16 September 2018

Jordan road trip!

How and how long before do you plan a vacation? 
As much as I love to be spontaneous or at least try to, I plan my trips months ahead, which means, even before I return from 'this one' I already know when and where will I go next. Probably even when and where will I go after that 'next one' too. 
The reason why is simply because I can’t wait for it, I love to make plans, organize and have something like a new destination to look for! 

So, how did we end up planning a trip to Jordan? Fun fact, we were supposed to go to Central America in October/November (Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, Mexico...anywhere). In the meantime I changed my job and vacation time was only possible in August. The question was - now what?! Honestly I don't prefer traveling during July and August - prices go up, flights are fully booked, it's too hot or too cold, or too rainy, or too stormy #eyeroll so I started to roll the Globe...

There are certain destinations in the Middle East I haven't been to while living 'in the neighborhood' and after searching for good deals in different parts of the world I ended up looking at Iran, Lebanon, Jordan... Jordan it was!

Jordan - officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a sovereign Arab state in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, Israel and Palestine to the west.
Jordan is relatively small country, a population numbering 10 million.
Dominant religion is Sunni Islam.
Official language is Arabic, but most of Jordanians speak English quite well.
Currency - Jordan dinar (JOD or JD) is one of the strongest currencies in the world, just after Kuwait dinar, Bahrain dinar and Oman rial.
1 JOD = 1,21 EUR = 1,41 USD = 9 HRK 💰

TIP 1: before arriving in Jordan check out the Jordan pass - it includes a visa fee and lots of entrance tickets! We bought the Jordan Explorer and hadn't had to worry about paying the entrance anywhere we went. 

Day one: I took the night flight with Turkish airlines from Zagreb to Istanbul and further Amman. Landed around 5 in the morning. Since buses don't operate that early the only way to reach the hotel was taking a taxi. Taxi rates, as Google said, were around 50 EUR, but Jordan has its own version of Uber called Careem. 

TIP 2: Download the app, request a car when you pick up your bags from the carousel and head to the departures area where he will come and pick you up. Don't be afraid to answer the phone when some crazy looking number calls (it will say United Arab Emirates is calling you) - they just want to confirm the pick up place for you and the UAE number is calling you because their central office is located there.

Anyhow, the ride from the airport to the Arab Tower hotel, where we stayed for two nights, was 20 EUR! The car was new and clean, the driver was very polite and traveling alone at that moment made me feel very safe. I'm not one of those people who are afraid and who see danger in every thing they do so maybe someone would call me stupid and reckless but that's just me. 

6 am arriving in our hotel in the center of Amman, dead tired, went straight to bed. The receptionist at the hotel was more than helpful with tips on how to reach the Citadel and Rainbow street and of course letting me know how everyone around there knows about Croatia cause they all cheered for us during the World cup 😂

Amman is a city on 7 hills, just like Rome, so make sure to bring comfy shoes and be ready to walk a lot of stairs. The center of the city is very dirty, trash everywhere, however the touristy sights and most of the neighborhoods are clean. They have big fines for littering but somehow people still throw away trash out on the streets!

First one on my itinerary was the Citadel. 

After that I went to Rainbow street - on Fridays there's a flee market Souk Jara, where you can find all kinds of handmade/homemade things made by local small business owners. Souvenirs, food, books... Lovely little street full of stands and interesting things where I bought myself a hand painted shirt and bag - perfect souvenir 😍

Later in the afternoon my sister and her boyfriend finally joined me.  

Day two: we rented a car with Europcar for the week (6 days, full insurance, two drivers, wi-fi - 320 EUR) that we picked up at the airport and first on our list was Jerash. Just an hour away from Amman, this historical city is a blend of the Greco-Roman world and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient. 

Driving around Jordan was...interesting? Daring? Challenging? A bit crazy? Especially within the cities, but as they say - when in Rome do as the Romans do! 
Not for one second we felt unsafe (anywhere in the country!), on the contrary - it's very safe! Lots of check points along the roads, nice and polite police officers welcoming us in their country. 
It was a bit strange knowing that just a few kilometers away were the borders of Syria and Iraq, sad feeling of the unfairness in the world... 

TIP 3: If you plan your vacation in Jordan don't stay in one hotel in one city, don't make it your base and then pay for these one day trips in the hotel. It's a ripoff! The prices are way too high, it's tiring and you will be on the clock. Unless you like it like that, it's up to you at the end of the day. :) 

Day three and four: it took us cca 3 hours from Amman to Petra where we stayed in Tetra tree hotel for two nights.

TIP 4: Ask for upgrades in the hotels! Especially if you travel out of season. They will upgrade you without you even mentioning it, but if they don't it doesn't hurt to ask.

