Macedonia

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What brought me back on the road is because I lost a love one. No he didn’t die. Don’t start pitying me. He just left. We were two souls that met in one of the most remote places and tried to defy the odds and make long distance work. But well it didn’t. We failed. I failed.
So here I am, solo traveling again in hopes that it’ll bring me back on track. I did try the spiritual route and went to India to find my soul for a bit. Absolutely loved that trip and it helped me tremendously. Let me tell you this..the best way to recover from a heartbreak is to go somewhere far away, a place you haven’t been together. It work wonders on me. I came back after two weeks replenished. Soul found.

But one thing that I still couldn’t do is be alone and happy. I was before I met him – very content. I didn’t need to be with people. I was happy alone. I ate alone, drink alone, travel alone. And no matter what anyone think, I was not lonely. But now less than a year later, I cant manage 24 hours without human interactions.

While in search of a friendly, easily accessible destination, I found Macedonia. Its one of the countries I haven’t been to and I’ve been to many. 71 to be exact. I heard of the beauty of Macedonia and that its safe for a female solo traveler. Without thinking too much, I booked my flight for March 5-8, 2016. I plan to only plan the minimum (hotels) and go in to get lost. You have to get lost first to be found.
05.03.16

The first incident I ran into was at the airport during immigration. A girl traveling alone always get questioned. What are you doing here? Why are you traveling alone? But this time, it was implied that I might be here to do something bad! Work here illegally. Like seriously? Why are people so stereotypical?

Anyway, after I got through immigration, I came outside and the driver was waiting for me. Its €25 for the ride to Ibis when arranged through the hotel. €20 if you come and get a cab at the airport or €5 for the shuttle bus. I didn’t want to wait until 1.30am for the bus since its already midnight when I landed. Got to the hotel and checked-in without issue. Tomorrow I’ll either wakeup for the 10am walking tour or sleep in a bit.
06.03.16

Of course, I ended up sleeping in. Woke up at 11.30am, left the hotel at 12.30pm. First order of priority is to get myself a Macedonian sim-card. But this seemingly easy task, happens to be difficult on a Sunday. Typical Europe! Everything is closed on Sundays.

As there’s not much to Skopje (pronounce Sa-ko-pia) and the hotel is centrally located. I finished the walk around Alexander the Great and the old town in no time. The weather is warm (19c) and sunny with a light breeze. It seems that there’s not that many tourists at this time of the year and no Asian at all! People asked if I’m Japanese, so I’m guessing thats what they usually get. I went to a Chinese restaurant at the corner of Alexander the Great square for lunch before heading to the bus station. It was cheap, edible, and satisfied my fried rice craving.

The railway/bus station is a 5 minutes cab ride or a 20 minutes walk from Ibis. I opted in for the cab which cost 100MKD (€2). Was recommended by the receptionist to arrive to the station 20 minutes prior to departure to purchase my ticket for the 2.45pm bus (ticket cost 450MKD). The bus is assigned seat and everyone got onboard quickly for an on-time departure. The ride to Ohrid (pronounce Oh-krid), a lakeside UNESCO town, is around 3.5 hours away with one 30 minutes stop, we got in to Ohrid at 6.30pm.

The Sunny Lake Hostel, booked for 2 nights, is in the middle of the old town on the hill beneath the fortress. It was a bit complicated to find at night, but everyone here is friendly and helpful. The hostel is small and simple. I booked a private room ensuite for €15 a night. Not bad right? For those on a smaller budget, the bunk beds and shared bathroom looks clean enough. But I did a lot of that already when I was backpacking through Europe in 2014. When I can, I rather have the comfort of having my own room.
07.03.16

A gloomy, rainy day. This totally adds to my already sulking mood! Its that time of the month, female readers can resonate I think? I found that no matter where I go and what I do, the world is just a distraction from him.

Its been two whole long months! How long is long enough? When will I be able to live normally like i did pre-tibet? Right now, it just doesn’t feel like living. Its as if I put up a facade and pretend that life is ok. That i moved on, when i haven’t! I wasn’t kidding when I told my friends that he ruined me for the rest of my life!

