The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

CATHERINE Tay­lor is an Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist who has lived and worked in Lon­don, Melbourne, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Beirut, and now re­sides in her home town, Syd­ney. She re­cently re­leased a travel mem­oir, OnceUpon­aTimein Beirut , a look at Le­banon fol­low­ing the civil war as the coun­try was slowly be­ing re­built. www.ran­ A trip through the souk (mar­ket) in Da­m­as­cus never fails to in­spire my in­ner in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor. It has ev­ery­thing from hand-wo­ven rugs to Euro­pean and Ori­en­tal an­tiques. The Syr­i­ans are skilled at pro­duc­ing beau­ti­ful wood­work in­laid with mother of pearl and I adore the huge wooden dowry chests and mir­rors. My other favourite is the met­al­work: big brass balls with in­tri­cate cut-outs to use as light fit­tings and cof­fee pots made from beaten old metal. www.syr­i­a­ AISHTI, BEIRUT A fash­ion­ista friend of mine once rated Aishti, a cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories de­part­ment store in Beirut, as the best place she has ever shopped. All the must-have la­bels are un­der one very glam­orous roof. And the an­nual sale is fan­tas­tic. PALMYRA HO­TEL, BAAL­BEK I adore the Palmyra Ho­tel in Baal­bek in JOWAL­BINNA ROCK ART SA­FARI CAMP There is a won­der­ful gallery of Abo­rig­i­nal rock art near Laura in Cape York that is counted among the world’s top 10 rock art sites. The works are painted in sand­stone caves and on ledges all around the area and fea­ture de­pic­tions of spir­its known as Quinkans that are said to emerge at night from the rock crevices. The re­gion is spec­tac­u­larly beau­ti­ful and re­mote (you have to hike in to see the art). It’s rare to be able to view art amid the en­vi­ron­ment in which it was cre­ated. www.jowal­ MAR­KETS, DA­M­AS­CUS, SYRIA Le­banon’s Bekaa Val­ley. It’s low­ish on com­fort but very high on quirk and at­mos­phere. It’s in a gra­cious 130-year-old build­ing with a colo­nial am­bi­ence; the gue­strooms at the front have small bal­conies that over­look Baal­bek’s amaz­ing Ro­man ru­ins with a view in win­ter to snow-capped moun­tains be­yond. Beds are mostly four-posters and the walls are crammed with orig­i­nal sketches by Jean Cocteau. projects/baal­bak. LA­MALERA, IN­DONE­SIA A few years ago I went to La­malera, a re­mote vil­lage in In­done­sia built on the slopes of an ac­tive vol­cano. To get there you go to Bali and keep is­land­hop­ping east. The res­i­dents of the is­land have tra­di­tion­ally sur­vived by hunt­ing sperm whales us­ing the old­fash­ioned tech­nique of wooden cleated boats and bam­boo har­poons. They catch very few whales each year and use the meat to barter at the mar­ket. The In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion recog­nises their hunt­ing as tra­di­tional. I spent a month on the is­land and saw blue whales sur­fac­ing just me­tres from our boat, gi­ant manta rays, schools of thou­sands of yel­lowfin tuna, dol­phins and sharks. http://my-in­done­ Sharon Fowler

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