Sunday, November 15, 2015

Catholic School & Israel 1

February 2017: It is taking me forever to update my Holy Land series. I have no excuse. 
Our second country in this Holy Land trip is Israel. After we crossed from Jordan, we had a new bus, and a new guide in this leg. His name is Zohar. He used to be part of a paramilitary group, and he has been to the Philippines to a couple of times. He had a handful of Filipino phrases that he used just when needed. He says "walang bibili" whenever we have a limited time in a stop. Mabenta tuloy sya samin.

We had a quick stop at the Mount of Temptation before Zohar herded us to a touristy center. We met the feta cheese and falafels again. Can't really complain though.  

In the bible, there's a story about Zacchaeus, the tax collector. He climbed up a sycamore tree to see Jesus (he was a short man). Now this was not the real sycamore tree (or I think this isn't even a sycamore tree) but just a "symbol" for that tree in the story. 


From this point, it was almost a one-hour drive going to Nazareth. The weather turned on us...for a time. We entertained by introducing ourselves to the group. There were 20+ of us and since we would be travelling for the rest of the trip, it would be good to know each of their names. (I was the youngest, hihi).

No rains when we arrived in Nazareth. Our first stop: a souvenir shop. We stayed here for AN HOUR. I bought nothing. I stopped my parents from buying a lot - one of my roles as a parent manager for this trip.

We had a manageable uphill walk to the Church of the Annunciation

At the gate

Find this painting from the Philippines
I've seen a handful of pretty churches: the Duomo of Sienna, Sagrada Familia, and the Duomo of Florence (just from the outside).  The Church of Annunciation falls in that same awesomeness level. I cannot explain the inspiration for the artwork nor the architecture. I lack the keywords for art appreciation. All I can say it that it was really very beautiful.

Hotel Review: Geneva Hotel, Jordan

One really really REALLY nice thing in taking this tour is that we got to stay in nice hotels. Staying in a 3-4 star hotel while travelling is nice. I have tita moments too you know. Comfort does make a difference. I can revisit all the places I’ve been to during my golden years, with the difference of staying in four-star hotels instead of four-bed dorms.

Geneva Hotel Jordan rates, October 2015
View from hotel room

We didn’t have a hand in choosing the hotels, the tour group selected them. That’s one thing left off our plate. We stayed in Geneva Hotel in Amman, Jordan. The hotel is located in a street where there are a lot of hotels too. I really didn’t know if there was a “city center” in Amman because we didn’t really have a lot of free time during the trip. Well, even if we did, I’ll probably just doze off in my bed if I were not doing my laundry in the hotel sink.

Double bed room, for parents

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Treasure Hunting in Petra

If there was one site I was most excited about for this trip, it was Petra.

Petra, also known as the Rose City, is the 2,000 year old Nabatean (Arabs in that region) capital accidentally rediscovered in 1812.

The travel agency suggested that we bring a face mask for Petra because the walk could be dusty. I brought them, but didn’t use them.

It was almost a three-hour drive from Amman to Petra. Our day began with a mass in a nearby church in Amman. We went back to the hotel for breakfast before getting into the bus for our drive to Petra. We also stopped for lunch before proceeding to Petra. It was early afternoon when we got there.

Another benefit of going with a tour group is that they take care of queing up to buy the tickets. The list wasn’t long, but it still saved us the hassle.


The ticket price includes the horse ride going to the entrance of the Siq. The Siq is a half-mile long gorge going to the Treasury. You’ll can walk to the Siq, or rent a carriage going to the Treasury. I suggest just walk.

It was a fun walk. We took our time enjoying the place and taking photos.

The beauty of the place is found in the narrow gorgeous path took up a lot of my space in my memory card. For the handicapped or the elderly, the carriage may be an option (no idea how much though).

Make sure that you have your camera settings in place. I forgot to set-up mine in vivid colors so we had to redo some of the photos when I realized I had the setting wrong. No problem with me posing for the camera again.  

Those riding a carriage.

Do watch out for the horse poop. There's a lot of them.  

Jordan to Israel: Where Did Moses Go?

This trip is mainly my dad's idea. It is his dream to be in a Holy Land Tour. I am the daughter-turned-personal-assistant for this trip.

We joined a Catholic pilgrimage type of tour. Pilgrimage tours trace the steps in sacred sites. We did the Jordan-Israel and Dubai route. Dubai is not part of the Holy Land Tour. Another Holy Land loop is Jordan-Israel and Egypt.

I've had three years of Catholic schooling so I do have some knowledge about the Bible. Plus, I've read the children's bible when I was a kid. It pays to have some sort of idea of what happened in the bible before joining such trip.
Emirates stopover at DXB

We arrived in Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan at around 10AM. I was tired but I powered through. Sleeping in long flights in always a challenge for me. I guess that's also because I've always travelled in economy. Nyuhuhuhu. 

The group lined up near the immigration area where an officer collected all our passports. Generally, Filipinos need to secure a visa before travelling to Jordan. If you travel with an accredited travel/tour agency, there's no need to obtain a visa prior to travelling. [These were the rules during the time of our travel (October 2015) so check if this rule changed.] 

We went to the concourse to get our luggage. We waited for our passports to be handed back to us which took about 20-30 minutes. 

Suitcases with Mama. I wasn't backpacking this time so I packed freely (read: not lightly).

The tour started immediately as we got out of the airport and piled our stuff in the tour bus for the next 3 days. Wala nang ligo-ligo. We knew this. The trip preps tips from our travel agency indicated that the tour starts immediately when we land in Jordan. So I took time to brush my teeth when we stopped over in DXB.

Papa trying out the selfie shot

We had Jillian for our guide. She was really an amazing guide for the trip. She was Catholic and also studying to get ther PhD. That's quite a rare profile in Jordan. While on the bus, she taught us some useful Arabic phrases and facts & figures about Jordan. We headed to the mosaic city of Madaba.

Not the best weather. It was raining. But i had this frame all to myself

I confess, I don't recall the name of every church or every site that we visited. I can recall some of the stories and some of its history though. But I didn't know where I was at all times. All I knew is that if I was with the tour group, I was good. Anyway, I don't want to tell you every detail I learned because it would be better if you see so for yourself (naks, lusot daw oh).

A Greek Orthodox Church

Friday, November 13, 2015

Holy Land Tour with Dubai: Itinerary, Budget and Planning

I am the family researcher on travel related stuff.
My parent’s dream vacation is to do a Holy Land Tour. 
That means I am assigned to do the research on this.

During the first quarter of this year, I started researching about group tours that offer this. Now I am not fond of group tours. I am used to doing the planning all by myself. I like having control over my time. BUT, this is not my trip. This is for my parents. So, a pilgrimage tour it is.

Group Souvenir Photo

I restrain myself to taking crossing-timezone trips to once a year. After all, I am not fond of jet lag. AND, crossing time-zones means the airfare will be expensive.

I scouted for packages from travel agencies in Manila, and read Tripadvisor recommendations. My parents made the decision to go with Tourworld Corporation (

Here’s their package:

Package Tour (26-30 pax)
$  2,879.00
Ticket Taxes
$    185.00
Departure Tax at Jordan
$       30.00
Dubai Tourism Fee
$         6.00
Border Taxes
$       55.00
$     170.00
Subtotal, USD
$ 3,325.00
Subtotal, PHP
Travel Insurance
Total Tour Package, PHP
Note: A non-refundable deposit of $400 is required upon reservation. Read the terms and conditions of the agency beforehand.

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