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I think I could have done it. There are so many of them in Jordan. Only when I learned to look up I saw that they where everywhere. That Friday I got up early. I had already packed the night before and on my last evening at the hostel I had a delicious home cooked meal with Tarek from the reception. The ticket read am but I figured that it was a precaution and that I could show up a little later. Due to the Ramadan it left at am as it said on the ticket!! Because I persuaded the lady to call the bus and see how far they had gone? Then I jumped into a taxi and raced ahead like a bat out of hell.
We caught up with the bus which was large enough to have 60 seats. It was parked on the side of the road waiting for me. Inside the bus there were about seven passengers and all was forgiven as soon as I said Salaam Alaikum peace be upon you. Besides, I think they were somewhat surprised to see a non Arab on the bus to Baghdad.
Everyone flies. Several people have told me that. Our route in Iraq would take us through an area which had been liberated less than six months ago. The bus route had only started to operate again within the past two months. Was I nervous? Not really.
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At least I was calm on the outside but I must admit that my stomach was acting up ever since I bought the ticket. Anyway, the bus continued out of Amman and into the desert. I saw a large well organized tent camp on the right side of the road. Most definitely a refugee camp. Meanwhile on the left side of the road we passed a large billboard advertising for visiting Petra. The contrast of having a refugee camp on one side of the road and a billboard promoting tourism on the other side kind of sums up Jordan quite well.
Further into the desert I observed a few fighter aircrafts racing across the blue sky. Once in a while we would pass green highway signs reading out the distance to Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
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Then we reached the border. It took a while to check me out of Jordan. For my personal safety the immigration officer had to have it cleared with his superior officer. Then we drove across some no mans land until we reached the Iraqi border. I also had to deal with immigration there.
The other passengers had it easy and it seemed like they had done it many times before. Some even knew the immigration officers. It took substantially more time to process my entry as they were clearly perplexed about my presence. However everyone was outmost polite. After about 20 minutes a colonel came to see the non Arab traveling by bus to Baghdad.
We chatted for a while as he wanted to know what my purpose was? You just kind of need to know when and when not. I decided to say nothing more than that I was a tourist. The colonel finally gave me the green lights to proceed. Then he asked if I wanted to stay for dinner but the bus driver, who had now arrived to see my progress with immigration, backed me in saying that I needed to get back on the bus.
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As we rolled into Iraq I observed a dog sleeping in the shade and two workers assembling an arch across the road. Inside Iraq it was more desert. Every once in a while a small building would appear which could have been a small shop or similar. Those buildings were either brand new or severely damaged. Often I would see burnt out, rusty vehicles on the roadside which had been looted for anything worth keeping. I had been told that I might see many different flags but I only ever saw Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi police and Iraqi flags.
As the sun began to set I observed a few destroyed tanks and other armored vehicles on the roadside. Then we reached Ramadi near Habbaniyah Lake. Never have I ever seen such destruction on a town! Had it been a dog then you would have put it down. Had it been a car then you would have bought a new one. But this was the home of thousands and the only way forward must be to rebuild. However I cannot phantom how long that would possibly take?!?
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With that in mind - how much time is Iraq looking at to recover? The recent decades have been rough on the country. Will it rise again? As the sun set the lights came on. To my amazement the heavily damaged urban landscape was dotted with light all over. I could see that the roads had been cleared and that vehicles were parked in front of those buildings which were still inhabited. Human resilience is a superpower of its own.
You may not see the destruction in this photo. But you'll recognize that powerlines are not suposed to hang like that. The bus passed through Al-Falluja and eventually reached Abu Graib, where we had to stop for inspection. A strong bold man came almost straight for me and began to question me. He was polite and spoke English well. However he had a hard time believing my purpose was tourism? No culture. No civilization. Why are you here?
This is a bad idea!!
