Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Hitchhiking from Plovdiv to Istanbul

I went to the bus station in the morning only to find all my plans in ruins. All bus fully book. Only one bus at 7pm with last remaining seat that would reach Istanbul at 230 in the morning. Next available bus was tomorrow

I took a cab back to the Crib hostel …. My head in dilemma thinking how to get out of the Plovdiv wormhole. It did not took Yebba much to convince me to hitch hike with her to Istanbul but I was not in the chirpiest mood of doing it either.
Yebba was the Glass half full while I was the Glass half empty

Get ready I said for we need all the daylight we could get.
Got a cardboard from Yoskov the owner of the Crib hostel to write Istanbul on in, Catch a cab  and headed out to the highway in the direction of Istanbul.

It was the beginning of a crazy adventure for me and Yebba hitchhiking to Istanbul
The First Ride

The Start of a Hitchhiking adventure
Armed with a cardboard written Istanbul I and Yebba was at the offshoot just outside the city limits of Plovdiv along the main road that people would have to hit if they were to head towards Istanbul direction.

Last of my money about 4.20 lav we spend on the taxi and I and Yebba have no more Bulgarian money at all. I still had euro and pounds and us dollars on me but they were useless at that point or even if I did manage to use them it would be bad since it was in big notes.

Moment of truth I guess and we prepare our self on the side of the road. Almost immediately a guy started walking towards us and guess what, he had a cardboard as well and was hitchhiking somewhere else. We had competition. If there was nothing worst during hitchhiking it was hitchhiking behind another. He was a smart one as well and walk up the road to be the first in line of vision.
Yebba being a girl and wearing a sexy short pants, sunglasses and stylish hat was gung ho in trying to get us a ride. I sat on my backpack and held the sign while Abbey held out the thumb. Within minute she was walking up and down, dancing, shaking her butt and doing the craziest things a hitchhiker would do short of flashing to get a ride. In short … she has seen too many chick flick TV.

My Crazy Hitchhiking Partner

We got a lot of attention alright and I said at least it was a good sign that people do look at us and gave us a thumbs up thou they did not stop. Half an hour later I even notice drivers from opposite direction give us the horn and thumbs up. WTH I said and Yebba replied …. It’s because I am shaking my ass. *roll’s eyes*
It hit me then that we would never get a ride this way as cute as it seam. Drivers was dancing behind their wheels when they saw Yebba’s dance at the side of the road, thumbs up, a wave, a horn and a cheeky smile from almost every driver but who the f*ck would pick up a crazy bitch that was dancing to get a ride. If I was driving I would think twice or if I were horny I would stop straight away but I guess me an Asian guy being around next to Yebba kinda ruin the horny people approach.

An hour passed. …. Wanna swap ?? I asked Yebba
So her turn to sit down and hold the sign Istanbul and I stood up and raised my thumb. The boring approach, no dancing no hanky panky just sombre hitch hiker trying to get a ride. I did my best to look not at the car but at the drivers eyes as much as I could. I like to think it was my puppy eyes pleading that got us a ride but you’ll never know. The fact was I got us a ride.

The first ride … now we were on the road and away from Plovdiv this hitch hiking was really happening. Before the first hitch there was a safety net of just going back to the hostel but now that we were on the road, it was committed and we had to get to Istanbul or at least a safe zone for the night. It was about 2pm when we got the first ride.
Our first kind soul named Georgie was a Bulgarian on the way to the border town between Bulgaria and Turkey called Svilengrad. I guess it was a bit ambitious thinking we would get a whole ride in one hitch. Georgie was an ex-military and police force. A paratrooper in fact and he was on his way to pick up his wife after the Ramadan holidays. His English was not that good and after a good 20 minutes of introductions and effort trying to mime and chat I left the conversation to Abbey in the front seat and dozed off.

I remember Rich & Mike (A pair of British I met whom hitchhiked from Indonesia to England) once said to me that sooner or later you will doze off in the car when hitch hiking. You can only hold conversation for so long.
Border Crossing Bulgaria to Istanbul
Border Crossing Bulgaria to Istanbul
Georgie left us smack at the border. Then it was the question if it was even possible to walk across the border. Yebba was convince that we needed a car to cross the border and that we could not just walk across. No one would pick us up at the border I said. Too dodgy. I would never pick up someone at the border for sure. What happens if he was a drug mule …. Or what happen if a drug mule wants two dumb tourist to camouflage his van ??

