Have a traffic fine? Pay it now!

Post by Mark

According to Major General Abdul Fattah Al Ali in the video above, they will soon be slapping travel bans on anyone who hasn’t paid their traffic violations. So if you have any fines (like I did) then you better pay them now. [YouTube]

You can check and pay your traffic violations online [Here]

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Hayete Bed & Breakfast – Beirut

Post by Mark

I really shouldn’t be posting about this place since I love it so much and don’t want it to be fully booked every time I want to go down to Lebanon. But, since I always put the blog ahead of myself, here is everything you need to know.

Hayete is a small bed & breakfast situated in the very beautiful and super busy Achrafieh area. It’s an apartment located inside a traditional/old Achrafieh style building that was converted into a cozy little guesthouse. The place is managed by a very friendly husband and wife and I’ve stayed there two times so far and on both occasions I had a great experience.

Hayete which means “My Life” in Arabic has just 4 rooms. Two of the rooms share a bathroom, the third room has its own bathroom and the 4th one has its own bathroom and an extra room (so it’s actually two rooms with two beds). The first time I stayed in the large two room room while the second time I stayed in the regular room with a shared bathroom. I loved staying there on both those visits.

No two rooms are furnished the same or even look the same. The floor tiles are exposed showing the original apartment tiling while the furniture is all vintage and really beautiful. There is a nice lobby area for entertaining guests and a balcony as well with a wooden table and benches in case you feel like sitting outside. I usually rent a car when I’m in Lebanon but since Hayete is located in Achrafieh, I usually prefer to skip the rental and cab it instead. Hayete is a 5 minutes walk to the main road where you can easily find a cab. More importantly though, Hayete is a short walk to the trendy Gemayzee street.

The rooms are pretty affordable starting at around $75 a night and that includes a traditional Lebanese breakfast served on the balcony every morning. It’s a super cozy guesthouse that feels like an apartment which is why my friends always love coming over to hang out a bit before heading down to Gemayzee. I highly recommend the place unless I find it fully booked the next time I plan a trip and then I’m going to delete this post. For more information and beautiful pictures of the place, checkout their Facebook page [Here]

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Next time you’re in Lebanon, take an ATV road trip adventure

Post by Mark

This past long weekend I spent it in Lebanon and among the activities I did the most fun was an ATV road trip adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect, I had just previously heard off a friend that you can take an ATV trip with a guide from the popular ski area Faraya, all the way to the Cedars (a few mountains away) and back. The trip ended up being just unbelievably fun.

Depending on where you stay in Lebanon, getting to Faraya will take you anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour with no traffic. Faraya is a popular destination in the winter since a lot of ski resorts are based there, but in the summer, it’s a popular destination for outdoor activities like offroading, mountain biking, camping and ATV exploration. I had booked a bunch of ATVs for me and my friends before arriving to Lebanon and because we wanted to start the day early we got to the starting location in Faraya at around 9:30AM. From there we got geared up, given basic safety tips and the chance to try out the ATVs before heading out on our trip.

The trip is 80% off road with the rest of the time being tiny tarmac roads. It was an incredibly fun journey full of beautiful scenery and general seclusion with no people for miles and miles away. The route heading out was different than the route coming back so that way we didn’t get to experience the same scenery twice. We weren’t expecting the weather to be cold so we didn’t get jackets but our guide recommended we got some since we would be going up to the highest peak in Lebanon (around 2,750 meters high). Luckily we found a small store near the starting point that rented out ski jackets and good thing we got them because with the jackets on we were still freezing our asses off in some stages of the trip.

The journey in each direction took around 3 hours and we past through a variety of different environments and terrain. We were constantly putting on and taking off our jackets and the road surface would change from rocks to dirt and to sand as we went up and down different peaks and valleys. Our destination was a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere next to a beautiful lake. Once we were done with lunch we headed back to our starting point but this time on a different route and an extremely beautiful one filled with green fields, lots of hills and a dirt trail (a lot more comfortable than a rocky one).

The total journey with lunch lasted just over 7 hours but time really flew by quickly and I even wished it had lasted longer. There were a lot of interesting things we got to see along the way as well. At one point I thought I was going to get kidnapped when a man on the side of the road walked towards me with an M4A1 Carbine Assault Rifle as I drove by. Luckily turned out he was after something/someone on the other side of the road and not me. We also got to drive through huge (and I mean HUGE) cannabis fields where at one point a dodgy looking lifted pickup truck filled with men tried to stop us as well. Our guide had also told us we would be driving through snow walls as high as 6 meters. Of course none of us had believed him since we were in June so you could imagine our surprise when we did end up surrounded by 6 meter snow walls at one point of the trip.

