A Travellerspoint blog

Stop spreading rumours...!

got your attention right?

sunny 35 °C

This will probably be my last entry for Oman...because honestly how much can one write about a place they are no longer visiting..? I left Oman about a week ago, but still have a few things left to post about my trip. After my first walkabout, sad to say, I never got back to the grocery because the one day I tried to get back turned out to be a Saturday and it was quite literally like a Sunday in the traditional Western world where everywhere is closed. I ventured out and braved the heat because I needed to get some menthol rub and perhaps some salt to gargle or rinse my throat with because my sinuses were acting up, but after walking the short distance to the grocery store, which suddenly seemed twice as long in the near midday heat, I scurried back to the air-conditioned comfort of the hotel and asked them to call me a cab and direct me to the nearest drugstore that was open. The cab driver seemed to want to take me to someplace further but the hotel clerk was firm with him and so he agreed to take me to the nearest one. When we got there however, he still tried to convince me that I would prefer the one that was further away but I firmly told him that this one would be fine and then asked if I would be able to get a taxi to get back to the hotel and he then suggested he would wait, for no additional fee. I got my menthol rub....Vicks as it turned out...didn't even think to ask for it by name....but they knew the name! Also got some lozenges for my sore throat and then got back into the cab to head back to the hotel. And that was really all the "walking about" time I had for the whole trip. Every other time I was either in the meetings or at dinner. I seriously think they needed to schedule one day of inactivity to make up for all their slowness in getting things done, which usually meant we always stayed later than usual in the meetings.
But now to the subject of my latest entry, the rumours...I believe I read about this in the travel wiki, and this is about not smiling at the men, because they might mistake it for flirting. I found nothing of the sort to be the case, either in the hotel where I stayed or the hotel where our meeting was, or even at the Grand Mosque. Where on earth did the person who posted that information get the idea? If anything all the men were always smiling (and some of the ladies too) ...and it's not because of me...it's just how they are, most of them, very friendly types who have no problem smiling to greet any person they meet. Maybe it's more pronounced in the hotel as part of their training in customer service, I don't know, but I never got the feeling that if I smiled at a man, he would mistake my intentions...so whoever you are, stop spreading rumours! Also I get the idea they are somewhat relaxed about clothing here. I did not see any reason to be concerned about what I wore although I tried to be on the conservative side, I am almost certain, the rumours about people here being uptight about tight or revealing clothing is not very strongly rooted in fact. Maybe I am wrong, but that's just the feeling I get from observing the clothes worn by some and the demeanor of the people or the lack of any particular response to it. Generally I would say that Omanis tend to live and let live. I could be mistaken, but that's how I see it. Except, don't go to their Mosque without a head/upper body covering. Small price to pay to see the beautiful architecture of the place, really.

Posted by KateCastle 20:19 Archived in Oman Tagged people culture Comments (0)

Baby steps

Finding my way around...and stuff

sunny

Well, I finally dragged myself off my computer and got out of the hotel before it got too dark to venture out and went off for a walk. There's a restaurant right next door, but I didn't go in, because I wanted to walk a bit further before I settled on a place for dinner.
Popped into a book store and saw they had some nice-looking backpacks. May buy one for my niece as her Old Navy backpack is already ripped on one side because her books are so heavy ...but I digress. Found a nice messenger bag for me, so I can put my camera, tablet and other stuff I might want to carry around since all I had apart from my luggage was a laptop bag which I was not about to take with me as it just might attract too much attention...I think. The bookstore wouldn't take US cash. They wanted OMR only.

Next stop was the grocery store and since it was getting a bit dark, I decided I would stop there and not go further. I picked up quite a few things. The coconut water with bits of jelly - not great. I do not know how anyone can drink it. I could not manage more than a sip. It is pretty bad. I am too accustomed to coconut water straight from the nut perhaps. Anyway, the grocery store had some pretty tempting things. Bought a couple of things I am not sure I should have bought and am making plans to buy some more things I am not sure I should buy but the prices seem pretty decent and I can never resist a bargain. I thought I lucked out when I saw they had food in the "bakery" section of the grocery. I asked the attendant if it was very spicy. He said it was medium. I told him I cannot tolerate any spice then he recommended the rice and the lollipop chicken and another thing that had sauce, which turned out to be some kind of ground meat, (maybe fish) in very spicy sauce. He had convinced me to have three of those because he said they wouldn't be too spicy...but I don't know if he realized the sauce would be so intolerably hot for me. Even the rice was hot though.
So...I know where I am not buying dinner next time! I should have tried the restaurant.
The good thing about the grocery store though is when I asked the cashier if I could pay with US cash he said yes...and the best thing is he didn't look at the year of the bill I paid him with...(maybe the newness of it was enough) yes I spent almost $50 USD in the grocery...which is quite a lot. He gave me the change in OMR which I didn't care about because I didn't change enough cash at the airport anyway so I will definitely need it. Needless to say I had to use water while I ate the food, to help cool my tongue and I had some crackers with the ground meat stuff...which seemed less spicy when I had them without the sauce. Will have to retest that...maybe my tongue was simply too scorched to notice anymore.

