There wasn’t a lot to see In Beruit unless a person happens to like expensive stores and fancy cars racing around the streets. It had been and still is being renovated to the extent that I can understand why people refer it to the Paris of the Middle East! So theren was definitely nothing in Beruit that interested me. However I did walk the entire Cornish one afternoon to try and capture the old spirit of Beruit before the civil wars and bombing when people sat on the Cornish having a coffee enjoying the sun!
I found the city very expensive with no real Arabic character except people speaking Arabic! The New Talal hotel was was one of only a few budget hotels in Beruit. So it was always especially full but especially at that time with the volcano eruption in Iceland preventing most of the 2 wk European vacationers from flying off home! So with all of them occupying the beds I was lucky to score a bed on the terrace for $8. However the bed on the terrace wasn’t enough from packing my bag and leaving Lebanon after a few days with out seeing some of the sights up north.
So I caught a mini bus cus knew it would only seater a max of 6 pax so it would make crossing the border a lot quicker since I would need to get a visa! It’s actually only a 3 hrs drive from Beruit to Damacus which was a nice change from the average 10 hr bus rides I had been taking in Africa.
Well I wasn’t sure how much a Syrian visa would cost me so I had 145,000 Lebanonese pounds/lira or $150. So we got to border the driver asked if I wanted to change some money. But not knowing how much my visa would cost me (though the figure $56 had been told to me).
Well all my apprehensions and what was written in the Guide book were either incorrect or out of date. Cus I was able to get a Syrian Visa with no trouble. However I was told to go to the bank to pay for my visa. There I found out that it would indeed cost me $56 but I couldn’t pay in Lebanonese Lira but had to use USD. Luckily I had enough for the visa but no to I was stuck with all this Lira. So I asked the driver if there were any money changers as didn’t see any. So had to bite the bullet and have him change it. He asked another guy about the exchange Lebanonese to Syrian lira and gave me some Syrian lira. So I quickly calculated what I got and figured I lost about $20 in the exchange. But had no choice or be stuck with the Lebanonese money or hope to find a money changer in Damascus.
We made it to Damacus in no time cus this driver was a speed demon like most drivers are here. Heck they had no problem passing 2 cars at a time, on a curve or on a mountain as there were a lot of hills in east Lebanon and west Syria.
The driver couldn’t drive into Damascus cus he had to take 2 Turkish guys to the airport. So he told this other passéngers to take me to this budget hotel that I had the name.
So this poor guy (he doesn’t speak Englsh) obeys him and we get dropped off on the busy highway outside Damascus. We have to jump down this hedge and dart across 2 lanes of busy traffic with our bags. Then he starts asking each minibus that stopped on the highway I assume which one was going to the city center. We squeeze onto this full minivan with our bags and he pays our fare which I still not sure how much it is. So he says we have to get off the van and we cross a couple of busy streets. In the meantime he asking every taxi driver something. Then we finally get on this one taxi and get to what looks like downtown and again he pays the fare. He then starts asking different people I think where this hotel is located. We finally find the place and I offer to pay him for the minibus and taxi ride plus for going out of his way to take me to the hotel (I’ve never had anyone ever escort me to a hotel from outside a large city of 4.5 million like Damascus). But he wouldn’t take any money so I was really impressed with the guy! Another thing that impressed with me the Syrians was when I got some clothes washed. It only cost me $2 to wash all my clothes. The guy also gives me an USD and some Syrian coins he found in my shorts. Hell most people back home would just keep it so I told this guy, working in this small hole in the wall laundry, that he could keep the money for being so honest but he wouldn’t take it. So as you can see I find the Syrian people helpful, nice and honest!
So hey getting a Syrian Visa was a snap so why did the book make it sound so complicated. Hey I’m on a roll so hey I’m going to try for an Iranian visa next. But this time I’m going to go to the Irainian Embassy cus it will probably be cheaper. Plus I don’t want to get to the Iranian border to find out I can’t get a Visa cus it’s a long way to get there!