Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And it all turns upside down...

So this was written up in Aswan on less than 2 hours of sleep in the past 30 hours. It may be boring but I welcome your
critiques on how I can spice it up and make it more entertaining as my mind is not fully functional when I have a
scalding hot laptop on my lap giving me lacerations(spelling?). Future wife, we may not be able to have babies if I keep this up, but the time together will be fun, GURANTEED! On to my little bs blurb. Oh wait, one more thing, at the end of it I am going to write down the prices and money I spent individually so you, future egypt travelers, can get an idea of how much things will cost per person.

So the flight was a loooooooong one it felt like I was going to India. But I was excited, we had a strict itinerary that we made so we feel a bit structured and know what the hell
we are going to end up doing day by day. If yall don't know Egypt is 7 hours ahead of Eastern standard time
We flew Delta airlines, the flights scheduled departure time was 10PM but we didn't pullout (thats what she said)
till 1030-1040PM. The flight was for the most part uneventful. As we were arriving into Cairo we got to see our first glimpse of the giza
pyramids and I am loving every minute of the anticipation buildup since that will wait till the weekend.
We didn't have our own personal AVOD systems so it was boring.
As a vegeterian I should've ordered the vegeterian meal but I learned after flying to Dublin on delta - the veg food sucks.
We took a stab at just getting the available meals and it was pasta for dinner and pizza for lunch - it wasn't bad but it
wasn't that good either - I lived thru the airline food. We arrived at 4pm on the flight all groggy and stuff.
I was suppose to take Ambien but for some reason I hate taking pills even if I will end up buying them, sometimes I myself
wonder why I spend money on medicine I will never take(anyone want to buy Ambien?).
When we landed we went to customs and the line was ridicuously long. I already got my visa in NY for $15 but you can
as an american citizen get it for $15 us dollars in cairo airport at this placed called the banque something something.
While we were waiting on line this old lady slowly pushes us out of the way as we're up front and cuts 5 of us yelling YELLA YELLA! I don't know what that means but I hope she didn't curse us. Wait till Karma gets you back old lady for cutting!

OH SNAP, I just realized I am in EGYPT!!! Wohoo! I've made it! Also I am happy to say that this is the 4th continent I have touched this year. Australia and Asia here I COME! Back to your regular scheduled nilay blurb.

