tend to call it Saigon and most people might know it better by that name. We have seen our fair share of large

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Roofies in the Penh

By on May 26, 2014

Back when we played pick-up ultimate in Chiang Mai, we met Rachel who put us in contact with her friend Greg in Phnom Penh. He was one of the people organizing the Mekong Cup (ultimate frisbee tournament) in Phnom Penh,

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The Temples of Angkor

By on May 23, 2014

We headed for the Thai Cambodia border and met some great and helpful people on the bus. We were a little nervous for this infamous border crossing, because of all the scammers at the border. So here’s the scam: you

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How’s It Going?

By on May 20, 2014

Today marks 100 days on the road. There have been highs, lows, and middles, but looking back, even the lows are highs. I have no complaints about life. During these past 100 days, I would say we have lived more

pano government palace

Bangkok Not-So-Dangerous

By on May 18, 2014

Our first night train experience this trip turned out to be a comfy one. The Thai trains are in great shape complete with full length sleeper berths and a nice dining car. We ate some dinner and it had a

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The Chiang Mai Experience

By on May 16, 2014

It was a record… we were in our room laying on the bed less than an hour after wheels down. We flew from Phuket in the south of Thailand to Chiang Mai in the north. Usually it takes some time

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Phi Phi and Back to Lanta

By on May 6, 2014

When we got to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi, a new face was introduced to the mix. Zak was one of our roommates from St. Louis, and was just coming off a month med school rotation in Chengdu,

maria in the sand

From the Beach to the Beach

By on May 3, 2014

We boarded the ferry at Koh Lipe and readied ourselves for the 5 hour journey north through islands in the Andaman Sea on the west coast of southern Thailand. For Maria, that meant finding a good three seats together to

welcome to koh lipe steve

The Koh Lipe Zoo

By on May 1, 2014

After another overland border crossing, our shared minivan drops us near the Pak Bara pier and we are in Thailand, land of a million Thais. Once there, we booked a ticket on the ferry and found an agency who could

ipoh sign

Last Stops in Malaysia

By on April 27, 2014

Ipoh (ee-poh) is only 2 hours north of Kuala Lumpur by bus, so the easiest thing to do is to just head to a main bus station in KL and bargain for a bus ticket. We had to make sure

on steps to batu cave

We Shipped Our Pants

By on April 20, 2014

Early in the morning we made our way to one of the bus stations in Singapore, we had booked a bus to Melaka in Malaysia! It was going to be our first overland border crossing… first of many I hope.

lion and city

Singapore Me A Beer, Wait I Don’t Have Enough Money

By on April 15, 2014

We arrived in Singapore and the tone was immediately set by the vibes in the airport. It has an amazingly nice, clean, and efficient airport, which we later found out is one of the nicest in the world. We jumped

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Gettin By in Padang Bai

By on April 7, 2014

We left Ubud and got a shared taxi to Padang Bai which would end up to be our home base for the rest of our time in Bali. Padang Bai is just a small coastal town, and most travelers who

mount batur at sunrise

The Mood in Ubud

By on March 29, 2014

Ubud (Oo-bood) is the cultural capital of the island and the center of arts and crafts. It’s also the town they talk about in Eat Pray Love. We were staying at the Jati Home Stay (a homestay is kinda like

kuta beach low tide

Bali: First Stop Kuta Beach

By on March 28, 2014

Welcome to Indonesia! Now that we are traveling in SE Asia, and are going at a slower pace, I am thinking that these blog posts will be a little different. Probably shorter and a little more frequent. We’ll see how

walking through hooker valley

Living in a Van Down by the River

By on March 21, 2014

After working everyday and generally kickin’ it back during our afternoons in Punakaiki, we decided to rent a campervan to drive around New Zealand with the time we had left. The only problem was… we figured in our heads that

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WWOOFing… woof

By on March 6, 2014

I found someone who wants to adopt me. His name is Hamish, and he is a kind happy soul. We told him it was a package deal though, so really he is going to adopt Maria and I. We will

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We’ll Do It Live

By on February 25, 2014

We landed at Christchurch airport in the South Island of New Zealand at 1pm. All we had booked was a hostel in Lake Wanaka and the plan was to rent a car to take us there. We soon found out

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Professional Hammocking in Fiji

By on February 17, 2014

BULA! Last I left off, Maria and I were buying new backpacks at the last minute and jumping on a flight to Nadi, Fiji (pronounced Nandi). We actually went to Dick’s again on the way to the airport where Maria

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Fiji or Bust

By on February 8, 2014

13000 feet up, checkin’ out the other people around me. My heart is racing and I never would have thought I would be this excited to jump out of a plane. At 14000 feet I know I’m the first to

Maria and Schwab in Paris circa 2011!

Long Story Short…

By on January 29, 2014

Welcome to the blog! This is going to be fun. But first an introduction is in order… Some of you know me as Steve, some of you know me as Schwab, some as both of those names put together (crazy!).