If you're looking for a place to eat, we warmly recommend Beit Al-Barakah restaurant where Mohammed will host you like at his own home. 
Visiting Petra, the Rose city, no words can fairly describe so I'm not gonna even try to do that. Pictures will do their own magic. 💜

TIP 5: take a guide for 2-2,5 hours. It costs 50 EUR but it's worth it! When you pass the gates they'll offer you a horse ride which is included in the price but be sure to have 5 JOD change per person for tips. Whatever you want to do, be ready to pay extra. If you want to climb up the mountain to take pictures of Petra from above - 10 JOD per person. Donkey ride - another 10 JOD per person, and so on... 

We walked approximately 20 kilometers that day! And still didn't reach the most faraway point of Petra - The Monastery. Remember those comfy shoes I mentioned earlier? Good, bring them! 

Petra by night is not included in Jordan pass so we payed 20 EUR per person for that experience. Be careful if you want to visit Petra by night because it doesn't happen every night The show runs only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Day five: on the way to Wadi Rum desert. A place where the movies Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian were filmed, we booked a tent in a Wadi Rum Dream Camp.

Sleeping in a tent, well, actually it was more like glamping since we were once again upgraded to a better 'room', was a unique experience. And not in a good way haha, we didn't sleep at all, it was too hot, even with the open door the cold night desert air didn't come in and I guess that was the day when all three of us got a bit stomach sick for the rest of our trip. 
Beautiful side of spending a night in the desert is the silence! Unimaginable silence, peace and starry sky... 
Dinner in the camp was not in the price and it was 10 JOD per person. Sunrise camel ride was 15 JOD per person, and the jeep safari was 50 JOD for the three of us.

Day six: In the morning we drove down south to Aqaba, the only coastal city in Jordan. Aqaba is a low tax, duty free city, and although is one of the major tourist attractions in Jordan I wouldn't recommend going there. We spent the lazy day at the beach of the Red Sea and by the pool. Maybe because we were sick and exhausted and didn't eat or sleep properly that place didn't leave any significant impression on me. We stayed at Dweik hotel 2

Day seven: The Dead sea. Didn't know what to expect, how the 'beach' will look like so we ended up a bit disappointed. Only big fancy resorts and two smaller ones with special prices for the locals are located along the coast. Fancy hotels are more than expensive if you just wanna spend a few hours at the pool and use their beach and showers. We found a smaller no-name one, payed 20 JOD per person to get in, float in the Dead sea, shower and leave. It is something you HAVE TO DO, however, in my opinion, it's not worth the time, energy or the money, unless you stay in one of those super expensive fancy and clean places haha. 

We got back to Amman and went to one of the shopping malls, just to walk around and have some proper dinner after two days of eating almost nothing. My flight was scheduled that same night, while D and H stayed another day before their flight back. And the hotel they stayed in was really nice - Gallery Guest Hoouse
Another night flight back home and the vacation time was over before I even realized it. ✈️   

Put Jordan on your Bucket list, Places to visit before I'm too old to walk or drive list or whatever list of travel wishes you have - you won't regret it! 
If nothing else, being hummus and tabouleh lover like me, you'll definitely enjoy every bite of this trip. :)

...already planning my 'next one'...this was country number 55 for me, going for 56 and 57 💪

06 August 2017

To my readers... 💓

When I first started this blog I never thought about who would read it, I never thought anyone would read it 😅 let alone it would lead to writing a personal column for Croatian online news portal...but it did.

Some situations in the last few months, actually, ever since I moved back home made me realize there were more than a handful of readers who followed me around the world through  my stories, more than I imagined. People who I knew nothing about started to get a name and a face. Well, some of them. 😋

Back then, writing in my own language made it so much more easier for Croatians (mostly girls) to contact me and ask questions, to ask for advice or to simply read about certain experiences and travel around through someone else's words and photos. 
When you come from a small country like Croatia where 'everyone knows everyone' it's most likely you'll have mutual friends with the person who contacted you or you'll end up having mutual friends eventually. Small country = big expat community, where everyone knows everyone, literally. 

That's how I got to know a lot of men and women, girls and boys who live(d) abroad who sent me those kind of messages. Nice and friendly, whether to just to say hi,  to share their experience or to just say I know how you feel, I've been there... At the time it meant a lot, more than you can imagine.

