Friday, December 22, 2006

Egypt and Jordan - Here we come!!

It's been more than a month since I posted anything to my travelog and SOOO much has happened since then. As best as Lei and I have tried to be organized and plan this trip, the events that have transpired over the last month have been an odd mix of bad luck (GAP trip cancelled, Lei having to wait 6-8 weeks for Jordanian visa approval) and good luck (Intrepid tour available, Egyptian visa in one day....for each of us). Organization and planning be damned!

Here's all that's happened, in a nutshell.

Before Thanksgiving, Lei and I went online and booked our tour with GAP. We managed to get the 20% discount and our travel insurance. Over Thanksgiving,

....we waited.....and waited.....and waited for confirmation.....only to be told that the tour was cancelled because there were not enough travellers signed up. The next confirmed tour would be sometime in February - okay for me but not for Lei. My heart sank for a moment and Lei's for much longer (as she records in her blog). So, now what, we thought? Neither of us was willing to bail out on going so as resourceful as ever,

....Lei chatted with our GAP travel coordinator and found out that the original GAP tour was actually subcontracted to a company called Intrepid Travel (based out of Australia) and that Intrepid had spots available on their Egypt/Jordan tour but instead of departure on Jan 28th, we would be leaving 2 days later and staying 1 day longer......and we can even make the travel arrangements through GAP. It took about a heartbeat of time to decide we were going on the tour!! Bad news was that we would lose our 20% discount, have to pay about $100 more for the tour and insurance was a bit costlier but our hearts were so set on going that the additional cost was not going to stop us.

.....and then we waited....and waited.....and waited for confirmation.....and this time we got it!!

Yay!!! Tour booked!

Now, it's onto buying our plane tickets. Before Thanksgiving, Lei had been keeping eye on AirFrance flights and we had in fact, settled on a particular set of overnight flights from Dulles to Cairo (through Paris) and then the return route from Amman to Paris to Dulles. Well, the AirFrance flight schedules got all changed after Thanksgiving so we were a bit disappointed that we could not get the flight we wanted......but,

It pays to be patient. By now, it's early December and Lei's getting nervous that the flights will get booked up so as soon as we got confirmation from Intrepid, we immediately checked out the new AirFrance flight schedule and found a flight that we liked. Individually, we went online and bought our tickets and then one night, over cellphones, we made our seating arrangements so we could sit together. Turns out we both like aisle seats so we're sitting in the same row but on opposite sides of the aisle from each other.

Woohoo!! Plane tickets bought!!

Now it was finally time to get the travel visas for Egypt and Jordan. Since I'm a US citizen, I did not anticipate any problems but we feared that Lei, being a Chinese national, was going to have difficulties....and it turned out to be the case. Before Thanksgiving, I had downloaded the visa application forms from the web. We each filled out our forms and planned to go to the consulates together.

Surfing on the Jordanian consulate website Lei learned that it would take between 6-10weeks to simply get clearance from the Jordanian to apply for a visa. Lei was felled with disbelief - recounted here in her own words.

At this point, we're just under 8 weeks from departure so this was cutting it REALLLY close. Lei decided to go ahead and submit her visa application and worse case scenario, go to Egypt but forgo Jordan. My heart sinks when I hear of her decision though I try to remain positive to keep her spirits up. I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that her paperwork comes through in time - it will be SOOO disappointing for both of us if she doesn't get to go to Jordan after all this effort.

Lei drops off her paperwork at the Jordanian consulate and her passport at the Egyptian embassy. The following day, I accompany her to the Egyptian consulate where she picks up her visa and I drop off my passport and visa application.

Two days later, I'm back at the Egyptian consulate to pick up my visa.



From the Egyptian consulate, it was about a 5 minute walk to the Jordanian consulate so I went there and dropped off my passport and visa application. I was told to come back the next day and so I did but my visa was not ready so I left empty handed.

The next day, I went back to the Jordanian consulate and waited in line.....for what seemed like an eternity and when I got to the head of the line, the same clerk who took my passport from me two days ago handed it back to me with a smile on his face.....but it couldn't outshine the beam I had on my face. I had my Jordanian visa!!



Yahoo!!

Good news is that Lei and I have our tour tickets, plane tickets and travel visas to Egypt. I have my visa for Jordan and we're waiting as patiently as we can for Lei to receive her clearance - it should then only take a day to get her visa.....we hope!

I'm already pretty much packed. Only thing left to do is get some local currency and wait until Jan 30th.

I have already begun to count down the days before I will get to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Mount Sinai, the Red Sea, the Madaba Mosaics......and Petra!!!