A Travellerspoint blog

How to bring down a ginormous bridge by spitting

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

I read in the paper that the Howrah Brigdge in Kolkata (Calcutta) which spans the mighty Hooghly River is at risk of failure from corrosion. While the metal cantilever structure was designed to withstand nearly anything, the engineers missed one possibility ... that the hordes of people crossing it daily would spit on it. And it wouldn't be just regular spit ... but spit with betel nut, powdered lime (the calcium compound), tannin and compound etc which becomes an acidic cocktail.

Always gotta expect the unexpected!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Time with family

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It was an early start at 4:30am to catch the 8:15am flight to KL with a four hour connection to Kuching [Kuching-travel-guide-1096915]. My favourite airline does not offer connections (to minimise liability and to keep fares low) ... so one has to allow extra time in case of delays (seems to be rather rare in my personal experience).

I arrived in Kuching before 9pm ... so it was a long day ... but not quite as bad as it sounds as I lost 2.5h due to the time change.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Sunday at Mt Lavinia Beach

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I arrived mid-morning and after clearing the immigration queue from hell, I took a taxi to Mt Lavinia where my hotel was located. The ride was expensive but I couldn't handle the heat and humidity (let alone triple the travelling time) associated with the public buses ... plus I had made considerable savings elsewhere during the trip.

The beach was 2 minutes from the hotel by foot. Being a Sunday, it was quite a hive of activity with many locals swimming and playing.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Grottoes and Levantine Conclusion

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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 Comments (0)

Bar-hopping in Beirut

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Tedious Border Crossing

I chose to take a bus from Damascus to Beirut [Beirut-travel-guide-1041297] rather than a shared taxi. The actual time you spend moving is around 2 hours. Then there's another 2 hours with the immigration formalities ... an hour on each side of the border.

This is the first time I've used this crossing, as all my previous experiences have been with the border crossing north of Tripoli. It was busy for people and passenger vehicles ... for trucks it was a nightmare as I could see them backed up for kilometres.

Combined with a passenger having some issues (not knowing all the required information on the arrival card), our journey took over 5 hours!

My theory is that a service taxi shouldn't be much quicker if it arrives at the checkpoint when a bus is there too ... but if there's a next time, I'll certainly be paying a tad more and using a taxi.

Bar-hopping in Beirut

This is my last night in Beirut, so I'm acting half my age for a change! I got invited out by other travellers ... we bar hopped ... we had cocktails and drinks at two places (during Happy Hour). This was followed by ice cream and people-watching in the Beirut Central District area. I piked before 11pm and skipped the third bar ... not sure if there was a fourth!

Our hostel is in the Gemayzeh area ... it is rather sleepy during the day but it certainly throbbing by about 10pm when the bars and restaurants come alive. People eat late and party late into early hours of the morning.

Tummy Torment?

It is uncanny that my tummy is slightly unwell tonight. I'e been fine eating off the street in Syria and I'e been fine ... then after a day eating in glitzy Beirut, I' having issues. It may not be bug-related ... it could be just too much olive oil!

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Lebanon Comments (0)

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