Kuwait to Jordan, home of the dodgy taxi driver

Not a lot to do today. Bob was working but had arranged to take a half day so that he could show me a little more of the Gulf before dropping me at the airport. I woke a little later than I intended and had some brekkie before donning my trunks and plodding down to the pool.

There were two other women down there with Aurelie: one American and one from Goole, not a gazillion miles from Bradford. And her husband a devoted Toon-following Geordie. I checked – it wasn’t the same guy I met yesterday! The American lady had two cute little dachshunds that barked at anyone who moved past them. Cute as buttons and completely soft once you made it obvious that a 6-inch high dog didn’t intimidate you.

While a lot of you would have been settling into your chairs at work, I was splashing in the pool, playing with dogs and taking a sauna. What a shame…

All too soon, Bob came home and it was time to pack for the trip to the airport. We drove a long route around up and down the coastline looking at some pretty amazing buildings (and the full range of fast food restaurants).

My final treat was the obligatory KFC in the restaurant I’d spotted when I arrived. Bob and Aurelie probably think I’m mad for wanting KFC in every country I visit but it’s a habit I started and I intend to keep it up wherever I can! With seconds to spare I located a cheap bookshop selling even cheaper postcards and got them winging their way homeward. I apologise in advance for the poor quality and lack of text on them but I was short of time and they were the only ones I could get!

Check-in, passport control and security were a lot better than I had been led to expect. The only confusion came when it turned out two flights were leaving at the same time from the same gate, which caused me minor panic when I thought I was at the wrong place with seconds left.

Royal Jordanian were to be today’s carrier and I was impressed. Possibly the best-looking stewardesses to date, really good food and four seats to myself. I almost wish the flight could have been longer.

Jordan was altogether a different experience to entering Kuwait. The visa was just as quick to sort, though involved a barrage of questions (“where have you come from, what is your address in Jordan, how long are you staying, why are you here…”) but passport control themselves were a nightmare. It took almost an hour to get through the queue and that was with every single desk manned. I had the same barrage of questions and also had to put my thumb onto a sensor thingy so it was registered.

Still, I got in. Only to find that I’d just missed the express bus into town and had an hour to wait for the next one. The guy at the counter became my friend for the duration which was pleasant, and he showed me onto the bus when it finally arrived.

Then things got a bit bizarre. The guy sat behind me kept asking my name and trying to get me to talk into his phone. When the bus finally arrived at Al Abdali station, he said I had to go back to the airport as my friend was waiting for me or something. The fact that I didn’t know anyone at the airport seemed lost on him. I just walked off into a crowd of argumentative taxi drivers each insisting that my hotel was a gazillion miles away and that I needed to hire them.

In fairness, it was a fair walk so I picked one who undercut his buddy by half a dinar (the fare on a meter would probably be half that again, but we’re talking 10p here). What I didn’t appreciate was the drive taking ten minutes when it should have taken two as he attempted to convince me that my hotel was full. The conversation went a little like this:

“I have number of your hotel. Let me call. *beep beep beep* Hello, is that HOTEL SULTAN? Are you fully booked? Yes? Hold on.”

I was given the phone.

“Hello, Hotel Sultan reception.”

“Yes, whatever. I have a booking with you for tonight.”

“I am sorry, but we’re full.”

“That will be because I’m taking up one of your rooms.”

“What name is the booking in?”

“John Smith.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have that name.”

“I know, I just made it up. Just the way you’re making up being a hotel receptionist. I’ll pass you back to your friend. Please tell him to take me to the hotel I’ve already paid for and not to try and rip me off or I won’t pay him. Thank you.”

I think he got the hint. A couple of half-hearted attempts to get me to go to the Palace Hotel (which I’ve heard isn’t too bad, actually) fell on deaf ears and he reluctantly dropped me at the Hotel Sultan.

On entering, I knew for a fact I’d been talking to a ringer on the phone as the guy on reception barely spoke English. They had to get a guest from Georgia out to speak to me so that I could confirm I’d already booked. Even then, the dropped me in a double room when I’d booked into a 4-bed dorm. This didn’t seem to make sense to the otherwise nice guy at the desk so I settled in and went for a quick walk.

I located a cybercafe, printed out my original booking and the hotel listing from HostelWorld and walked back. They still didn’t help, but the chap rang his boss who did speak very good English. He told me to accept the double room at the rate I’d originally agreed on and they’d move me the next day. That’s fine by me. I couldn’t be bothered arguing about the lack of wireless access which featured prominently as one of their selling points. Maybe tomorrow if I saw the manager.

So, to bed. My third night in a row in a comfy double. Not too shabby.

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