This was an incredibly fun adventure and one I really can’t wait to go on again. Since we were four people the cost for the trip was $225 per person (guide included). If you’re less than four it’s $250 and if you’re more than four you could probably negotiate a better price. You could also share an ATV with someone else since it can hold two people and that way split the amount. But I have to say it was EXTREMELY worth $225. Make sure if you do take this trip to expect to end up covered in dust and dirt. Also bring a jacket with you as well. We rented the ATVs with the guide from a place called Red Runner. Their phone number is +9613178866. Have fun!

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Long term parking in the short term airport parking lot

Post by Mark

Since this weekend was a long one, the long term parking at the airport was completely filled. Usually I’d wait outside until someone leaves but I figured this time around it wasn’t going to happen so I decided to park at the short term parking lot instead. According to the sign at the entrance of the short term parking, the cost would be 200 fils for the first hour and then 400 fils for every hour after that. Calculating that into a day would mean it would cost you KD9.4 for 24 hours which is a ridiculous sum. Luckily, thats not the case.

The short term parking has a maximum fee of KD4 a day. Although expensive, it does mean if you’re traveling for just the weekend and the long term parking is full then you could park in the short term one as an alternative option. I left Thursday morning and came back Sunday morning and the total was KD16, double the price I would usually pay if I had parked in the long term lot.

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Armenian Food in Beirut

Post by Mark

If you’re ever in Lebanon you need to pass by a small restaurant called Onno. It’s located in an area I love called Burj Hammoud which is the “Little Armenia” of Lebanon. The area is a must visit destination in any case and this tiny restaurant should be even more reason for you to go there. I found out about the restaurant from an Anthony Bourdain episode and since I had a friend visiting Lebanon we decided to pass by and try it together. The small family run restaurant serves delicious Armenian dishes at very reasonable prices with my favorite dishes being the “kebe adas” and the “basterma with quail eggs”. You can watch the Anthony Bourdain episode on Lebanon below which features the restaurant at the start and here is a link to their [Facebook Page]


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Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

Post by Mark

I was in Beirut over the weekend and on this trip I ended up staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Beirut. The hotel is located in what I think is one of the nicest looking towers in Beirut, right in front of the very popular Zaituna Bay and so I was really looking forward to staying there.

Right from the moment I stepped out of my rental I knew I was going to be enjoying my stay at the hotel. The customer service at the hotel was just better then any other I had previously stayed in before and I’ve stayed at many. The feeling I kept getting is that every single employee wanted to help make your stay better, and by every single employee I don’t mean just the reception staff or managers, I mean everyone from the valet guys, to the housekeepers to the waiters. I think its the words they use but you just get this feeling that you can ask them for whatever you want and they’d love to do it and that made me super comfortable in asking them for stuff which I tend not to do.

Other than the excellent service my room was also very comfortable. I had overpacked on this trip but there was more than enough closest space and drawers to accomodate all my stuff. The room wasn’t that big but the bathroom was with a large sink area, tub, shower room, toilet room and a makeup table. The room had a balcony that was big enough to fit a table and two chairs and finally there was free wifi in the room and the whole hotel. My favorite part of the hotel though would have to be the roof. During the day the roof is a cool place to swim and tan but at night it’s an open air lounge overlooking the Mediterranean sea and Beirut.

I do have two minor complaints though. The first issue the hotel really can’t do much about but the view from my room could have been better if there wasn’t a large sand lot right outside. I live in Kuwait so I would rather not see sand lots when I travel. Even though the hotel is right in front of Zaituna Bay, my room was more on the side and I could only see the marina if I was on the balcony looking left which was disappointing. The other issue I had was with their breakfast. It’s not a breakfast buffet and one of the things I look forward to the most in hotels is their breakfast buffets. At the Four Seasons they have a dried fruit, fresh fruit and cereal buffet but if you want any hot dishes you have to order them. The advantage obviously is your breakfast is made for you and so is fresh, but the disadvantage is it takes time to make and you also can’t just fill up your plate with whatever looks good like you would do at a regular buffet.

In the end though I had a really good time at the hotel. I generally don’t tend to spend much time at hotels but on this trip I was having all my friends come over so we could just chill out on the roof. The incredibly friendly service and the lounge on the roof made me really love my stay. I’d most likely stay there again once I’m done reviewing other hotels in Beirut.

Here is the link to their [Website]

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Jumeirah public beach

Post by Mark

I’m not a fan of Dubai but it’s really getting difficult not to appreciate what they’re doing there. This weekend I ended up going to the Jumeirah public beach and was left extremely impressed. The beach was huge, super clean and the water was crystal clear. There were a ton of sailboats, kite surfers and everyone was just minding their own business. I loved it.