Into Turkey
We walk to the nearest counter and asked the immigration officer I said … and they were nice enough to process it and told us that we could walk through no problem. Ironic and I could not help a big grin as we stand there in the car lot blocking the Car behind us while we process our passport. Between Bulgaria and Turkey it was a 500m walk at most. In between they even had a duty free building and toilets and food breaks and a money changer.
Border Crossing Bulgaria to Turkey
4pm …. We got food changed some Turkish Lira and headed out to the Turkey side of immigration. Malaysian Passport … no visa required …. Free entry. Australian passport go buy your visa …. 50 euro. I have to say we crossed that border pretty fast on foot for all the cars were lined up like ants we could just walk up and cut the queue of the car line. There was no pedestrian counter only car and busses counter. We just walk up and cut queue since we dun have a car and got a stamp as if we were driving.

Hello Turkey …. But the hitch hiking was not over yet … round two … time to work that ass again Yebba.

The Second Ride

Unknown to me, while I was trying to walk out of the small road towards the main fork going to Istanbul Abbey was putting her thumb out while following me behind. A guy (name forgotten – and shall be named Mothom ) in his pick up truck stopped and could not speak English but asked us to jump in anyway. Inside we manage to communicate a little and he said he could give us a ride as far as Erdine or slightly further down the highway.

The Road after the Turkey Border
Luck was on our side we thought ….

On The Road Again to Turkey
He pulled over for diesel, bought us cans drinks, 20 minutes later he pulled over the first rest stop and decided to hang around for some chit chat. He was also fascinated with Yebba. I asked him about family if he had one …. And he said no …. He asked us the same and we said no. When Yebba said no he pointed at her and himself and said family. I thought it was a joke and so did Yebba at that time ….. only later did it get really creepy.

I think he got us like 60 km from the border and dropped us of smack on the highway, a three lane highway. There was an offshoot road which he was heading and we were going straight to Istanbul.
Round 3 of working. Yebba was up again. I guess we see too many movies that girls are easier to be picked up hitch hiking. Ironically she got no hitch. No dancing this time but the pose she was doing did crack me up inside. Stick the butt out, hand on the hips, big smile, cocked head and all.

5 minutes later Mothom was pulled over on the other side of the road. He must have made a big turn to get back to the highway and he was pointing at us and saying something or waving.
It went on for a while till me and Yebba realized what he was trying to say. Him & Yebba go back to his home …. Please with the both hands clap together. When Yebba pointed to me and her and him, immediately he shakes his head and repeated the same order … only Him & Yebba …. Go back to his home ….. We raised the sign Istanbul and what we understood was He and Yebba back to his home then he bring her to Istanbul ….. I was not in the equation …. But was too amused by what was happening that I was laughing so hard. Yebba was freaked out ….

The Third Ride

I put my thumbs up, nod my head and wave him to our side ….. a big grin and Yebba was clueless what I was doing. I was not sure what I was doing either but I knew trying to talk to someone across a 6 way lane using hand signals was getting us nowhere. Might as well get him to our side to see what he is offering …. We were stuck here anyway ….

Mothom with a happy nod and grin drove off needing to get to the next town before he could make a U-turn …. Meanwhile …. I put out my thumb again …. 10 minutes later a huge ass trucker slam the brakes just as he passed us and stopped further up. I did not bother to think about running up and asking … pick up the bags I told Yebba … run … go up … lets go ….
Not until we were inside with all our bags and the trucker had ease his way back onto the highway that we confirmed he was going to Istanbul ….. all the way to Istanbul ….. we were going to make it after all … it was 5pm now …..

Our Trucker Ride to Istanbul
Younos was the trucker name and he was the kindest soul we had met hitchhiking. Sitting inside that huge cargo truck with him driving through Turkey was precious. Alas English was not his best language but we did manage small talks with lots of guesswork. About 7pm he said he was going to stop for food if it was ok. Sure …. Not like we could force him to drive on anyway. When he did stop a whole party of truckers stopped together too.
We were all introduced to the gang.

Truckers unite and they all opened up their mini kitchen and cooked up a feast. Not only did we got picked up by Younos, we got fed too … Atar was the main cook, Hidayat a friendly chap and Enjin the one with the most English vocab.

This experience is something that makes me remember why I travel …. It’s the Journey before Destination.