Some of the girls who contacted me with questions about the cabin crew job, application process or life in Dubai and everything else that followed, I got a chance to meet in all sorts of crazy coincidental situations! 😊

I was happy whenever I could've helped with any kind of advice, suggestion, piece of information cause I knew how it felt not knowing anyone and not having anyone to ask for that kind of help. And trust me, you have a gazillion questions and need just one person to make you feel more comfortable, to calm you down, to tell you it's not that hard, before you pack your bags, leave home and start that crazy expat (cabin crew) life. 
Even today, almost two years after I quit the job I'm getting the same messages with the same questions, and I still feel more than happy to reply.

Some of my readers I met on board... Croatian passenger on a flight to Kabul, Afghanistan I operated on recognized me and came to say hi after which my colleagues thought I was someone famous back in my country hahahaha! 😂 
I still owe her a drink 😄. 

As the time goes by, especially now when I don't write as often and since I stopped writing for Index.hr it's even more heart warming to hear that some person, there in the world, someone who I never knew existed, still reads and follows what I write or post about. It's so incredible to hear my friends meeting someone who 'knows' me just because that someone read something I once wrote. 😌
It's kinda weird for my father to call me from his business trip to tell me someone asked if he's related to me 'cause everyone in that company loved my stories.
For a nice pizza delivery girl who brought me pizza yesterday to tell me she recognized me from the pictures and ask if that's really me, to give me goosebumps and make me feel so happy (not only because she brought pizza ☝😂) by wishing me as many more travel miles as the wordy ones... 
It makes my heart grow! 💗

Sending you love!

09 July 2017

365 days later... :)

Hi there everyone,

it's been a year since I moved back home, back to my beautiful Zagreb... ♡

Wasn't as hard as many thought it would be! I heard so many opinions about everything, how I won't be able  to find a job, how I should forget about traveling once I get back, how crazy I am to even consider going back to Croatia, how I haven't thought it through or how I'll miss my old life for sure. What to say, I proved them all wrong! 😜

People who never left Croatia told me not to come back, but they couldn't have known how it felt to want to come back, the ones who left told me to think it through carefully but they supported me, the ones who left and came back understood me best. At the end it's all personal, subjective decision that varies from one person to another...

My decision to return to Croatia wasn't impulsive, hasn't been based only on emotions and it wasn't stupid (yeah, I heard that as well), not at all. I knew what I was doing, I thought it through so many times, gave myself time to process, I put everything on the paper, all the pros and cons, talked about it with family and friends a lot, calculated my financials and did all the homework before making this decision. The one that was best for me, knowing I can always move again, change my plans along the way, cause I am capable and not afraid of doing it.

Coming back is not a final, it's not my last stop and I never said it was forever. On the contrary, I still feel restless, I still have this wish to discover, explore and challenge myself, but for now is what I need. If the opportunity falls in my lap to go somewhere new again I'd take it, I'm open to everything, but I'm not desperately looking for one, not yet at least.

Summer of 2016 was my summer off, after which I applied for A job, and got that one, after a few months I applied for another ONE, and got that one too... Maybe I was just lucky but it wasn't hard to find one, like everyone predicted it'd be. It's a 9-5 office job and I like it! The job itself and the fact it's a 'steady, boring, same-people-every-day, office job'. 😃
I like the fact I have a schedule, to know when it's time to eat, sleep, work, work out, and I haven't been sick all the time! Plus plus plus. 😁
Who knows what will happen when my feet become itchy again...but I do enjoy this for now. 😊

Yes, I do miss certain things from my expat life. I miss the food, oh halloumi cheese, hummus, tabbouleh, dumplings, tropical fruits... I miss my friends and our days off, nights out, driving around on a scooter, my little students, living with my best friend. I miss Mc'Donalds delivery and sunny warm weather all year long. 😋 But do I miss the job? Would I go back to it? No. Not for one second I considered that option. I had a great time working as cabin crew, then it stopped being so great and that's why I left. As simple as that. Also Tainan, moving there I accomplished what I needed and wanted and when I felt it was time, I left. And it all felt sooo good! So no, I wouldn't go back to cabin crew life in Dubai if I had a chance to do so once again. 😉

The last thing that was pissing me off (pardon my French) was everyone telling me how I can forget about my far away travels, maybe once a year they said, maybe.
But once again - everyone is different. My priorities are not same as yours, my way of handling my salary is not the same as yours, what's important to me doesn't have to be important to you...so YES, I STILL TRAVEL! ☝✈

Not on daily basis, not with a discounted standby tickets, and not with a salary I used to have, but I do travel every few months, on my terms, the way I like to, with the people I choose to.
In the last year I've visited Dubai in November (yes, again, I know), Czech republic in January, Bali in March and now it's time for summer in Croatia! Don't think that's bad, not at all, considering plans for  the rest of the year and for the year 2018 are all in place already. 😄😎💪

I'm not saying and I wasn't going to say it was easy to come back, but it wasn't so hard either. Of course there are moments when I still feel like I don't belong here completely, I'm still finding myself lost in a way, Things have changed, little stuff you don't fully see while you're away, relationships changed, not for worse or better, they just did, some people left your life and some new came along.
I changed and only now and here I see how and in what ways. Other things stayed the same. Certain expectations got higher, there's a lot of explaining and adjusting, realizing all of the above and accepting it because YOU are the one who left, YOU are the one who came back and most definitely YOU are the one who has to adopt to everything, once again...

