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Balabakk and the God of ThunderSince spending one week only in Beirut seemed to be bit too long, I decided to go to Balabakk to see the old temple when I switched the accommodation. The main transportation I used was of course Service. In the other countries, Service means a shared taxi operated with a normal car but here in Lebanon, the term covers a mini bus which carries about 10 people as well. Basically they are mostly used by the local people and not by foreigners except for the budget backpackers like us.

Almost all local people in the Middle East countries don't speak English but how do we manage to get in the local bus used by such people only. The basic strategy is quite simple; just repeat the name of the destination. Like "Balabakk? Balabakk?". If the driver beckons, this must be the bus you can use. On the payment, probably people around you help counting the notes. While the private taxi drivers often try to rip you off, this kind of thing usually wouldn't happen in Services as you just need to pay the same amount as the other people. Besides, in order to make the trip safer, it's quite effective to get notes of your destinations' names written in Arabic from the accommodation. Showing the notes, you can make sure the driver would drop you off at the destination. Oh, don't forget to get the name of the return trip's destination as well.

Temple of the God of Thunder

Balabakk and the God of ThunderThe ruin of Balabakk is very famous for the well preserved temples which were originally built in the ancient Roman era. The temple appeared absolutely magnificent even for me who is not usually engrossed with those kind of ruins. How come the ancient people could construct such a huge building? What's more, there were just a few tourists on the site and I could peacefully stroll around and shoot photos. This is very important as the tremendous number of tourists often spoils the atmosphere of the place though I know I'm a part of them.

However when I was enjoying photo shootings, the sky was getting darker. Although it was a beautiful sunny day in the beginning, before I noticed the sky had became gray and finally the big rain drops started falling with thunder and lightning. Coincidentally, the name of the temple I visited was "Jupiter Temple". In a way, this is a very well made story as Jupiter is known as the god of lightning. But I had to take shelter from the rain at the museum on the site for 2 hours. According to site managers, it hardly rains in the area, probably a few times of precipitations per year. Well, I should feel honoured for this rare experience.

Incidentally the name of accommodation I stayed at that night was "Jupiter Hotel" too. The price of 15USD for a dorm room without hot shower system was quite touristic but as there were no other visitors there I could use the room privately. Though they had a decent private room with shower, I'd rather go back to Beirut and eat something nice than spend 40USD for a mediocre room. There were nothing special to do at night and I was just reading book on a shabby bed. At the time, I was reading the Lord of the Rings on my iPhone and the adventurous story cheered up my heart towards travelling.

Meeting with a Nice Guy.

Next morning, the rain stopped and the sky became clear again. After walking around the area for a while, I made my way back to Beirut by Service as usual. After a while of the departure, the middle aged guy next to me tried talking to me with his little broken English. He said he was a lawyer living in the next town of Beirut. After chatting idly like "Where are you from?", "How's Beirut" and such, the guy suddenly offered me a lift to Beirut. In fact, the Service we were on would terminate on the outer edge of Beirut and I had to change the bus to go Downtown. Immediately the bad memory of being severely ripped off in Bangkok flashed into my mind but considering the circumstances, a guy who accidentally sat next to me on a local bus wouldn't be that kind of fraud. Besides, Lebanon was the country of Muslims whose principal is "Be gentle to travellers". Therefore, I got up my courage to follow him. Anyway, I can manage most troubles if I get seriously involved with some.

Somehow we went to his office at first and drunk tea together and after that he surely took me to the Beirut downtown, precisely in front of the accommodation. What a nice guy he was! In reality, the local people in this area were absolutely kind to travellers. I couldn't count how many times they helped us. For instance a man walked with us to the accommodation in a minor town; a lady tried to find someone who could speak English to help us. It was definitely because of their kindness that I could safely travel though the area that the language was totally different from ours. Thanks to them, I started thinking about being gentler to the foreigners coming to Japan after this trip.

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