Younos Cooking Dinner - Truckers style

Younos Trucker Gang & My Hitchiking Partner

After dinner we hopped back onto the truck only to be driven into a massive traffic jam. Night has fallen and by approximation it was a mere 100km from Istanbul now. It was going to be a hard final leg I felt.

Younos left us at the outskirts of Istanbul, the closest he could get without actually turning into the city which would be a problem for him since he was driving a big truck and city roads might not allow it. The point where he dropped us thou he thought there was metro nearby but only after we were offloaded that I realized there was no such metro nearby. It was still a good 25 km from the downtown.

I would have to say this about Younos …. He was really kind. I gave him a momento for the kindness he showed me …. A 20 Ringgit Bill. He would not accept it at all. His face actually looked horrified when I brought out the money. It was as if I was robbing his good karma by trying to give him money. He kept pointing at it with a frown and said “money?” …. It was the Ringgit after all and he had no idea how much it was worth …. I feel bad that he must have thought it a brownie point was robbed off his shoulder but then again the Ringgit was worthless in Turkey.
(To Note being from Malaysia means when travelling to odd places the Ringgit Bill is a lovely suvinior/momento to let people remember you since Malaysia is really Tiny hence I always bring some small change for those special moments)

Momento of me …. I said … from Malaysia. Not for using … worthless money … for remembering …. And he reluctantly accepted finally understanding that I was not trying to give him money but a momento of myself from Malaysia only with a frown that it was still money only in different form.

Dropped off the Highway of Istanbul …. Well technically we were in Istanbul since Istanbul was really huge, a 100 KM diameter city we were still too far from the downtown …. 11pm at night … highway …. and almost no chance of a hitch. In fact it was more dangerous just being at the side of the road for I was pretty sure no one could see is in that darkness.

The Forth Ride
We started walking the road leading off the highway and me navigating using google maps. Not even 20 minutes we notice a car pulled up infront of us …. Walking closer the car put in reverse and slowly inch itsway towards us.

3 young guys with eyes that could not believe what they were seeing greeted us. Non of them could speak much English but they were kind enough to gave us a ride even if they had no idea where we were going at that point.

We hopped on and they started driving like a maniac …. A modified sports car of sorts with a fucking big ass subwoofer in the trunk. Not knowing how to communicate I passed them my phone with the google maps and a bookmark point showing where the hostel is.
The 3 guys were intense studying and was on a mission to get me and Yebba there. I was pretty sure they were enjoying Yebba vibe. Pump the music she said, … hands in the air and the car went even faster …. Fortunately we got to the hostel in one piece.

The three guys ignored me mostly …. And wanted Yebba Facebook … party tomorrow night they said …. Poor guys for Yebba could not find herself on the Facebook ….. We could not even remember their names
Check in Hostel … midnight … what a day.

Nearly 450km … 12 hours and 4 kind souls …. Hitchhiking from Plovdiv to Istanbul

Friday, 15 July 2016

Clubbing in Plovdiv and Cooking up a storm

It was the start of the wormhole in The Crib Hostel Plovdiv. It was supposed to be a slow day, got groceries in the morning which we were to cook lunch with it but ended up cooking dinner with it. I ended up cooking dinner with some help from Greyson. Stir fry vegetarian pasta. It went well I think and everything was finish before I even got a taste of it. After dinner the living room became a wormhole of discussion of life and memories

I think that was the beginning but then again it was always interesting around this hostel in Plovdiv. After dinner we thought it would be a quiet home drinking but young 22 year old Yebba wanted to party. She got dress in this sexy dominitrix outfit and soon almost all of us was dressed up and out the door by 1am.

Crazy night started then. Pub which was more or less empty became our dance floor. A good mix ratio of guys to girls and Yerg manage to picked up two local hot Bulgarian girls. The girls of course suggested somewhere else and we all followed the big bunch of us. A nightclub just outskirts of the city centre with a pool in the middle and dominitrix dancer on a floating platform.
(Imagine me Rolling my Eyes with a big forehead Sweat --- this scene looks too much like a typical American teenage road trip in Europe)

Yebba wanted spotlight kept going on stage to dance with the girls only to be kick out of the nightclub sooner than we expected. No one even knew she was kicked out. She just went missing and we just kept doing our shit. Me drinking whiskey, Ecila and Yerg with the sexual tension rising started kissing, and Pigae in a deep dark conversation with the French guys. Mit having a time of his life (He was American and it was exactly how he imagine it to be! … Insert Smack forehead emoticon please.) and Adna (Mit GF) with her worried face while Hal-El was wasted and going full Israeli on me for not dancing and going crazy in the night club. (if you don’t conform you are out apparently). Plus Etan somewhere between Ecila and Yerg I think.

