Beirut Travel Blog› entry 8 of 32 › view all entries
Bad start in Colombo
I woke nice and early and showered for my 2 flights (Dubai then Beirut). I couldn't find a taxi to the airport so took a tuktuk ... which took 1 hour. It wasn't hot but it was the early morning traffic jam ... I now smell of 2-stroke fumes.
Colombo Airport, like much of the city is high security. Strangely though, they do not have LAG (Liquid, Aerosol and Gel) restrictions. It was only 3 years ago the place got bombed and much of the national airline's fleet got wiped out. And it was only days ago that a bomb went off in Colombo itself ... I read it while in Melbourne :-(
Transit in Dubai
As for my stinky self ... fortunately I managed to fit in a shower (an some yummy food) during my 4 hour transit in Dubai, at the Lounge. It pays to know that with a Diners Club card (which I don't even pay for), one gets access to many airport lounge around the world ... in Dubai, it is the same one used by Qatar Airways' First Class passengers. Hush!
Arriving in Beirut
I arrived in Beirut in the evening, on board a flight full of Lebanese Australians. They had connected from Sydney and Melbourne ... it’s the season to take the whole family to Lebanon to escape the Aussie winter.
I always love flying into Beirut ... suddenly you break through the haze and the urban sprawl of the high-rise concrete jungle appears. The plane glides over the turquoise water; you get a glimpse of the seaside apartments and finally the landmark Pigeon Rocks before you touch down.
Immigration took forever. This time, Malaysians no longer require to pay for a visa on arrival, so there’s no separate queueing for the visa payment and then to enter the country. I can’t believe that so many Aus-Lebs had to either pre-pay their visa in Aus or upon arrival ... whereas I get in scot free!
Even though Beirut airport is close to the city, there is an official “nice” taxi service ... yes, that means expensive ... about USD25 for 15 minutes. As with previous visits, I walk up to the departures level and try catch a normal taxi who happens to be dropping-off.
I thought my trick wasn’t going to work as the first driver wanted to charge me about USD30. Fortunately, this isn’t one of those places where all the drivers gang up on the poor visitor and refuse to budge. There’s healthy disagreement (yes, that’s why they had a bad bad civil war) ... and a competitive spirit ... so within seconds another driver took me for the price I had offered, which was about USD16.
I settled into my Pension (Al-Nazih) which is in East Beirut (formerly the Christian area during the war). This will be a change from trendy Hamra in West Beirut which was the Muslim area. It isn’t far from the Green Line which was the demarcation between the East and West ... there were plenty of broken homes with bullet holes during my previous visits.
A quick walk outside to get some essentials showed that Football Fever is on ... with the Soccer World Cup on, Lebanese are picking sides to support. Eg. they were most dismayed that Brazil were beaten by the Netherlands.