Postcards from Netherlands!

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Welcome to the Kingdom of Netherlands!

Bike & Boat: Two wheeling is a way of life here. It’s how Amsterdammers commute to work, go to the shop and meet a date for dinner. With all the bike rental shops around, it’s easy to gear up and take a spin. If locals aren’t on a bike, they may well be in a boat. With its canals and massive harbour, this city reclaimed from the sea offers countless opportunities to drift. Hop in a canal boat (preferably an open-air one) or one of the free ferries behind Centraal Station for a wind-in-your-hair ride.

Wander into the Past: Amsterdam is ripe for rambling, its compact core laced by atmospheric lanes and quarters. You never know what you’ll find: a hidden garden, a shop selling velvet ribbon, a jenever (Dutch gin) distillery, an old monastery-turned-classical-music-venue. Wherever you end up, it’s probably by a canal. And a café.

Admire Art: You can’t walk a kilometre without bumping into a masterpiece in the city. The Van Gogh Museum hangs the world’s largest collection by tortured native son Vincent. A few blocks away, Vermeers, Rembrandts and other Golden Age treasures fill the gloriously restored Rijksmuseum.

Petra: a rose red city half as old as time!

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For many people Jordan begins and ends with the magical ancient Nabataean city of Petra. And it’s true, Petra is without doubt one of the Middle East’s most spectacular, not to be missed sights, battling it out with Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat for the title of the world’s most dramatic ‘lost city’.

Yet there’s so much more to see in Jordan – ruined Roman cities, Crusader castles, desert citadels and powerful biblical sites: the brook where Jesus was baptised, the fortress where Herod beheaded John the Baptist, and the mountain top where Moses cast eyes on the Promised Land. Biblical scenes are not just consigned to the past in Jordan; you’ll see plenty of men wearing full-flowing robes and leading herds of livestock across the timeless desert. But it’s not all crusty ruins. Jordan’s capital Amman is a modern, culturally diverse Arab city which is light years away from the typical cliches of Middle Eastern exoticism. The country also offers some of the wildest adventures in the region, as well as an incredibly varied backdrop ranging from the red desert sands of Wadi Rum to the brilliant blues of the coral-filled Gulf of Aqaba; from rich palm-filled wadis to the lifeless Dead Sea. Ultimately it’s the sensual delights of daily life in the Middle East that you’ll hanker for longest after you return home; the bittersweet taste of cardamom coffee or the smell of a richly scented nargileh (water pipe); the intoxicating swirl of Arabic pop sliding out of an Amman doorway and the deafening silence of the desert.

Jordanians are a passionate and proud people and the country truly welcomes visitors with open arms. Despite being squeezed between the hotspots of Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel & the Palestinian Territories, Jordan is probably the safest and most stable country in the region. Regardless of your nationality, you’ll be greeted with nothing but courtesy and hospitality in this gem of a country.

Apart from the overwhelming sights of Petra, natural wonders of Dead Sea & Wadi Rum, the scent of Myrrh and tinkering sounds of donkey bells would linger in our memory for a long time!

My Itinerary: Day1: BOM-DXB-AMM, AMM to Petra by Road (4 hours with a break), check into Crowne Plaza Guest House Petra. 1430 hrs: Trek/Scramble to Treasury “top” view 1800 hrs return to hotel. Entry fee for 2 days: 55JD, Guide charges: 50JD. Dinner at Red Cave restaurant: 11 JD Day2: 0700 hrs: Petra day tour, covering the entire Petra lost city. Final trek to the Monastery, return to hotel by 1800 hrs. 2020hrs: Petra by night JD12, return to hotel by 2300 hrs. Day3: 0800hrs: check out and proceed to Wadi Rum, 4WD safari of Wadi Rum from 0930-1200hrs, reach dead sea by 1500hrs, check into The Marriott Spa. 1700-2100 hrs: dead sea mud pack & bath, spa packages. Day4: Conference at the King Hussain Bin Talal convention centre, magical sunset at the dead sea 1815 hrs. Day5: Drive to Amman (JD45), with a break. AMM-DXB-BOM-IXE. Though visa on arrival is available for Indians staying in Jordan for less than 7 days, it is advisable to get it before hand (INR 4100). Passport control at Queen Alia Airport at Amman is quite swift, was also assisted by Petra Night Tours representative Md Khaled.

Travel Planning by: Alefiyah Motiwala/Zest Tours, Mumbai; Jordan logistics: Petra Night Tours/ Camera: Sony Nex5, 18-200 lens, Sony TX1, Photos edited with iPhoto/ Guides: Petra:Mohamed, Niad; Wadi Rum: Mohd Khaled; Chauffeur & Guide for the whole journey: Raed. Stay: Petra: Petra Guest House Crowne Plaza; Dead Sea: Marriott Spa Dead Sea

Essential Accessories:Walking Shoes by Skechers, Sun Glass by Salvador, SPF 50 sunscreen by Neutrogena, Loreal after sun icy protection, Backpack by Eastpak, Water container by Thermos & not to forget the classic The Indy Fur Fedora (Indiana Jones Hat) from the Indiana Jones Souvenir Shop at Petra. Travel stationery by Moleskine & Fischer space pen.

2012 September