The more i try to run away, the more the world reminds me of the love of my life. I hear people speaking and I thought its him, the language is similar. I see things and the first thought that comes into my mind is whether or not he’ll like it. And there’s so many songs I associate with him. The good times we had. I miss it all. Its as if I’m being haunted. Nonetheless, i wouldn’t have it any other way.

So I wrote all the above as I was sitting in the restaurant at Sveti Naum, an ancient monastery beside Lake Ohrid on the Macedonia-Albania border. Its perch on top of a small hill. Beautiful setting and there’s a small beach right beside it. Would have been perfect to sit outside in the sun, sipping tea. At the back there’s the view of snow capped mountains. Albania is only a 7km walk away, but due to the deteriorating weather condition, its impossible for me to make it across and back in one piece. Pogradec which is the closest town on the Albanian side is another few km away from border control. I would have to find transport or cover the distances on foot. I wish I can just get my 73rd country off my list, however, Albania is supposed to be beautiful as well. Probably worth more than an afternoon trip.

The public bus that runs to and from Sveti Naum to Skopje only come every two hours. I ended up hitchhiking back. Was told its a normal phenomenon in these areas. Felt safe enough as the driver picked up a couple along the way. They were waiting for the bus that never came as well. Upon getting off, I give him 110MKD though. Its the same price I would have paid for the bus ride back.

Before going back to the hostel to hide from the pouring rain, I stopped at Dr. Falafel for lunch/dinner. Got a huge sandwich for 80MKD. Was told its the best place in town, because it was the only place in town for falafel. It was good enough. Satisfied my hunger and kept me full until the next morning.
08.03.16

I’m typing this as I am headed back to Skopje from Ohrid. Its a scenic drive through Debar and Mavrovo. I got lucky a mutual friend managed to arrange a car and driver (Greg) at a reasonable price of €87 to drive me to Skopje airport.

Instead of taking the highway, we’re driving through Debar, a very pretty town overlooking a river. Its stunning! I love the view. Sunny blue sky, green fields, cute chalets, and a deep blue/green water. I wish we can park the car somewhere to take photos, but the road wouldn’t permit this. Its 1.5 lane windy roads along the side of the mountains! Parking for photo stops would be hazardous to ourselves and others. Our first stop, 1 hour from Ohrid, is at a monastery in Debar, built in 1900s and still kept in great condition. They don’t get many tourists here and keep the monastery itself locked. The nuns there were nice enough to give us a quick tour.

Another hour or so on the road got us to Mavrovo (pronounce Mak-kro-vo) national park. The sky started getting grey again, but no sign of rain. Fingers crossed! There’s a 1000 years old monastery perched on the side of the mountain that we have to visit. Sadly, there was a school group when we arrived, so I wasn’t able to hear much information about the place. We then drove inside the national park pass a ski resort with nice ski runs overlooking Mavrovo lake. Once we got through the park, its another two hours drive to Matka canyon.

Matka canyon can be done as a day trip from Skopje. Its only about 30-40 minutes away. This one is definitely a summer destination with its kayaking and cave diving. But it wouldn’t be as peaceful then. Except for some tourists having lunch at the only restaurant open in the canyon, I basically had Matka to myself. There’s a hydropower plant at the bottom of the 10km canyon, so Im guessing its artificial? Nonetheless, its a beautiful destination.

Now to the last part of our drive to the airport, Greg called to order a mushroom and cheese sandwich at his son’s shop for me before we got into the city center. We picked up the sandwich and drove through the city center before doing the 30 minutes drive to Skopje airport. Got there at 3.15pm which is a bit early for my 4.50pm WizzAir flight bound for Luton. But its okay, I checked beforehand, there’s a priority pass lounge. Yeah! And so after passing through immigration without incident, I headed straight to the lounge to finish writing this entry.

Overall, its a good trip. I saw what I wanted to see. I successfully managed to travel solo again which is great. More solo trips to come before my Schengen visa expire. I got lost and I tried hitchhiking. Life is full of new adventures. One thing I know for sure is that even though life will never be the same again after a loss of the love of my life, doing what I love helps. I actually didn’t even know that I enjoy writing so much until he pointed out to me that I should write. So now I’m writing for his sake and mine. To keep myself sane.

For all the readers out there, thank you for reading. Until next time. Ciao!

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