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Kuwait Airport long term parking on weekends

Post by Mark

The long term parking at the airport is so small that on weekends it’s usually closed with a sign saying that it’s full and you’re basically forced to park in the short term parking and pay an exuberant price or park outside the cargo terminal for free but have to take the long walk back to the airport. Since I’ve been traveling a lot I kinda developed a routine which was working pretty well for me until this past weekend.

What I do now is get to the airport early like I usually do but I park in the short term parking. I then checkin to my flight and once I get the boarding pass I get back to my car and just park it outside the long term parking entrance and I sit and wait for someone to leave so that security will let me in. Usually it takes 15 to 30 minutes and it’s became a routine that works for me.

So this past Thursday, 30 minutes had passed and no one had left but since I had already checked in and still had around an hour for boarding I was doing ok. Then a car pulled up behind me and a Kuwaiti guy got out and came up to my window. I rolled it down and told him parking was full and I was waiting. The guy then goes to the security office and a few minutes later comes back with a Kuwaiti security guy who comes up to me and is like I am going to let the guy in because he wants to try his luck and look for a spot. I told the security guy I had been waiting here for 30 minutes now why can’t I go in to “try my luck”? Then the Kuwaiti guy came and told me to move my car so he could go in. I was like no, I was here first and I have been here for 30 minutes and I am not moving. The security told the guy in Arabic that I was a westerner and you know how stubborn they can be. The Kuwaiti guy kept trying to get me to move and telling the security he had his whole family in the car and his flight would be taking off soon etc.. etc..

Finally around 10 minutes later a passenger comes into the long term parking and was leaving. I tell the security guard I should be let in first to park and then you can let the other guy go in and try his luck. Of course he didn’t listen and let both of us in. I ended up driving the wrong way to get to the parking spot first to park.

So much drama just for parking. We definitely need more long term parking spots. My temporary fix would be to combine both the short and long term parking spots into one and then develop a pricing plan that would work for both. Until then it’s going to be like this every weekend.

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Nu Hotel – Milan

Post by Mark

Last weekend I went to Milan and stayed at a trendy little hotel called Nu. It was actually my second choice since I had originally set my eyes on Hotel Straf, but Nu Hotel ended up coming in at half the price which made it the obvious choice.

The hotel is not located in the city center and is not walking distance to Duomo which is actually a good thing. Duomo is in the city center where all the cathedrals, department stores, franchises, luxury brands and ALL the tourist are. Many people actually want to be in Duomo which is fine by me but I would rather shop and stay in places with more locals than tourists. The hotel is located 5 minutes away from the Metro anyway which means a ride to any part of Milan will mostly take just under 20 minutes.

My room was pretty spacious for European standards but what probably helped the room look even more spacious was the super large window that occupied most of one wall. It brought in a lot of soft natural light into the room even on an overcast day. The room had all the regular amenities like free interent, mini bar, a safe and breakfast in bed should you choose. The customer service was fantastic, I was having minor issues with my AC since in typical person from Kuwait style I wanted it on all the time and at the coldest possible temperature and they were extremely helpful with sorting that issue out for me.

There wasn’t much going on around the hotel other than a happening bar across the street. Other than that everything on the street was usually closed by nightfall. If I ever go back to Milan I wouldn’t hesitate staying at Nu Hotel. Here is the link to their [Website]

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Basel World 2013

Post by Mark

A few months back I was sitting with the owner of Tag Heur and Patek Philippe in Kuwait and we were discussing watches when he asked me if I would be interested to cover Basel World for my blog. Basel World is the worlds largest watch expo which takes place every year and this year was going to be a bit more special since it would be the first Basel World held in the newly renovated exhibition building. I was also told I could cover any watch brand and not just their own brands so here I am at Basel World.

This is easily the largest expo I have ever been to. The exhibition building is huge and the booths, they’re not even booths they’re gigantic structures, like mini buildings inside a bigger building. I am not sure my pictures below do justice to the place since you really have to be here to see how huge these booths are. The exhibition building is three floors and each floor has a super high ceiling with super high brand booths occupying a ridiculous amount of space. I spent all day yesterday just walking around quickly trying to at least see everything quickly and I thought I had until after I left I was checking the Basel World App on my phone and I realized I missed two exhibition halls completely.

To be able to enter the booths you need to be invited in (like if you’re a watch collector or a VIP) or you need to be one of their dealers. Since I am in good contact with the dealers in Kuwait I am getting access to most of the brands I want to see except for a couple. Below is the list, if you can help get me access to the ones I am having trouble with let me know.

Hublot – Have access
Tag Heur – Have access
Patek Philippe – Have access
Chopard – Have access
Rolex – Working on access
Brietling – Working on access
Casio – No access (help needed)
Harry Winston – Have access
Omega – Working on access
Citizen – No access (help needed)

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