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A second try at leaving Damascus

We ate our second last breakfast, once again at the good old Al Negma. The food was just as incredible and affordable as we remembered it, and the owner was just as willing to give us directions to the bus station.

Except this time we were not headed up the giant booze-shop-lined hill toward the Ante-Lebanese bus station. This time we were headed on a domestic trip, to the fabled city of Latakia.

It was yet another near tearful checkout from the Ziad Al Khabir.

It was beginning to join the ranks of Steve’s Room and Motta’s apartment in terms of hosting AsiaWheeling for extended periods of glory. We said one last goodbye to its welcoming staff, endearing grunge, and Sudanese spiced onion-scented halls.  And with that, we wheeled to bus station.

The ride was pleasant. We had no idea of the schedule of the buses leaving, so we were in no rush. Damascus was as beautiful, dry, and sun-drenched as ever. As we were riding, a car pulled up next to us and called out: ”AsiaWheeling!” We looked over and it was none other than the man who had taken us under his wing on our first day in Damascus, helping us to repair Scott’s sandals and taking us for a tour of the covered market. We pedaled next to his cab, chatting for a bit, and in the end wishing him safe travels.

Once we directed our attention back to wheeling, we realized that we had missed a turn. Not to worry, though, for we were able to pull over in front of a giant military compound where we were quickly surrounded by fellows in all black with giant machine guns. The guys seemed mostly excited to see us and especially interested in talking with Claudia. She was happy to oblige them and was able to secure some very good directions for us. A quiet jaunt on a rather busy highway later, we arrived at the bus station.

I set up shop watching our things while Scott and Claudia headed out to compare buses. It seemed that all the buses to Latakia were selling out as we spoke, and their mission quickly dissolved into a frantic dash to secure tickets. But secure them we did, and soon we were relaxing in the blood red seats of a giant lumbering bus crawling its way across the desert towards Latakia.

The bus stopped halfway through the ride at an Arabic sweets shop, and we decided to buy some to keep us going. The sweets were particularly interesting, featuring the usual baklava-esque variants coupled with a new one, which  consisted of a large flat noodle stuffed with a sweetened cheese and chopped pistachio. Normally I am not too into sweets, but these were just too interesting to hold back on.

While we enjoyed the plate of sweets, Scott went to the counter to acquire diet cola.  While doing so, he struck up a conversation with a fashionably dressed young woman named Hiba who hailed from Malmö, Sweden. She was on her way to visit family in Latakia.  Originally from Palestine, her extended family had been relocated to Latakia in the mid-twentieth century, with her parents moving to northern Europe later on. Hiba and Scott exchanged Syrian phone numbers, and as they bid farewell, her younger brother sporting Nike dunks, a big purple t-shirt, and a fitted baseball cap came to accompany her back to the bus.

When we arrived in Latakia, we unfolded the cycles, and climbed out into the cool desert night. We were immediately befriended by a military officer on his way back to his home town for a little R&R. He led us from the station over to one of the main streets, from which he gave us directions to the city center. We wheeled on from there, noticing that our Syrian flashlights had, despite our charging them all the last night, somehow either failed to store energy, or had broken.

Fair enough. Latakia was lit plenty well enough, and soon we began to spot hotels around us. The first few we wandered into were a bit too pricey, but eventually we stumbled into a Tintin-themed place, by the name of the Hotel Safwan.

From there, we headed out in search of more of that amazing garlic mayonnaise-soaked shawarma, and wiled away the rest of the evening playing whist at a local hookah and ice cream joint.


  1. laura | October 17th, 2010 | 4:18 pm

    how the heck did you get from syria to the middle of russia?!?! did you go through kazakhstan?! fill us in! 🙂 safe travels and stay warm! laura

  2. Woody | October 17th, 2010 | 7:05 pm

    Hi Laura,

    I’m sorry to confuse you. We’ve been having some problems with the engine that we use to run AsiaWheeling.com. So what you actually saw was a couple of posts from the distant future, transported backwards in time and presented to you completely out of context.

    I recommend ignoring them and destroying all evidence that they were ever there. Don’t talk to them or interact with them; it’s the only way to be sure you won’t create a time warp!

    Constantly working to make our time continuity more continuous,

  3. Roosevelt Kacerski | May 6th, 2011 | 11:04 pm

    I am so happy I eventually located one else who shares my scenery and ideas. It is great to realize that you simply aren’t weird.

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