This is paradise!…or is it?

After a pit stop of 20 hours in Singapore where I had the chance of quickly see the city and spend some time with Jay and Lloyd, I finally arrived in Bali.

The flight was ok, a little more than 2 hours and when arrived at the airport the atmosphere got thick. Here the war against drug is pretty harsh, you can get sentenced to death for using drugs and even if I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, a lurking fear was on the lookout.

I got through customs very easily, I paid the 35$ for my Visa on arrival so that I can extend my trip up to 2 months and I even declared I had a switch blade knife in my bag, getting ready to be checked, just to be on the safe side. The cue to get out of the airport was really long and there were policemen everywhere. One of them was running up and down screaming to a dog to sniff something illegal. It was not a pleasant moment but thank god it didn’t last very long. When I arrived at the check point, I handed out my arrival form duly filled in and to my big surprise I was let go without any further check.

Out if the airport I was attacked – like every other tourist – by a myriad of taxi drivers trying to get me into their car or motorcycle. Luckily my CSurfer host was there waiting for me and in 15 minutes ride we were at his place.

Along the way I managed to take a quick look around and to see all the beautiful statues and temples that populate the city (Denpasar).

Rizky and I had a quick dinner at a place not far from his house and went to bed early as we both were a little tired.

The morning after I took the bus to Ubud because everyone was telling me that the place is fantastic and there are a lot of things to do and see. Checking the pictures in Google, I figured Ubud as a nice little village out in the countryside, surrounded by rice fields…but the reality is very different. 

Ubud is a medium size town, taylor made for tourists. All the shops are a trap for wealthy foreigners eager to by something to remember this place with. And like in any other city in Asia, there are plenty of food places even though street food here is not a thing. All is restaurants and bars and the prices are pretty high compared to the prices in Denpasar.  Very unexpectedly there are PLENTY of pizza and Italian gelato places but also a big choice of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. I can finally eat properly. I also managed to find a vegan gelato place. Yummy!!!

Out of the bus, I was walking towards my hostel in a one way street forgetting that here scooters are the masters and can go anywhere they like. The sidewalk is narrow so as I saw many people coming in the opposite direction I decided to step down and walk 5 steps on the street. Big mistake as I didn’t check if any motorbike was coming behind me against traffic of course. To avoid me a woman clashed against a car and fell off her motorbike. Many people gathered around. I was kind of lost, hot and tired. They called the woman’s husband and after a while we settled that I had to pay for the broken front light of the bike and the doctor’s visit. It all let me lighter of 30€. But I decided to pay and not making any fuss because this is not the place to mess around. But when I realized that they were trying to take advantage of me, I asked if I should call my lawyer. And it’s then that they agreed on the 30€. I was so annoyed but in the end it was nothing serious.
I checked in at New Ubud hostel. The place is ok, typical Ubud hostel. The staff is nice and the rooms are clean (even though I haven’t seen any cleaning staff so far) but there is no pool as advertised in Hostelworld website. 

My following days in Ubud were not anything special. I walked around the city, checked a few vegetarian places (I also found a place where they make vegan gelato. Yummy!!!) and for my last day I booked a tour to the main sightseeings just to make something of my time. 

I choose a random booking “agency” Gusti Ariastra (Jln. Rata Ubud) and I think it was a rip off. I paid 25€ just to be driven around. No free water or guide was offered and on top of what I already paid l, I had to pay a fee entrance to every place I’ve been taken. The rice terraces, the holy  temple (Torta empul), the elephant cave (Gunung Kavi), the coffee plantation (where I was “offered” a delicious lemongrass tea and a sample of different teas and coffees) and the waterfall where you have to pay for the entrance and then again if you want to go on the upper level.

 By this time I was already feeling sick (and annoyed) so I asked my driver to take me back to the hostel where I spent the following hours in bed suffering for food poisoning. It was nothing serious but I spent a very difficult night covered in 2 duvets and wearing my sweatshirt hoody although outside it was 30° C.