So we arrived in Cairo, got our bags, lets head into town and get reckless - WOHOO! No wait, crap, they don't use US dollars here they use this thing called the pound, egyptian pound, we need money so we took some us dollars with us and well soon as you
leave the airport from terminal 1 there is a bank of egypt exchange which gives you a pretty good rate of 5.53 with the
interbank rate being 5.54.
Now like most Americans we want to use our ATM cards and take money out as needed - fear not- there were HSBC and BNP Paribas
atms found at the terminals. BNP Paribas has an affilation with Bank of America so youll get the exact interbank rate without
a conversion fee or any other fees, I think. Oh and if you are a citibank user there were citibanks seen throughout Cairo.
Wait a second...Cairo? Yes, I said cairo even though we were suppose to take a train straight down to Luxor.
What a mess that was. We were awaiting on final member and that person wasn't to arrive until 10PM(or 2200hrs). We had to kill
6+ hrs at the airport and make our way from terminal 1 thru terminal 3. We were going to walk to terminal 3 until the police
gave us a reality check and told us it was 5 kilometers away and laughed at us thinking that we dare walk it.
Safe to say we didn't walk it cause it was 5 kilometers and with the bags we were carrying and the sweltering heat we dont think
we would've made it more than .25 kilometers without passing out. So we made our way around terminal 1 and ended up in the domestic
terminal where we mingled a bit with the egyptians who thought we were one of them. Awesome! except the fact that when they
start speaking arabic I just have this blank ignent(ignorant) look and just nod like a moron. Then they keep asking me, I wish there was an
international gesture for I really don't know what you are saying without speaking a word. Note to future Nilay: Learn arabic
or bits and pieces of it atleast. I know Salaam and shukria but I am slowly learning..very slowly.
So yea we're chilling at the airport we get some food and we hang out where the are no people and start taking random photos
and shooting videos but we get tired of that and take advantage of the free wifi offered in terminal 1. Terminal 3 you must
pay for wifi but if you enter thru security and are flying domestic park yourself near the egyptair business lounge
and take advantage of their unsecured wifi. I can't believe I am so connected to the world here in Egypt and I haven't even
left the airport. It's funny, we really haven't left the airport.
Geez, I digress so much, so we're waiting for our final memeber of the trip and the flight arrives at 945pm(or 2145) and we're like
awesome we can catch the 1215am train to luxor which is a 10hr journey in of itself. You ask why, nilay, why? why put yourself
thru another brutual 10 hours after going thru a 11hr flight. Well I say to you good lady or sir because we wanted to start our
trip backwards, start south egypt then work our way back up to cairo where we can relax and be easy.
So we're waiting for the final member and geez..10pm...1030...11pm..1130, finally the person comes out and we have only 45 mintues
to make it to the train station to be in luxor by 12noon. But wait, what's this? we're going to the Juliana hostel("hotel") and not the train station
whyyyy? we don't want to be in cairo we want to be out of here but guess what? There were no train tickets booked for us even though we had
countless back and forth emails. You ask why not? Are the egyptians lazy? Was there something lost in translation? In our defense
we said the last member arrives at 10 and we want to catch the 1215 train. You know what that means here? 10AM and 1215pm. So the guy who was to handle
this looked online and saw the flight was going to arrive at 2200hrs(note to future self: give military time internationally with "american time").
So the train tickets were never booked and they would cost $65usd for an overnight sleeper which we werent going to make since the last one leaves at 2200hrs(10pm). Shoots there goes
our itinerary, this is going to suck major, what will we do, how can we salvage our trip, we have a nice hotel booked in aswan and we need to keep our schedule. AAHHh! Headaches and nothing can be solved
at this our. So we did what any lost travler did We headed over to juliana paid for a night stay a shower(125LE for 2 people) and most of us passed out. I was so anxious like will we meet our schedule
what is going to happen?
The next morning(monday) the owner of juliana came by took me to the Egyptair office and we booked a same day flight to aswan as luxor flights were fully booked.
We paid oh..$155 for a round trip flight from aswan to cairo. Time saved? definitely, 8 hrs and a big headache. But for $20 more the flight is well worth it over a long
train ride. Trust me! I've trained it in Indian for over 24 hrs straight and it is NOT pretty at all.
So here I sit in the hotel without wireless internet for the first time in aswan waiting for our 6pm train to luxor where we'll be
staying at the bob marley hostel("hotel") and coming back to aswan tomorrow evening.
The owner of the Juliana for only $150 per person hooked us up with a fairly good deal IMO: This is what we get
airport drop off in cairo today, pickup in aswan with a train ticket to luxor, pickup in luxor to bob marley, tour of luxor tomorrow then drop off at train station with train ticket back to aswan, pick up in aswan to our hotel, a tour of aswan on thursday, drop off to aswan airport and pickup at cairo airport to the juliana, a tour of giza, saqaara and memphis
on saturday and a drop off to the airport for our flight back sunday at midnight(ahhhh! I'll be back just in time(645am) for work on monday morning and classes tuesday). AND A WHOLE LOT OF PEACE OF MIND! Money could definitely be saved but I learned by bother trying to setup everything indivdually? It just means you need to keep track of more things and make sure everything goes as planned and the people you have contracted with for certain things come thru. In our case we are so far happy that everything is centralized thru one person that means things are set, wheels are turning and no more moves need to be made on our end. We want to relax on this trip and not get overly stressed out thinking oh man what is tomorrow? will that person come thru for us for this part of our trip. I say eff it and just pay the money, bargain if you need to and have it all set up for you cause in the end it will be well worth it.

On a side note, I love walking around cairo (cause everywhere we go people want to know what we are and where we're from? They guess egyptian we say no! They say what? And we say indian and they go I like!) it is so much like india, cars don't stop for you, you make them stop by crossing the street and taking your chances -it is beautiful! As a New Yorker we are already used to this, so on Monday when we went for a walk we were dodging cars left and right like if I was playing frogger. We also found a little grocery store(there are tons) where for 5LE(less than 1USD) we got a .60litre bottle of
water and a 1litre bottle of Miranda(yea thats right, its that eastern stuff most of ya people don't know about, it is the good stuff!)

Our main man Essmat up in the aswan set us up with a ride to Abu Simbel and a felucca ride for 196LE(~35$). I don't know much about good deals but pre-trip I tried to set something up and it was pretty much the same price give or take a dollar but this way we have something that is set in stone in person which at times here is clutch because while they have email here things do not always get correctly translated and understood.

-Nilay, under construct.

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