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I argued my case as well as possible and then he interrupted me to suggest that I could stay in Iraq and that he could go to Denmark : The bus finally continued and a few hours later we reached Baghdad. At the terminal I was greeted by Ali. Max is another follower who hooked me up with Adham, also in Baghdad. But Adham and I never got to meet. In fact a lot of people had reached out to me and connected me with friends, colleagues, family etc.
I love the network we have built through Once Upon A Saga. Well, there I was at the bus terminal. Ali had a big smile on his face and wanted to help me carry my bags. We found a taxi and headed straight for his motel where he had arranged for my accommodation. Ali ensured me that it was safe and that it was the reason why he had picked it for himself. There are just some people in this world which possess a certain karma.
Ali is simply one of them. Vising Saga's Popular Locations. The mystical torii gates immersed in the water above are part of Ouo Shrine. It is said that approximately years ago, a government official who had been stranded on an island nearby rode back to the land on the back of a fish and survived.
The official, deeply moved, constructed the shrine and the torii gates in the water. The shrine's appearance changes according to the tides. When the waves rise, the top of the torii gates become submerged in water. During low tide, visitors can see the entire structure of the torii gates. Near Tara, where Ouo Shrine is located, you can have a taste of fresh seafood, like Takezaki crabs and oysters. Visitors should indulge in local Saga food when visiting the area. The prefecture faces the sea in the north and south, so there is fresh seafood. Saga beef, a variety of wagyu beef, is also a must-try.
There are two types of wagyu in Saga Prefecture: Saga beef and Imari beef. There is no difference in the quality of both brands of beef; they differ in name according to where the cattle are raised and produced. The beef is tender and lean, with fine streaks of fat. It has a slightly sweet but bold flavor. You can enjoy the meat in a steak or in shabu-shabu Japanese hot pot.
Steak Restaurant Sho in the Imari area is popular and is where you can taste Imari beef from a local farm. Squid is a local specialty of the coastal Yobuko area in Saga.
This translucent squid is seasoned and made into fresh, flavorful sashimi. They have all sorts of food here, including must-try squid dumplings. The market is open every day in the morning from to it is closed January 1. Picture from Melting Tofu! Onsen yudofu is a specialty of Ureshino Onsen in south Saga. Yudofu usually refers to tofu simmered in hot water.
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However, at Ureshino, a hot spring, the tofu is boiled in hot spring water. The tofu becomes sticky and melty due to the components of the hot spring, giving it a mellow flavor. Soak in the hot springs and enjoy onsen yudofu after you finish bathing. Melting Tofu! Rice terraces are paddy fields placed into tiers like a staircase. There are several rice terraces in Saga: the following two are known to be particularly gorgeous. The Hamanoura Rice Terraces contains paddy fields of varying sizes. They fill up with water in May, creating a peaceful, stunning scene with the sun reflecting in the water in the evening.
The rice terraces are considered a very romantic spot. Additionally, the Oura Rice Terraces , large-scale, beautifully-lined paddy fields reaching 1, in number, is another great spot to see. Both Hamanoura and Oura have observation decks where you can look down at the fields. These terraces are easily accessible via car from Karatsu. Arita Porcelain Park is a facility where you can look at, purchase, and make Arita ware, a traditional Saga handicraft. The impressive exterior of the park seems almost like a palace.
The inside of this building, modeled after the Zwinger Palace in Germany, is an exhibition hall displaying Arita ware works. In addition to the exhibition hall, there are also many other facilities, including a shop selling Arita ware, a studio where you can make ceramics yourself, and a meter long, multi-chambered, climbing kiln.
This is a facility where you can get an authentic experience of all things Arita ware. A sake brewery run by the same sake manufacturing company that manages the park is located next door. Sake brewery tours reservation-only and free Japanese sake tastings are held at the souvenir shop in the park. Nanatsugama Caves , located along the sea in north Saga, is known for its scenic beauty and unusually-shaped rocks. Magma that once gushed forth due to a volcanic eruption rapidly cooled and hardened in the seawater, creating complicated shapes of the rocks.