Day 5 - Sat 2 Dec 06
Up early to see if I can change a travellers cheque, but the bank doesn't open until 09:00, when I get inside I find they won't cash it unless I have the purchase receipt. I'd been told this, but I wanted to check it out for myself. So back up to the hotel and changed $30 of cash instead.
The taxi ride up to the bus station was the usual manic affair, and I was surprised that you had to go through security to get into the station, but it consists of a metal detector that I doubt works, a look in your bag, and a check of your waistband for a gun! Old world security.
Then I got dragged off to a coach company by a tout, and handed over 150SYP for my ticket to Palmyra.
The coach turned out to be quite a good one, but the windows were covered by pale blue curtains, so I didn't see much of the countryside, bit I don't think I missed much.
I was very popular as I stepped off the coach in Palmyra! The guy who guessed my nationality got the job of getting me to the Citadel hotel. The hotel started off at 600SYP for a room with a view, in the end I picked a room without a view (in fact no window) for 250SYP. I can't believe that I was arguing over 600SYP, that's about £6.
On the way out here I saw a cross roads with a road sign pointing the way to Baghdad - I hope to get there one day, but not just yet.
I dumped my stuff at the hotel and headed out to the ruins. They are Amazing. There's so much that is intact. After a couple of hours wandering around I headed back to the hotel to see if I could get a lift up to the citadel that over looks the ruins, to see the sunset. It started out at 250SYP and by feigning indifference I got it down to 100SYP. Then I realised that it was on the back of a motorbike! Well, when visiting Roman ruins, do as the Romans...
We headed up the hill with me clinging on for dear life with one hand, and taking photos with the other. The views from the top are spectacular, and you can see that the ruins spread over a huge area. After sunset and a lot of photos, it was back down the hill, and although it was still early I decided to get something to eat.
The owner of my selected restaurant was waiting outside ready to encourage people inside, I needed no second bidding, sat down to a cup of tea and ordered a chicken dish with rice, peanuts and peas. I got a starter that I didn't order. I think it was a chicken soup.
The food was good and I even had enough space for a lemon pancake. I was the only diner and the owner was having no success in encouraging any more punters into the restaurant. So I sat down and had a chat with the owner, while I was doing this a bloke came in and starts trying to get a discount. I piped up and told him that the food was the best I'd eaten in Syria. Then he walked out.
A few minutes later he drove up in a huge people carrier and him and his entire extended family got out, there must have been about twenty of them. The restaurant owner started to look a lot happier and his pal said that I was lucky for him. I paid my bill and made to leave when four more people came in. The owner reached into his pocket and handed me a roll of money, told me to sit down and stay a bit longer, and when to sort out the new arrivals.
I took 50SYP out of the roll, and told the owner it was my commission. He laughed and waved me off from the step of the restaurant and asked me to come back tomorrow!
It's much cooler here, and my room has no heater!