The night ended with Etan excusing himself, Yerg and Ecila ditching us and I leading the rest of the pack back to the hostel walking. One f*cking crazy night where I was the touch stone safe person to ensure everyone was ok. We all got back about 5am in the morning … woke up grogy and everyone extended one more night in the Crib Hostel. This hostel was sucking us in big time.
How many days has it been in Plovdiv …. I think it was the third day if memory serves right and a whole new bunch of guys checked in the hostel. Big humongous conversation shooting everywhere in the common room and I cooked dinner again that night for 13 person.

Maggie Goreng Edwin special …. I had no idea what I was really doing improvising most of the time and guessing the amount of mixture for mass cooking 13 people. Luckily it was not the only dish and Yebba this time was my partner in crime. She was cooking up some Mexican shit but ended up tasting something else but we all agree it was tasty and ate the like goblins out of it.
Some comments I got while cooking ….

Is that instant Noodle ??
You can fry instant Noodle ??
Wait you stir frying the instant noodle powder as well ??? Dafaq ??

How can you stir fry everything!!!!
(I Stir fry everything that night to mixed it into the Instant noodle)

That’s Dinner ??

The Verdict …. I had no idea how it tasted for it finished before I could even finish washing up and got a plate.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Daytrip From Plovdiv To the UFO - Buzludzha

Plovdiv ended up being one of those black holes where you find it so hard to leave due to the batches of people that comes into the hostel and all chilled out together. After the first night getting my ass whooped by the Casino in Plovdiv I returned to the hostel after a kebab and was just hanging around and conversation was sparking in the common room.

Not the kind of conversation that sparks only within the group, but the kind that somehow encompass and draws in any passer-by into the fold. I still slept early thou since my mind was still recovering from the loss in the casino working the numbers. Next day the first person I remembered in Plovdiv was Yerg a Canadian that was studying in the UK and was doing a hitchhiking mission around Eastern Europe.
He told me about a little group plan of renting a car and going to an abandon building somewhere. Groggily, I just said sure why not … count me in. Oh but wait we need to check if there is still space in the car he said. I was not bothered and was about to leave for the 11 am walking tour when someone backed out and suddenly I was hunted down and it was decided I was going to the abandon building. At this point I did not even know where I was going and whom was going …. Other than Yerg.

The crew was me, Yerg from Canada, Yebba from Australia, Ecila from Australia and Arrav from Germany.
So where are we going again?

Renting a car we had to take a cab to the car rental place and then there was the debate of who was going to drive and insurance and such. I was so rusty in driving manual that I was not keen on doing it.

How old are you?
They were all babbies about 22 and I was the only old one of 31. If insurance requirement force it I would definitely be driving. Thankfully thou there were quite lax in Bulgaria and Ecila wanted to drive so I step back and take the easy carefree way and of course became the navigator.

The UFO - Buzludzha
The Road to Buzludzha
On the road, and by some luck we manage to depart around 2pm with all the procrastination. Chatter sparkle and among all that shit we finally reach the abandon UFO building which at this time I had gotten the larger picture of the story.

It was used to be the communism headquarters of Bulgaria and when communism fall it was left behind to be abandon. The place was in ruins but ruins in the top a hill overlooking amazing greenery. There was also rumours or speculation that there was underground bunkers and many sub levels that is hidden and uncharted ….. and we also brought spray paint to further ease along the ruins into its demise …
Buzludzha - Plovdiv

Buzludzha - Plovdiv
We arrived in good time with me Navigating not much lost was going on now that I have access to google map with GPS and Ecila was a good driver for a 22 year old surprisingly. The UFO we were calling it now and no longer Buzludzha or whatever it was actually called. (It was hard to pronounce)

The UFO was scary at first for me going in. Outside it looked ok for an abandon structure but going in I saw all the exposed reinforcement bars at the bottoms of the beams and shit. I knew it was bad and was careful where I walked below and above. After about 10 minutes I just realized it’s pointless to worry so much and started to enjoy the place. I also told myself that this place was built in the old era hence would have been probably over design anyway. Still some places was crumbling apart.
Car Parked outside the Buzludzha

Graffiti outside the Buzludzha Building

UFO Buzludzha
The Entry Point into Buzludzha
The interior of the UFO monument was like a stadium. Graffiti scatter all over the place but also the main dome circle was covered with beautiful mosaic graffiti. After admiring the place for a while we all picked out spray cans and went our separate ways finding untouched canvas only to meet up again to swap colours.