Before I had left the hotel, the desk clerk in the lobby mentioned he would send an iron up to my room when I got back because I asked for one. When I got back however, they did not send up an iron, so I will have to go down or call down and request it.
I noticed this evening there is a hole in the floor in the kitchen covered very loosely with a plastic cap. I guess it's a good place for spilled water to go...hopefully that was a planned feature of the room. There are no plates in the kitchen area so when I bought the food at the grocery store, I bought a plate too so I could reheat the food in the microwave. I also bought forks and spoons because I thought the price for them was good and they seemed very good quality. And it worked out great too because I needed the fork to eat, although I probably would have gotten a plastic fork from the attendant in the bakery but since I am trying to lessen my use of plastic now as much as possible (perhaps the subject of another blog) I was glad I had thought to pick up stainless steel cutlery. Too bad they didn't have matching knives though.

There was no sidewalk. Thought I should mention, this is unusual. Most places that look as developed as this usually have a sidewalk. There is also a construction site close by and a lot of sand on the ground. My boots turned whitish with the color of the sand it seems. Will have to wash it out as best as I can in the bathroom. Didn't notice a shoe shine stand anywhere in the hotel. Pity. Still all in all a great day. I will try to post some pictures as soon as possible.

Posted by KateCastle 11:39 Archived in Oman Tagged cash grocery us_cash Comments (0)

Just arrived - in one piece, thank God

from the airplane to the hotel

sunny 40 °C

Emirates is a great airline (especially on the long trip from JFK), but that plane to Muscat from Dubai was a little scary. First, when the engine started, we got the smell of smoke in the cabin area where I was....not the most reassuring smell. Then the TV screen in the middle of the the row in front of us was shaking all the way as the plane moved to the runway for take-off. Thankfully we arrived in one piece. At the airport in Muscat, I notice there are few English signs but there are persons, men only I noticed, who are directing travellers. I almost went through Electronic gate then realised I don't have something to swipe so then I noticed the visa line for pre-arranged visas and got into that line and collected my visa. Then it was time to go through immigration. The line for that was quite long, but we ladies were helped somewhat when the airport guides pulled us out of the main line and put us in a separate line, for women only. I felt a bit sorry for the little girl who was with her dad...he had to stay in the long line with the men.
Immigration was a breeze. Only one question was asked, the flight number then he took the visa I just collected and stamped my passport.
Then I was expecting to be met up, because it was supposed to be pre-arranged that I would have shuttle service to the hotel, but I did not see with a sign showing my name or any help desk (which was also promised) anywhere in the small airport area. The only place I didn't check was the departures area, which I figured should not be where persons arriving would expect to find help. There was no public address (PA) system in the arrivals area either so I could not try to page for help.
The restroom was quite small, but I managed to fit with my luggage on the cart, although I needed help to get the cart into the restroom, since the door was not staying open and I had to press down on the handle of the cart for it to move at all. There were several men milling around nearby and one kindly offered his assistance.
So...finally since there was no one picking me up and I was tired after my long flights, I called the number of a local taxi driver I got from a member of Couchsurfing.org - and he came to pick me up and dropped me off at my hotel. He even offered me a bottled water, which I thought was a nice touch. (The NYC cab driver didn't offer any such and he got a lot more money for dropping me off the previous day.) I was told the charge from the airport to the hotel (which took about 20 minutes driving if so much) would be 5 Rials, but I paid 6 because the driver seemed really nice and he gave me water.

At the hotel, I was told I would have to pay for the entire stay, something I did not expect, as I am used to paying at the end of my stay. I paid it however, (part cash and part with my credit card) and when I got to my room, I realised I should have paid for wifi service too - they did not ask me about it when I was checking in. I was told over the phone that it would be 5 Rial for 24 hrs, but they put 8OMR on the bill they sent the code with, so I guess I will be paying more. I hope I don't use it all up, hoping to be able to use free wifi at the venue of the meeting I will be going to...we'll see how that goes...since I will spend most of my days there.

The hotel (Safeer Continental - don't know why I keep thinking the name is Safeer Intercontinental) offers breakfast free with the room....will let you know how that goes tomorrow morning. There is a microwave but no stove, and two teacups with one spoon and a kettle. Tea and coffee is available, but the tea bag was not wrapped in anything, which to me is not such a great idea. I like my tea bags enclosed in something (preferably not plastic) if not in a box. There are two TVs but the one in the bed room area (which by the way is separated from the kitchen/living room areas with a door) does not appear to have a cable box or anything more than one or two channels. There are two beds and your room key activates the lights etc...you have to insert it into a slot near the door and it turns everything on, my valet showed me of course. I would not have known otherwise. I was not sure how much to tip so I only gave him about 0.2 Rial because I couldn't find my other Rials at the time or I might have given him at least 1 Rial. He didn't seem unhappy but he didn't look excited either.
The hotel is pretty close to a grocery store (the driver pointed this out as we drove by), but who knows what will be open at this late hour that I have just woken up (I needed sleep...not just for jet lag) - almost 4pm already according to my phone which seems to have adjusted automatically to local time. The TV in the hotel has a few channels with some shows I recognise...remains to see if Castle will be one of them come Monday, but I am not holding out a lot of hope....!

I had a lot of useful tips from members of Couchsurfing.org which I always used when travelling. I will probably meet up with some of them eventually, and leave references on that site for those people.

If I forget anything about this first part of my trip, it will be posted later.

Posted by KateCastle 04:37 Archived in Oman Tagged new emirates arrival just_landed safeer_continental muscat_international_airport Comments (0)

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