Crossing into Syria
Hama Travel Blog› entry 13 of 32 › view all entries
I started the day with breakfast in a hole-in-the-wall cafe ... Turkish coffee, OJ squeezed in front of you and the most beautiful croissant. It was warm and not too buttery or flakey, with a cavity inside that had been filled with salted butter that' been melted away. Being the pig that I am, I had to followup with the chocolate filled version which was equally nice. We need more Vietnamese and migrants from former French territories in New Zealand to make these goodies more commonly available!
I walked one minute into the square adjacent to the hotel and was quoted SYP500 (about EUR8) for my crossing into Hama in Syria.
Compared to old Mercedes Benz previously, we now have a Hyundai Sonata with hardly any dings ... equipped with curtains and the obligatory cushion to convert the front centre armrest into a makeshift seat.
The trip took under 3 hours including some stops:
- Firstly on the Lebanon side for my companions to buy some bread ... it's supposed to be better than Syrian bread but I can't tell.
- Then for my companions to buy crockery ... they're big on glitzy gilded ones here. I suppose this would have been an outing for them and they want to come back with something for the family.
- Then about 45 minutes at the border checkpoints. I had to apologise to the rest of the taxi for delaying them.
Virgo Immigration Officer
The Lebanese exit officer was a bit slow (presumably a Virgo ... we're known for being picky ... or possibly new a his job):
- He went each field of the card and checked it off against my passport then beautified my handwriting as he saw fit ... adding serifs to my capital "I", extending the stalk of my capital "Y" etc. Can you believe it?
- Then he flicked through and saw the word "Israel" in my passport. He couldn't read English (they read Arabic and usually French), so didn't understand that it actually said that the passport was not valid for entry into Israel (rather than anything to suggest that I have been). So he had to get a supervisor to clarify.
- I just couldn't believe the fuss for an Exit procedure. Fortunately the Syrian officers were much more efficient and experienced.
Like a Homecoming
Intercity taxies are no longer permitted to drop off willy-nilly so I had to take another taxi to the Riad Hotel where I had stayed twice before. It was like coming home! Abdullah working there truly makes the place ... he is cheerful and obliging, and organises fantastic trips for guests.
Unfortunately prices in Syria seemed to have skyrocketed. The hotel price is triple the rate indicated in the guidebook and I had to go to another hotel to check on their pricing (later) just to make sure no one was being shifty. Talking to other travellers, it seems like a sad fact that inflation been high especially in the accommodation sector.
I spent the afternoon and evening chatting to fellow travellers over drinks and meals.
Later at night, I went for a walk in the park with a Syrian guest from the hotel. I practiced my Arabic with him (he spoke no English). He picked up strangers' toddlers and kissed them and bought them snacks. I kept expecting the parents to call the cops! He said they're like his own kids back in Aleppo.