Art is not an easy thing …. Lovely to see and easy to feel like one can fall into the zone and love of all things artistic like a person on drugs, a free soul for a moment not remembering the hardship of life and responsibility. Hence when we all started spray painting it was nowhere near any of the master piece we imagined. (Note non of the pictures below were spray painted by us-We deny any wrongdoings)
The Dome of the Buzludzha

Mosaic Art Inside the Buzludzha

Mosaic Art Inside the Buzludzha

Crumbling Building - Buzludzha
You know those shows where there are two kind of artist soul? The free soul that do random things, is in line with his chakra and yoga and talks and dress like a spiritual atheism and everyone around them go OHMMMMM …. This one produce shit ….. or in a way we were mostly either in that zone or trying to pretend to be in that zone.
The second one the tormented soul, quiet and slow but when no one is looking produces masterpiece even if it’s only graffiti was what we were aiming for …. Alas tourist with a limited time with no clear picture in his or her mind cannot produce such pieces.

Once all the art had left our body it was time to explore the underpassages way …. Down and down and round and round and into every door and nooks and corner. Soon we found a mini shrine of someone who had once died we presume inside the place. Further, deeper and then we saw the start of the Blood Games.

Legend has it that there were tunnels going deep underground from the UFO building that no one knows where it goes. Blood Games sounded scary and the entrance to that tunnels was apparently the blood games entrance a game of life and death for one could get lost in there and never come out. Added with the mini shrine it was imprinted in our head that someone did really go in there probably on a dare and lost his way and died …. F*cking scary I would say …. And the small shape of the tunnel beginning of blood games that was so small one had to crawl did not help either ….
No one died that day and we moved on to the elevator shaft climbing all the way up to the top of the tower. For an abandon building it was an amazing experience especially with the group we had 

Amazing Views on the top Tower of Buzludzha

Amazing Views on the top Tower of Buzludzha
Before we know it we had spend nearly 5 hours in the UFO … sunset was approaching and we without knowing was bloody hungry.  Heading back from the UFO I went for a detour towards Kanzalak thinking we could get food before reaching back to Plovdiv. Along the highway passing by many many sunflowers we just needed to stop and let the girls go dancing in the sunflower field. If life was like a hippy movie, we were in it.

Yebba walk up the car carrying one humongous sunflower and an oncoming traffic car slowed down, pop his head out and said something to us in Bulgarian sternly … we were all a bit terrified since we had no idea what he was saying for one, and if it was a bad thing to pick up sunflowers in sunflower field ….
Yebba being the ignorant little girl she was sheepheshly still cling on to the sunflower walking out of the field into plain sight testing her boundaries of how far she could get away with things. Yerg was desperately trying to explain that she pick it up from the floor and did not broke it off its stem. I had no idea if that was a true story or not but hell it was a good explanation.
After like 2 minutes of total alien conversation the driver asked the word “ Tourist ?? “ … yes we said and named the country we were from and a big smile lit up the driver face and also along his friends in the car …. A big thumbs up and a big smile he wave us goodbye and all of us bolted into the car with the sunflower still in hand and drove off.
Sunflower Sunflower everywhere

By this time I was really hungry …. While the young uns of twenties could live of chakra and energy vibe … I needed food. It was nearly 9pm now and the sun was setting quick getting dark. 2 hours drive to Plovdiv …. With no dinner ….. we saw a building or shack or house approaching as we drove which stood out as there was nothing else around but fields of sunflowers.

Slowing down we strain our eyes to see if it was a restaurant or just a house and viola it was a restaurant, a good cheap one indeed with even Bulgarian singing performance. Now that we were in the restaurant everyone realized they were hungry and smashed all the food we could eat. Delicious was beyond doubt but also it was so dirt cheap.

After meal we head back to Plovdiv … a long drive of two hours but as I look out the window and checking out the stars, we decided to find a place to pull over and gaze upon them for a while. The main highway or road was just a one way lane with no street light going through rows and rows of sunflower. Needless to say at pitch black as it is it was an amazing view of the star in the night ….

Seeing the Milky Way with the naked eye.