The morning after I was feeling better although a bit weak but I was really looking forward to leave the place. In less than 3 days I spent around 100€ (not counting the 30€ given for the accident) and this with just one meal the last day. 

I don’t understand all the fuss about Ubud. It is just a tourist town, man-made for tourists so that they leave as much as possible from their bank account. I’m sure that if I had my own scooter I could have saved a little money but it is a very expensive city and in my opinion not really worth the detour. I’m ready to bet that there are far nicer and cheaper places around Indonesia. Stay tuned for more.. 

Riassumendo… Taipei

Il mio tempo a Taipei sta per scadere. Ho ancora lo stesso sentimento che avevo appena arrivato. Adoro Taipei. Non sono mai stato  a in Cina o Giappone ma sento che Taipei è un posto tra i due. 

Tutto è pulito e in ordine. La gente fa educatamente la coda quando è necessario, stanno alla destra nelle scale mobili, hanno WiFi, fontane d’acqua potabile e bagni in ogni stazione di metro che sono così puliti che potresti mangiare per terra. Sembra quasi irreale.

La gente sussurra al telefono, e fa sempre attenzione a non disturbare quelli attorno. I bambini sono così educati che non ti accorgi che sono lì.

Ovviamente non tutto è perfetto. Nel bus se non hai il cambio giusto per il biglietto non puoi salire (ma generalmente la gente ha la tessera trasporti per cui non è un gran problema) e poi…. qualcos’altro che non ricordo!!😂

Ho dormito nell’ostello più pulito che abbia mai visto. Fun Taipei è al lato del Shilin night market.

È facilissimo andare da qui a qualsiasi parte della città.

L’altro giorni volevo andare alle  e terme di Beitou ma per qualche oscura ragione gli uomini possono entrare solo se hanno i trunks. Nessun altro tipo di costume è permesso per  a cui sono andato alla spiaggia.

Per arrivarci sono sceso alla stazione del metro Tamsui  e da lì c’è un bus  e che tu porta alla spiaggia in circa un’ora. Dovevo rientrare per le 4 del pomeriggio  quindi non avevo molto tempo per stare in spiaggia. Ho comunque potuto fare un paio di bagni ma se avessi saputo che mi ci voleva un’ora e mezza per arrivare probabilmente non ci sarei andato. Inoltre il vento era molto forte e la sabbia era dappertutto!!!

Arrivato di nuovo in città mi sono incontrato con Andy, un ragazzo locale molto gentile che si è  offerto di portarmi a “scalare” la Elephant mountain. Questa collina è così chiamata perché apparentemente vista da distante ha la forma di in elefante. Ci sono non so quanti scalini per arrivare in cima ma dall’alto la vista è mozzafiato. Siamo arrivati lì al tramonto e il tempo di arrivare in cima era già buio.

Dopo la lunga scalata eravamo affamati per cui ci siamo fermati ad un posticino dove fanno i pancakes di cipolla che sono apparentemente una specialità di qui. Sono così buoni che me  e ne sono mangiati due!!!

Il giorno seguente volevo visitare la Golden Waterfall ma sono sceso alla fermata di bus sbagliata così ho finito per visitare Juifen old street invece.

Onestamente non c’è granché di speciale qui ma è stato comunque interessante vedere i vecchi vicoli con i negozi da entrambi i lati vendendo cibo e souvenirs. La sola cosa negativa è  che era talmente affollato che quasi non ci si muoveva.

Finalmente ieri ho fatto un delizioso brunch in un ristorante vegetariano vicino a Shilin metro station (exit 1) e sono andato a delle terme chiamate qualcosa come “Juan tz” (la piscina del re. Chiedo scusa per il mio “cinese”). Queste sono vicino alla città e ci si arriva con il bus. Sono divise tra uomini e donne quindi ci si sta completamente nudi.

Alla sera mi sono incontrato con Ethan un couchsurfer  con il quale sono andato a cenare a Ximen (una specie di Soho taiwanese) e poi a bere una birra al “Revolver” un posto vicino al mausoleo che è famoso tra gli espatriati. 

