Thursday, July 19, 2012

There's A Bear on the Plane

July 18, 2012
Bangkok - Amman
Marriott Amman

...and he's sitting right next to me in seat 1 J. He didn't start out as a bear, but rather a jolly ole Jordanian Santa Clause. A frequent traveller on Royal Jordanian Airlines my seat mate was very friendly to everyone and instantly struck up a conversation with me.

Normally, I don't really say anything to my seat mate. I'm in my own zone and I want to eat, sleep, and watch my movies... no time for small talk. My new friend had no boundaries and he was a close talker, constantly leaning over the armrest to get his point across. Don't get me wrong he was a very friendly guy, but with the flight's scheduled departure of 12:30am pushed back to 1:30am, I wasn't in much of a mood to socialize.

So once we were airborn I put on my headphones and watched some movie that was basically a diversion. I was too tired to even enjoy the meal service and before I knew it I was sound asleep.

Royal Jordanian has a nice business class product. The seats are fully flat and there should be enough space in between the seats to ensure uninterrupted slumber. Well... about half way through the 4 hour flight I hear a BEAR on the plane, yes my seat mate was snoring like he was in hibernation. I think fat people snore more... not sure if there is any scientific reasoning behind this, but it just seems to make sense and my Santa seat mate was letting everyone in the cabin know that he was enjoying his sleep at 35,000 feet.

The snoring didn't bother me much as my headphones were in and I was beyond tired... however about 5:00am, I felt an arm on my hip as I was sleeping on my side. Luckily I know how to say "that's not a pillow in Arabic" and I rustled, flipped, turned, and repositioned myself because I think Santa's hand had touched me!

That was the last incident of the flight and needless to say, the 8 hour flight was not full of uninterrupted sleep.

We arrived in Amman at 6:40am and then the fun really began. I've been to a lot of airports in my day and this could possibly be the worst (other than a few in the Caribbean that are tiny and thus you can't expect too many things out of them). Amman is a city of nearly 6 million people and one should expect a more efficient airport... well they are scheduled to open up new terminals at the end of 2012, but this wasn't a bricks and mortar problem... it was a people and organizational problem.

To enter Jordan most nationalities must purchase a $28 Visa upon arrival. This should not take an hour to do... granted there were about 20 people in line, but I've never seen people move so slow. After obtaining the Visa you continue to the next counter for immigration, which took about 3 minutes. So it took me 75 minutes to get through this disastrous airport... you never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression. I was definitely considering just saying "screw Amman", and just continuing on my journey to Amsterdam then and there.

But I figured my rooms were already taken care of and sometimes it takes a trip to the 3rd world to appreciate everything that we have.

Travel complications continued as public transportation is non existent in Amman with the exception of the Airport Express bus that is supposed to come on the hour every hour and promises a 40 minute journey from the airport to downtown for about $3. Well, after waiting for 30 minutes, the bus never came so I took a taxi which cost me 10 times that much... so much for not taking taxis.

Luckily with my Executive Platinum status I was able to check into my hotel at 8:00am. After passing through the metal detector to enter the lobby, standard fare in Amman since a few hotels got bombed a few years back, I was welcomed with open arms. Jordanians are known for their hospitality and the Marriott did a great job. They invited me up to the 12th floor lounge for a complimentary breakfast which was a good way to start the day... then I made my way down to room 526 to find my room upgraded to a huge suite... gotta keep on loving being platinum!

Today was a day where I just wanted to relax. I was still tired from the flight and the five hour time difference was playing tricks on me. So I took a quick nap, went to the pool, relaxed in my suite and ate dinner up in the lounge... then before I knew it the time was 9pm and I was ready for bed. A quiet start to my days in Amman... while just 100 miles to the north all hell was breaking loose in Damascus, Syria.

As I tossed and turned in bed for a bit I knew how lucky I was because somewhere in Amman, the Bear was snoring once again.

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