Monday, September 23, 2013

Georgian Vacation: Day 1/8 or “Why I (Irrationally) Hate Intercontinental Hotels” Part 1/2

As you may have heard, my parents have come to visit me in the motherland. They arrived from Turkey, will stay in Armenia for 2 weeks, then head back to Turkey, with a third wheel (me!) who also happens to be their favourite child (sorry Laura & Varouj, but I think we can all agree on this by now).

As a result, I am running around juggling work, being an awesome daughter/tour guide, and still pretending to have a social life. For this reason, I thought it would be a good time to post about my 8 day vacation in Georgia, that Gohar and I took together in July—despite the threat of the measles outbreak. The following is part one of day one. I hope it will give those interested in traveling to Georgia some useful tips, helpful warnings and a reminder that the more mistakes you make during traveling, the more adventures you will have (probably):

On July 2nd, 2013, despite the fear of measles, Gohar and I bought our tickets to have our Georgian beach vacation. Nothing and no one can stop us anymore. Not even a bad camera:
On the train ride there we take magnesium pills and immediately start watching House until we can't keep our eyes open. Of course the antsiest I become is when there is just 10 minutes left. I am so tired I just want to shut it off, but investing 40 minutes already is reason enough to stay awake and finish. I begin to resent the show and characters.
This episode sucked
We get off right before Batumi at Kobuleti. We walk to the water so I can actually believe this isn't just another Lake Sevan in disguise. We enjoy the beautiful view—albeit without any sunlight and head back to where we were dropped off to catch a mashootka to Batumi, and then hopefully to Gonio. A man standing beside another man cutting watermelon asks us if we didn't like the view and if that is why we are leaving. We say that it is great, but we have decided on Gonio as a friend recommended it as a non-tourist version of the general area. He agrees that Gonio is beautiful and I get a sense of closure. We are doing the right thing. We are going to have the best vacation EVER.

While waiting for the mashootka Gohar and I start to come to terms with the fact that we packed too much. We both had a carry-on size bag which should have been enough, but I also have a large canvas bag because Gohar forced me to take a pair of pants with me and I hesitantly agreed after she asked if I was crazy. I was bitter but decided if I was going to take another bag, I could fill it with more stuff, including those magnesium pills. Gohar also brought two yoga mats and had her own backpack and our deepest fear of looking like annoying tourists became a reality. I kept trying to convince myself—and her, unsuccessfully, that once we finished the peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, protein shake, bananas and lavash, life would be lighter and of course better. LITTLE DID I KNOW.

We waited at the mashootka stop and in about two minutes a mashootka heading for Batumi was coming. These are the times I wished I learned how to speak Russian instead of being impressed with my ability to remember 10 words. I am less than fluent. We met a cute tourist from Czech getting on the same mashootka and because Gohar is Gohar, she made sure this tourist who couldn't speak Russian very well (but better than me because he asked someone how they were and I became jealous) felt confident in where he was going and that she would make sure he got to where he needed to be (a place creatively called BATUMI HOSTEL).

While our initial goal was to go to Gonio, Gohar had a plan we only briefly talked about. Her friend had a complimentary package deal from Intercontinental Hotels as a result of being a part of TEDx. It would give us a free night at one of their hotels as long as it was on a weekend. The catch? We had to have e-mailed them, simply e-mailed them once to get this deal activated. The due date? July 31st, 2012. Gohar and I weren't going to let a little detail like that stop us from getting a free night in a hotel. FREE NIGHT IN A HOTEL. After a 12 hour bus ride where we slept maybe 3 hours max, which was interrupted by falling off the chairs on the bumpier parts of the ride, I started to imagine this hotel and what it would do for our morale...our trip...our lives. I imagined nice bathrooms, a clean shower and the most comfortable beds in the universe and a balcony to look down upon other humans not staying at this hotel. When Gohar told me I should be a little more pessimistic about even being able to get in, I went into defense mode. What kind of stupid rule was that anyways? Did they need us to confirm we were alive by July 31st 2012 so we could one day stay at a hotel of theirs for free? If the due date they assigned was for the actual use of the hotel, then it wouldn't annoy me as much (or would it?). But this was not going to slide. We deserved the hotel. I started thinking of ways to trick the imaginary staff person I assumed would be there. She would be in a bad mood and simply look at us and say “as it says directly on this package in bold, you had to e-mail just about a year ago. Please leave as we have celebrities staying here and you are worrying them”. To that I would retort “but I DID e-mail!! Your incompetent staff didn't receive it! So I e-mailed again, and again, nothing! I do hard work for TEDx and deserve this and I will not be made to suffer in a common hostel because your staff cannot reply to a simple e-mail”. I would then give them my e-mail address and frown my eyebrows. It would work, because it had to. I was becoming stressed in this mashootka about this imaginary fight.

Eventually we came to a stop where Gohar, cute Czech guy and I were meant to get off, with a very nice Georgian man who offered to take us to our destinations. At no point were we sure that he knew that we and Czech guy had different destinations, but it was better than walking around aimlessly. We chatted with Czech guy about his adventures and eventually we found his hostel, which was labelled BATUMI HOSTEL. I was a little jealous at how straight-forward his plan was. For us, we were hoping to stay in a hotel we didn't have a location for, with a 4% chance they would let us stay. The Georgian man asked about 5-6 different people and cab drivers about this hotel, and no one had heard of it. Our fears of being embarrassingly rejected shifted to perhaps having to come to terms with the fact that this hotel did not exist in the first place. I saw a well dressed woman with black eyeliner on and thought we should follow her. Gohar didn't agree.

We walked around for at least 40 minutes with our bags and the Georgian asking Gohar to go to the beach with him. The catch, of course. After a fourth “lead” on this mystery hotel we finally felt some hope and waited across the street from what might have been our mirage. I started getting very nervous because if this was the hotel, I had to get ready for the performance of a life time. I wanted to back out and just go with begging them to let us stay cause we walked in the rain and were tired and our shoulders hurt. Before I decided what strategy to use, the Georgian came back saying that was not the hotel and offered to take us down another street. We declined, thanked him and decided to rest before finding a mashootka to take us to our original destination, Gonio.

We ate a banana (electrolytes, represent!), drank water and tried to rearrange our bags so our shoulders would love us again. We walked until a cross light, hoping on the other side we would find the mashootka to take us to our vacation. I noticed three construction men opening a sewer that was clogged with plastic and right away noticed how attractive they were. They would pull a plastic bag out of the sewer, look at us and smile and continue taking stuff out. We missed at least 2 green lights to walk because we were distracted by pretty blue eyed boys. Then when we realized someone was crossing so we too should be crossing, Gohar told me to look behind me. I assumed the worst and in my paranoid state looked in every direction  except the direction she wanted me to look in until finally a man passed us to walk (third light we missed) and she told me he had a Toronto Canada t-shirt on and I missed it. We were about to follow him (because it was a green light, not because we are stalkers) but the light turned red and we felt defeated.

We decided to look at the three cute guys again until Gohar saw a mashootka coming directly our way that had a GONIO sign. She made a weird hand gesture out of excitement and the driver surprisingly stopped. We confirmed it was headed to Gonio and got the hell on. Gohar and I realized if we hadn't been distracted by cute men working or by Canada-guy, we would have missed that mashootka because we would have crossed the street like normal humans. This is a life lesson to never forget: stop and stare at hot people (non-creepily, of course).

                                                           ...TO BE CONTINUED!

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