Ho adorato Taipei così tanto che penso onestamente che tornerò. È una terra magica tra Europa e Asia dove mi sono sentito molto comodo.

Summing it up – Taipei

So my time in Taipei has come to an end. I still have the same feeling for this place that I had recently arrived. I really love Taipei. I’ve never been to China or Japan but I have the feeling that Taipei is what’s in between. 

Everything here is proper and clean. People cue politely every where is necessary, they stand in the right side of the escalator, toilets in every metro station so clean that you could eat out of the floor, water fountains and WiFi in every metro station. It almost feels unreal. 

People whispering on their phones, always paying attention at not to bother the people around. Kids super polite that you don’t notice they are there. 

Of course not evething is perfect. In the bus, if you don’t have the right change you cannot get in (but people usually have the transportation card so it’s kinda ok) and then…. something else, but I can’t remember!! 😂

I spent my nights at the cleaner hostel I’ve ever had been to. Fun Taipei is right by Shilin night market.

It’s extremely easy to go from here to anywhere in the city.

The other days I wanted to go to the Beitou hotsprings buy for whatever reason they just let you use trunks (that’s for men of course). So I couldn’t get in and instead I went to the beach. 

To get there I got off at Tamsui metro station and then from there you need to take a bus that it takes almost one out to arrive at the beach. I had to get back by 4pm so I didn’t have much time to stay at the beach. I still managed to take a couple of baths but had I known it would take me 1.5 hours to get there I probably wouldn’t have gone. Besides the wind was really strong and the sand was all over the place.

I got back to the city and later I met with Andy. He’s a very nice Taiwanese guy that offered to take me “climbing” up Elephant mountain. This hill is called like that because apparently seen from afar it looks like an elephant. There are I don’t know how many stairs to climb but the view from the top is very good. We arrived there is was sunset and by the time we got up it was already dark.

After the long way up we were very hungry so we got scallion pancakes that are apparently a specialty from here. They are so good that I got two!!

The following days I wanted to go and visit the Golden Waterfall but I end up getting off the wrong bus stop so instead I visited Juifen old street

To be honest there is nothing really special about it but it was still interesting to see this old alley with all the shops on both sides. Only negative thing is it gets very crowded and moving on it’s almost impossible.

Finally yesterday after a super yummy brunch at this vegetarian restaurant near Shilin metro station (exit 1) I went to other hot springs called something like “Juan tz” (the king’s pool, apologies for my “Chinese”). These are close to the city and you can get there by bus. They are devides in male and female so it’s all in the nude.

And in the evening I met Ethan, a couchsurfer and with him we went to Ximen for dinner (a sort of Taiwanese Soho) and then headed to the “Revolver” for a drink, a hotspot for foreigners nearby the Mausoleum.

I so enjoyed Taipei that I’m honestly thinking of coming back one day. It’s a magic land between Europe and Asia where I felt like home.

I (heart) Taipei

I left Manila on a night plane to Taipei. Arrived at the airport at 1.20am. I reserved 5 nights at “Fun Taipei Hostel”Wenlin Rd.,(Wenlin Rd., Shilin District, Taipei, Taiwan) but I couldn’t check in before 2pm. I arrived at the meeting point around 6.30 and had to wait until 9 for them to start their working day. I was exhausted even though in the plane I managed to sleep a couple of hours. At 9 they finally picked up the phone and luckily I could check in at 9 and was able to rest a bit.

My first day in Taipei was not a big deal. I was still “hungover” for the practically sleepless night so I just walked around the hostel area. I was still able to see a few nice and interning things.

 And the battery station for electric motorbikes

The neighborhood is very quiet during the day and most of the shops are closed but during the night when the Shilin Market “opens its doors” everything changes. The streets are flooded with people, lights and colorful stalls

Then after a good night sleep yesterday I decided to stroll the city and see what’s life like in Taipei.

