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Grottoes and Levantine Conclusion

View 2010 Colombo, Lebanon, Syria & Aceh on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_12794649143918.jpgPlaque at Dog River.
Grotto Excursion and More

This is my last day in Beirut [Beirut-travel-guide-1041297] before I fly out in the evening to Dubai then Colombo. There’s a whole day to fill. I invited Claire (also staying at the hostel) to join me in going to the Jeita Grottoes.

We made a brief stop at Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River or Lycus River for those familiar with history) . This river is marked with many historical plaques commemorating victories over the centuries, ranging from Arabic, Roman, French (Napoleon), Greek and ANZAC etc.

The Jeita Grottoes themselves were pretty amazing, but unfortunately no photos are permitted:

* The Upper Grotto consisted of a very deep cavern which visitors walk through in amazement because of the size and complexity of the formations.large_5550_12794649144709.jpgPlaque at Dog River.They’re not just plain up-and-down stalagmites and stalactites ... the patterns can be likened to trees, honeycomb etc.

* The Lower Grotto is not as big but it is slightly flooded. Visitors are barged through the grotto. The illumination within, reflected on the water leaves shimmers of aqua and gold on the formations. It is just so so so beautiful.

We filled in the rest of the day at Byblos [Byblos-travel-guide-1319134], which is an ancient harbour with Roman remains ... civilisation there existed before Roman times and the various civilisations built on top of the ruins of the previous.

Racial taunts gone wrong

While at Byblos some Lebanese tried doing some racial taunts thinking that I was from China .[http://images.travbuddy.com/5550_1279464915696.jpg]Claire & I at the Grottoes ... transport is provided to get around.... it went like “shing shong shing shong” because the “ch” sound does not exist in Arabic, and their closest equivalent is “sh”. Or strictly speaking it should be “tsh” ... that’s how they handle foreign words like “Karachi” (kinda spelt as Karatshi in the Arabic script).

The Lebanese Riviera

On the way back to Beirut, we took a bus that didn’t take the motorway but the coastal route. Only then did we realise the full extent of the Lebanese Riviera.

The coast was dotted with many hotels with pools packed to the brim. There were also amazing huge restaurants with both alfresco and air-conditioned dining.

Then there are the Beach Clubs ... this is not about swimming in the sea. There may not beven be sand. There are pools but it is all about posing, eating, drinking and dancing all day in the trendiest swimwear .large_5550_12794649153338.jpgByblos Harbour... getting wet seems optional and secondary.

Conclusion before Leaving the Levant

Before this trip, Syria was my favourite country as it had an interesting mix of Roman, Crusader, Ottoman and Arab relics. All this was made better by the amazing value ... things used to be ridiculously cheap.

But now, it isn’t that cheap ... it’s still not expensive. I still like it heaps ... but I’m starting to think if there should be a new favourite? Maybe not.

People in Syria are still hospitable and genuine (by and large). Lebanon in general is similar ... but Beirut is (and has been for a while) a very glitzy and hedonistic place. The food (including ice cream) in Syria is often just as good for a fraction of the price, but in Beirut, it’s all about being seen and wearing the right gear.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back to Beirut for a fifth time ... but I certainly won’t turn down another Syrian adventure if it fits in well with my future plans!


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Lebanon

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