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I am always game for a new experience; new high of travel and my wanderlust is insatiable.I like to explore a place through its unique experiences which can also include the usual checklist items aka touristy stuff, cultural experiences, culinary delights and of course it’s night life.
I am as comfortable sipping cappuccino at a piazza in Rome, nibbling on a sacher torte in Vienna, doing high tea at the iconic Plaza in New York as I am slurping “masala chai (Indian tea with milk, sugar and spices)” in non decrepit tea stalls of India. Leading a consultant's life across the globe has only added fuel to fire and having friends who love to travel with me has given me the confidence to embark on this life-long love affair.
I have travelled to over 30 countries across and world and intend to travel the world...
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Coco, Jumbo & Jordan in Split, Croatia
No matter where we go there are always stories to tell. Stories of our misadventures, mis-steps, follies and forced wisdom reverberate longer than the high-points and in similar spirit …there was no dearth of stories in Split.
Saved by the Baldo: I am usually more of a ‘go with the flow’ kind of person and have had my moments of glorious uncertainty. However, it’s not too much to expect to know where you will get your next meal or bed when you are approaching 30s. Since we had kept the travel plan pretty fluid and execution capabilities pretty non-solid, we had no pre-trip bookings for travel within Croatia. En route to Split, we decided to just find a place wherever we hit nightfall. The detour to Plitvice ensured that we reached Split close to 9PM, at the exact moment when the city miraculously lost its power in a very rare instance.
Lost, rejected by the only hotel we could find in the dark and stuck on a red light, a man approaches us asking if we needed a room. Either he had his night goggles and telepathic radar on or we wore neon signs saying desperate,but here was someone offering the exact thing we needed. Half skeptical, half relieved, we went along driving through windy streets and parked behind a public museum (apparently the only free parking slot in Split as he claimed). We made up for our lack of planning through the abundance of skepticism of his last minute cancellation and half price spiel and continued to negotiate and deliberate for a while. That lasted all of 30 seconds but seemed longer in the dark. Dreading all the possibilities right from our luggage being stolen to our throats being slit, a warm bed proved to be our beacon of hope.
Turns out Baldo was neither a serial killer, nor a thug and instead was a true blue friendly Croat and our savior. Not only the room was great, it was in the middle of the Diocletian palace in Split, a place we would never have found on our own in that dark night. Considering we were leaving Split the morning after, probably never in our lives. As glum and dark was the outside, equally lively, well lit (the lights came back within an hour) and beautiful was the entire area within the palace walls which has been converted into hostels, hotels, restaurants, bars , cafes, stores, museums and what not.
A quick shower, profuse ‘thank yous’ and armed with recommendations we were ready to hit town and first on the agenda was a great meal and a place to replenish our bodies with rakijas, only problem being it was too late. With good luck that started with Baldo, we were able to convince a restaurant (Figa Bar) to sneak in a last of grilled fish with just the perfect seasoning which we savored till they packed the last chair next to us. Next up was the only open and most happening gay bar (where we witnessed pillow throwing, table top dancing and fist fights), in Split and where we downed innumerous flights of rakija to just wash down the long day.
Strip Club Hopping: I hate stereotypes as much as my old building’s Mexican gardener but I also know that they have come to be for a reason, at least in primordial past. I also did not do very well in Economics in my not so primordial past but sometimes wishfully try to stimulate my residual economics brain cells. This led to combining the economics theory of a product/service being cheaper in the home market and the stereotype of majority of strippers in US being from Eastern European. So, after being in high spirits, a quick thinking on the feet moment concluded that we must go to strip clubs in Croatia. It was only logical as technically Croatia is in Eastern Europe and being a home market, there will be plenty of strip clubs for cheap; who knows even free? As anticipated, it did not please my accomplices Jordan and Jumbo very much but after 0.3 seconds of persuasion, they grudgingly obliged. Realizing that our motor skills were close to nil, we looked out for an accomplice and in these matters, there are no better people than the taxi drivers. 2 hours, 3 taxis, 4 Strip clubs, and 50 euros in cab rides later, we retreated to our beds. We were wiser by the facts that Split has ugly strippers, biased bouncers (they disliked anyone visiting from this side of the world), empty strip clubs with shorter poles and lap dances that can cost the same a kidney stone removal. Needless to say, we never saw the inside of a strip club.
Polaroid Prize – Before this trip, I had invested in a Polaroid camera that made me reminisce about my childhood, where dad would show us pictures immediately after he took them and we thought it was magic. It’s of little or no importance in this context here is that my primary reason was to use the Polaroid to catalogue my shoes by sticking the photos on the boxes. These days, everyone is familiar with iPhone, iPad, android, SLRs, DSLR and DDSLRs but people have forgotten about Polaroids. The thing about Polaroids is that it requires a whole new level of training of an unsuspecting victim you catch hold of to click a picture. So, the instruction is not only about how to use it, it’s also about where to expect the image to come from and the patience to let the film develop. Some get intrigued, some laugh but mostly people get very excited. Random people account for about 25% of my Polaroid pictures as they cannot resist getting clicked and taking a copy home. It’s all fun and good, except that the Polaroids cost a dollar per picture and sometimes no amount of instruction can compensate for non-existent brain cells.
While we walked inside the Diocletian walls in Split marveling about how it would be perfect backdrop for a movie, Baldo (our make shift tour guide) informed us of ongoing shooting of “Game of Thrones” in Split. Needless to say, all sightseeing was put on hold to catch a glimpse of the shooting. However, it was too early and we could only see a few people snooping around (tourists like us I thought!). We found another tourist loaded with like 3 different kind of cameras and asked him to click our picture near the so called “game of thrones” set. He stopped us at the first syllable of instructions saying he was a photographer and knew how to do this. We were delighted to get a picture clicked by a professional, till we discovered that he was THE photographer for “game of thrones” and was scouting the location for camera angles early in the day. That Polaroid is a prized souvenir from the trip.
Split turned out to be even more beautiful during the day and we decided to take on a Baldo guided tour of the roman Diocletian palace, cute plazas, local food (Fife) and sipping Croatian beer Kavlovacko by the lovely Split Harbour. It is also the port hub for ferries that go to all the nearing islands, mostly known for their beaches, nude beaches and nightlife. Soon, we were headed to Hvar, one of the more well-known islands off of Split and known for it's nightlife and beaches.
Caveat Emptor: All views expressed in this blog are solely borne out of my misconceptions, misconstrued notions and misunderstandings.