Moving back was as challenging as it was moving away, however I wouldn't change one thing, not one decision, not a day in my life, if I could. 💗


03 June 2016

Birthday trip!

Five months in Tainan just flew by and what can I say - it's been great five months so far :)
Not what I wanted to talk about today so let's just leave Tainan for another time, today I'll share with you a word or two about my last vacation in Philippines...

"Don't listen to what they say. Go, see!"

In my last post I told you about a birthday gift to myself, a plain ticket to Philippines! 
Buying an airplane ticket is so much better than buying shoes (and I LOVE shoes!), it feels like opening the first page of a new book. The feeling of not knowing what's waiting for you on the next page. You can imagine it,but before you get there and see it with your own eyes nothing can describe it so perfectly. The sweet waiting and anticipation...

To pick one of more than 7000 beautiful islands this country has was not easy, however, when the tickets are cheap(er) for one of those destinations it helps you decide. Palawan it was!

Two years ago I planned a vacation in Boracay with my friend Adri but ended up in Zanzibar instead because of visa requirements which was a bit tricky to make happen at the last moment considering the job we were doing back then. Nowadays Croatians don't require visa to enter this SE Asian country which was one more reason to chose it for my trip
The third reason 'why?' was the beauty of its nature, yummy food and friendly Filipino people. Well, those are actually three reasons but I count them all in as one category. Why? Because those are the only actual memories you will remember long after your trip...

You won't remember how your hotel room looked like but you will remember nice staff who helped you around, with a smile on their faces at all times! (and all the other people for that matter)
You won't remember how much you've spent but you will remember some of the most breathtaking sunsets, beaches, woods, mountains, waterfalls you've seen.
And for sure you will always remember where you had the most delicious fresh coconut, fish platter, burger, slice of cake or any other local dish in the country you've visited.

Since I've already been to Philippines many times before, but only in Manila, I couldn't wait to experience its other side - easy going, relaxed, poor but happy island of Palawan.

Must say my first thought about the place was that it looked a lot like Zanzibar. As I said, easy going, relaxed, poor, the same climate, similar food, approachable people...
Five days in a small hotel in the city of Puerto Princesa was really cheap and easy to find and book through Booking.com, but five days was not even closely enough to see all of what this island has to offer. 

Renting a scooter is also easy and cheap but be prepared to leave your passport at the rental place for insurance. Not the most comfortable thing to do though :/
Beaches around the city are not like the ones you see on the pictures online but if you take an island hopping tour you will enjoy the day swimming and snorkeling on those magnificent, surreal looking beaches you once only dreamed of visiting.

"The mind will not always remember exactly what happened,
but the heart will always remember the feeling..."

The other day trip we took was to the Underground River - one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Something really different and memorable, specially the part when your guide tells you to keep your mouth closed if you don't want to taste the bat poo falling from above! (...how do you know if all those drops are water or poo? Well, water is cold...) ;)
After 45 minutes in those dark scary caves I had to go and try the zip line. Nothing can beat the rush and excitement of a free fall out of the airplane but this was also fun and I ticked it off of my list!


Dining experiences were all more than satisfying. Whether you eat in a well known restaurant, beach bar or at the stand by the road the food will be delicious, service will be fast and you will leave happily full! The only thing in question is how much are you willing to spend on food and drinks? If you are a foodie like me prepare a little extra just in case you can't say no to tasting everything from the menu in every restaurant you go to :D
Just kidding, Or not? :p

Before you exit the country, at the airport, you have to pay a certain fee. My golden fish brain can't remember how much was it but don't exchange (or spend) all the money, local currency before you pay that fee. Be prepared ta wait because most of the times there are flight delays, and always and I mean ALWAYS have a mosquito repellent or two with you! Those little, flying, blood sucking beasts are merciless! Other than that you will have a really great time meeting interesting people along the way, making memories, trying out new things...

"The best things in life are the people you love,
the places you have see and
the memories you have made along the way."

Enjoy your upcoming vacations and summer/winter trips!
Happy and safe traveling everyone! :*