14 Baht Adventure

14 baht adventure

Standing at the Hua Lamphong train station early in the morning, covered in sweat and tired of the night drive from Chiang Mai, we just wanted to escape the big city. Steff told Jazz and me about the place outside of Bangkok where you can get Sak Yant aka bamboo tattoo from a monk. The city’s name: Nakhom Pathom. 1,30 hour ride. 3rd class. 14 baht ticket fare.

“Let’s have an adventure! Let’s go where tourists don’t go! ” -Steff was excited.

We looked at each other and got on a local train. Not that we had anything else in mind so let’s  have an adventure for 14 baht.

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Into the Jungle (Pai)

Into the jungle

Pai is a getaway. Pai is wild, yet it smells like home.

“Pai. You have to go to Pai. Don’t miss Pai.”
As soon as I arrived in Chiang Mai, other travelers  started telling me the same – go to Pai! I never even heard of  this small town, nestled in the hills of Mae Hong Son province in northern Thailand.
It was only a three hour ride from Chiang Mai so I bought the ticket.  The ride itself felt liberating. Golden light peeking through the glass of the mini van… Driving through the perfect jungle scenery. Bananas. Only bananas and the mountain roads.

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Smoothie Lady of Chiang Mai

Smoothie Lady

“What do you want to have today?” – my “smoothie lady” asked me every day while already pulling my favorite fruits from the refrigerator.

“You choose! I trust you” – I’d tell her and be delighted every time.

“Let’s start with passionate fruit, your favorite”.

“Sit and smile”

Because of this woman, Jirawan Chaidoungkaew, and her magical smoothies, I will remember Chiang Mai. Visiting her fruit stand in front of her home became my favorite routine while staying in the city.

I stumble upon it accidentally, when leaving the Thai massage salon run by the former female prisoners just across the street. I needed refreshment and saw the sign “Sit and smile”, as well as the names of the fruits I’ve never heard of or even tasted before, like passionate fruit and dragon fruit.

Not that I was just buying refreshing and healthy smoothies for 30 Baht, but  I was always greeted with a smile and no money can buy the feeling of being  truly welcomed.

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Night train to Chiang Mai

Night train to Chiang Mai

– Hi, I am Fred. I’m Canadian.

His shirt was green as our bed curtains in a night train to Chiang Mai.
– Hi, I am Ivana and I am from Croatia. Do you know where that is?
– Oh, I know. I’ve never been in Eastern Europe though – Fred said.

Stranger in the night

After two weeks in Bangkok, it was time to leave. The Road called me. And the Road knows. When the boat started moving, my heart started blossoming. I was waiting for some kind of excitement but all I could acknowledge was calmness. Bangkok wasn’t the place that could silence my longing for what never quiets – the wanderlust. Will Chiang Mai succeed in this game of taming, I asked myself.

“I love to travel – Fred started talking. – But I won’t be able to sleep. Trains, buses, planes.. I never sleep”.

His movements were slow. Gracious. I could see that his eyes have seen more than he remembers, whilst his skin was touched by the places I can still only dream of.

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4 Hour Flight Layover in Moscow

4 Hour Flight Layover in Moscow

I love airports.

People usually hate airports because of long layovers.  All the waiting and boredom and walking up and down can drive you crazy. I actually very much enjoyed my 4 hour flight layover at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. Vodka everywhere, interesting people and lots of different gates exits where you can sit and watch people leave.

Though I was in the ‘transit area’ for tourists without visa, and it felt as a ghetto, I loved the feeling of being “just” a number.  In airports everything is safe and scheduled until you step your foot into a plane. Then it’s showtime.

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People from Balkan countries

People from Balkan countries

„Let’s be honest. You are just a girl from a Balkan country. Your CV is incredible for a young person but unfortunately you’re not from Spain or Ireland. You are from the Balkans, therefore you can forget about the job”.

I am from the Balkans? Where is that? I thought I was Croatian. Do I worth less?
Questions were running through my head as I was walking from this, obviously, unsuccessful job interview for a position within international company. Tears were filling my eyes though I didn’t know exactly why. It was the first time someone addressed me as a “Balkan girl”.

I didn’t know what that means though it made me feel bad by the way it was said. What hurts the most, these words came out from a Croatian guy.

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Going home for Christmas

Sky is turning red as I’m peeking through the window in my coupe. I am going home for Christmas. Fifty! Fifty-one! Mister, sixty four is further down!  People are walking with their heavy baggage, looking for their seats, checking their reservation tickets. They are rushing as if it’s a guarantee for a faster arrival home.

Christmas music is bursting through speakers. It is the first time I hear music playing in a train and I’m waiting for the hidden camera to reveal itself! I’ve been traveling for years in Croatian trains and could write a book solely about it. Trains in Croatia are slow, rarely on time and you’re lucky if you find a seat during the rush hour or don’t end up stuck in the snow.

Obviously this is not a scenario in my train, as Mariah Carey is singing “All I want for Christmas is you”. A girl across me is anxious to get home. “I don’t feel Christmas here in Zagreb”, she says. “Christmas is home”. I wonder, how come she feels that way when every store, every street and every shiny lamp in Zagreb reminds you of Christmas. I am kind of a jealous at her. In a dreamy haze, she is so sure of her home. Continue reading “Going home for Christmas”