Immigration and fun are almost an oxymoron, at least in most of the places I visited. But Jordan changed all that, I can now say immigration fun in the same sentence. While going into Jordan. it was almost the same as anywhere else, getting out of Jordan was fun. But then first things first.
I visited Jordan as part of Indian media invited to cover the Pope’s visit to Jordan. I was told that Jordan grants visa on arrival to Indians. As we were accompanied by the officials of the Jordan Tourism Board before immigration, none of us were asked to show USD 1000 in cash. I wonder if they really want a visitor to show USD 1000 in cash to give visa on arrival? I have never traveled anywhere with that kind of cash! My visa on arrival was smooth but I guess it was also because I was invited.
Fast forward to the time when we were getting back. There were nine of us checking in one after the other at Queen Alia International Airpot, Amman. Almost all of us had bought the local sweet Backlava. So people ahead in line were entrusted with the task of asking if it was OK to carry backlava in hand luggage? When the lady ahead in the queue asked she was told firmly, “no ma’am.” All of us behind her went into a tizzy. She also went into a tizzy. Then the counter person laughed and said, “ma’am I was only joking, of course you can take it in your hand luggage.” That should have given me some inkling of the things to come.
After depositing my luggage I proceeded to the passport control. When a counter became vacant I asked if I could proceed in sign language, and the person said no! So, I stood in the queue thinking that counter might be closing. I cursed my luck in general as well. Then he talked to an airport staff in Arabic who told me I could proceed to that counter! When I started walking, he too started laughing and said, “of course you can come to this counter, why not?” Now I was wondering what was going on! While he looked at my passport he said, “Bandra 25 Bandra 25 Bandra 25, are you taking that one?” I laughed and laughed.
Now won’t you agree with me that this was one of the most hilarious immigration experiences you ever read about? I do remember two passport control personnel saying bye to me, at Thailand and Maldives but this was something unique.
The only thing that comes close to this was a person, staff, at Johannesburg, South Africa at the luggage belt, who was dancing while we waited for our luggage!
Between 2007 and 2011 I traveled to UK (for work) 5 times. I went through London Heathrow thrice and Manchester twice. From London I would then travel to Oxford. And from Manchester my destination has been Lancaster. I actually liked Oxford City a lot. I would spend sometime in London as well but I am not a big city person, I never have been. If I have to choose between Oxford and Lancaster Oxford is special for me.
All my flights to Manchester have been via Dubai with Emirates. There is no direct flight between Delhi and Manchester so we fly via Dubai. While this means I get a lot more time to watch back to back movies I do arrive very tired these days. When I said this to someone they told me that was because I was getting old. Well, they have a point!
Somewhere on a Flight from Delhi to Dubai
On the other hand Delhi London flights were direct, gave me ample opportunity to watch movies and didn’t leave me that tired. I have been on British Airways, Virgin and Jet Airways and all were fine. I am actually a big fan of international flights as I can drink a glass of wine and watch movies. While watching movies I try not even to blink but sometimes the wine defeats me and I do doze off.
But when it comes to the immigration experience Manchester beats Heathrow any day. I understand that Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world and the volume that they handle is staggering. But even then, the queues are daunting and the behavior of the staff unpredictable. I remember one visit where the lady seemed to be miffed about something. It was not a pleasant experience. I did not say the customary thank you at the end of it. She found no reason to stop me in the end.
On the other hand Manchester is a breeze. The staff is courteous and they seem to be more willing to smile at least in the end.
So even though I miss Oxford but if I have a choice of landing between Manchester and London I would pick up Manchester for its immigration experience.
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