Despite the rain in the morning, I had to hike down to the town centre to catch the Marshutka (minibus) to Tbilisi because I had a flight to catch tomorrow to leave Georgia. It had been a good and interesting week so far. However, we all have to say goodbye to a place or to a person at some point. Where there is a beginning, there is an end. This applies to all journeys. Sad. But we all have to live with it.
I went down to a shop (yes, a shop) to get a minibus ticket. It was interesting. When I went from Tbilisi to Mestia, I couldn’t buy any tickets in advance. I honestly didn’t understand the transportation arrangements in this country.
While I was waiting inside the shop for the minibus to come, I met a few people. One of them was an American guy who was also travelling on the same minibus as I was. He was speaking Russian with the lady at the shop. I didn’t think I could survive this 9-hour trip if it weren’t because of him. We talked during the whole trip. In the end, he said I was the only person whom he talked to for so long during his trip in Georgia. Same for me too. 😀
We brainstormed what we should call ourselves should we start our blogging business. He brainstormed a lot of ideas for me but I used none of them. Learn x Travel came up a few months before I went to Cambodia. I got him a very good one too. 😉 I forgot what it was though. Maybe he has started it or maybe not. I’d love to know. It’d be hard for me to find out as I don’t even remember his name.
Another thing I didn’t expect was I had been talking to a person who won the Lonely Planet Blue List competition and went to Morocco with 3 other winners and met up with the other Lonely Planet writers!
However, he didn’t continue this path. Instead, he chose to teach English in Dubai (I’m an language teacher too!). I encouraged him to continue with this travel writer’s career. He was working in a foreign country anyway and he travelled all the time. He had been to around 60 countries. He told me one of the winners actually continued and now she got to travel for free. 😱
That is my dream!!!
Someone is living my dream!!!
Half way to Zugdidi, we stopped for a toilet break. And I went into a restaurant as I smelled some nice food. As I was looking at the food, a girl tapped on my shoulder. Seriously? Again? For the second time? (the first time was in Tbilisi)
Who could that be?
It turned out it was the Polish girl that I met last night at dinner!! The two girls were travelling to Batumi. Georgia was so small!! They were joined by a Georgian guy. Well, of course, I took this opportunity to share with him our numerous Georgian toasting experiences that we had last night. He laughed his head off. Sometimes you have to talk to foreigners to understand more about your own culture – how interesting your own culture can be.
Our minibus didn’t take us to the centre of Tbilisi. Good that the American guy can speak some Russian. He told the driver of the minibus to stop and we stopped in the middle of who knew where.
The American guy wanted to take a taxi but I instinctively said ‘let’s try to hitchhike’. While he was still hesitating, a car pulled over and took us to Freedom Square. Perfect! That’s where my hostel was. That was my first hitchhike in Georgia and it was the last one because I would leave tomorrow.
Before the American guy left for a Thai massage, he recommended me to try the local Georgian water Borjomi. Well, I had accomplished my first mission which was to buy the red wine from the vineyard. It was time for me to accomplish my second mission – to visit the supermarket and buy Borjomi water.
Speaking of mission, apart from the Georgian wine and food which brought me here, there was one more mission I needed to accomplish. I secretly added it to my to-do list after the free walking tour. That was, the Georgian massage!
I checked the Thai massage parlour yesterday after the 9-hour minibus ride but they all looked very dodgy and the owners of my hostel told me they were not real massage parlours. They were brothels. Then she went on telling me that there were Geisha in Georgia now. Hm… it is still hard for me to comprehend. Considering the low living standard in Georgia, I am sure those girls can earn more in Japan. Maybe they target the tourists only.
Anyway, in the morning of my last day in Georgia, I walked to the sulphur bath place where the free walking tour took us to and checked out the prices and found one that charged me 52 Gel including the hot bath and the massage but the place was a bit… well, not too appealing. The smell of sulphur was quite strong which was good and I apparently liked it. I know some people think it stinks, but having lived in a country with this kind of smell for a few years, I did miss it. Nostalgic. Homesick.
I got in and used my last 50Gel note and coins. The hot bath was sooooo gooood! Once my feet got into the water, they didn’t complain anymore. They were happy. I was told to stay in the hot bath for 15 mins but I just couldn’t stand it. It was just too hot. I jumped out of the water after I soaked myself for 10 mins I think.
My masseuse came in. She was a stout woman. She started rubbing my body and patting on my back. And then all of a sudden, she threw some hot water on my body. Gosh! That really startled me! But it felt good after she did it a few times. She didn’t massage my legs though and the whole ‘massage’ lasted for less than an hour. I think it was only 30 mins or less. Duh. The funny thing was, after she massaged me, she took a shower in my massage room. Huh?!
Next time, if there is next time, I will just stay in the hot bath without the massage. I still wanted to do another massage after I went back home.
Before I went back to the hostel to pack my stuff, I had a few chores to do – I bought a jar of homemade strawberry jam which was highly recommended by the American guy yesterday. He said the jam here was very natural and sweet so I bought one. Then an ice cream. Georgians may not know how to make sensual chocolate (I couldn’t find any hot chocolate served in the cafes here and the chocolate ice-cream that I tasted wasn’t that good) but they do know how to make creamy and smooth vanilla ice-cream. Yum!
One last important thing. As I had not much money left and I still needed to travel to the airport, I needed to get some money, coins especially, for my bus trip to the airport. No, there was no point of going to the ATM but there was definitely a reason for me to go down to the metro… to return my metro card and get the refund. 🙂
To return the metro card, I needed to present the receipt that I got when I purchased it (make sure you keep your receipt) and my passport. I didn’t know about the passport bit so I had to go back to the hostel and then back to the metro station one more time to get it done.
The funny thing was the staff at the metro station only knew that I could take a bus to the airport. She didn’t know about the new train that connected the central railway station and the airport. She didn’t even know if I could return the metro card at the airport. She said ‘maybe’. She was very nice though. But I think they needed to know more about their company and the services that their company provided.
That reminded me of an incident at the information centre in Mestia. I asked about what activities we could do in Mestia, the staff at the centre said, ‘I don’t know what kind of things you like. How do I know what activities you can do?’ instead of asking me, ‘what are you interested in?’
Understanding your customers is the first thing a customer service staff needs to do. Yes, corporates, hire me to train your customer service staff or hire me to design your customer experience. 😉
So, that marked the end of my trip in Georgia.
I’d miss the food and wine.
Where there is a beginning, there is an end.
Where there is an end, there is a new beginning. 😉
16 June 2017 and 17 June 2017
P.S. My friend asked me, ‘how can you remember all these details in your trip?’
‘I keep a journal.’
For the 17 June 2017 journal, I wrote it at the airport in Istanbul. It was a long layover. There were still 3 more hours to go after I finished writing my journal. I was so bored and sleepy. I found a spot where there were not too many people. My eyes were half closed. I didn’t want to spend a dime on anything during that layover. There was no free drinking water in the entire airport in Istanbul. I missed the airports in Hong Kong and Singapore – both had drinking water and both looked so clean and bright.
I’d come to this Istanbul airport again in my future travel. Stay tuned. 🙂
If you want to check out my first day in Georgia, come this way. 🙂