Everything is nice and clean here, people are extremely nice and very helpful, even if the don’t speak English. After the caps and stress I suffered in Manila, this feels like heaven. Transportation is easy to understand, all is in the place you expect it to be, and if you get lost (as I did…) there is always someone to help you out.

I decide to visit the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and wanted to walk there from my hostel.

I started walking and although I had the map with me I missed my way. I soon realized I was not on tje right path so I asked for directions. Everyone I stopped tried to convince me to get the MRT (metro) as the walk could take me up to one hour. (I took me 1 1/2 hour as I stopped looking around and got lost of course!) And I was trying to make them understand that it was okay for me to walk but for the Taiwanese it was hard to understand the concept of walking. I guess the if you live here, you just want to go from one point to another in the shorter time. But since I have time galore I’d rather walk and see as much as I can of the city.

On my way to the mausoleum I got hungry as usual and I found this place where they make this delicious focaccia type bread with chives.

;

It was the best food I’ve had since I’ve arrived in Asia!!!

After having satisfied my appetite I moved on to see the presidential palace that unfortunately can only be seen from outside.

Walking a little further down I finally got to the mausoleum. In the meantime it started to rain but it was ok. The rain was light and the area is not too big.

Finished my visit to the mausoleum the rain started to fall heavily and had to go back to the hostel.

At night I went to the market to get some food. It had stopped raining and the temperature was really nice.

I found this stall of vegetarian food right by the  hostel.  I got noodle and vegetables. Yummy!!!

Riassumendo… Le Filippine

Ultimi momenti in Manila. Tra meno di 12 ore sarò all’aeroporto aspettando il volo per Taipei.

Queste ultime due settimane nelle Filippine sono state un po’ dure per me. Anche se questa non è la mia prima volta in Asia, qui tutto è differente. Manila è una città piena di contrasti. Ci sono gli slums (bassifondi) e letttteralmente dall’altra parte della strada il distretto finanziario e i grattacieli, i negozi di lusso e gli espatriati.

Muoversi in Manila non è facile. Parlavo con un couchsurfer locale l’altro giorno e lui stesso ha ammesso che a volte anche lui incontra difficoltà a capire come funzionano i mezzi pubblici, come funziona la città. Mi sono perso un gran numero di volte che già non le ricordo. Le carte di credito qui funzionano solo nelle grandi città, altrimenti è solo contante. 

Il sistema di trasporto è terribile. Andare da un posto all’altro della città può occupare metà della tua giornata (senza necessariamente fare molti kilometri). Devi pagare assolutamente per tutto (come per esempio accedere al molo per prendere la barca quando già hai pagato il biglietto). Ma, nonostante tutto ciò sono contento di essere venuto. Ho incontrato gente amabile, specialmente i miei due “hosts”, Dennis e Bon. Senza di loro probabilmente sarei ancora perso nel labirinto di strade che formano questa megalopoli.

Per ciò che riguarda il cibo ho affrontato una vera sfida. Carne, pesce o pollo assolutamente DAPPERTUTTO. Ma alla fine con un po’ di pazienza e molti compromessi ho trovato qualcosa da mangiare. L’altro giorno camminando per la strada verso l’ostello ho trovato questo posto con un offerta speciale. Il posto si chiama “Chooks to go” (Pablo Ocampo st.) e ho preso questo

Basicamente puro genio!

È una tazza dentro una tazza. Nella grande c’era limonata e cetriolo (deliziosa e io odio il cetriolo!!) e nella piccola c’erano le patatine. Mettono una cannuccia che passa attraverso la tazza piccola e il gioco è fatto. In una sola mano hai cibo e bibita!

Più tardi nel pomeriggio mi sono incontrato con un altro Couchsurfer e siamo andati al Greenbelt mall che è praticamente un villaggio fatto di negozi, ristoranti e cafes (tutto molto chic!). E ancora una volta mi sono ritrovato con il problema del cibo che però è stato prontamente risolto da “Chimara Feel Good Kitchen” (Level 4, cinema lobby, Greenbelt 3, Makati) dove ho mangiato un delizioso panino con pesto, tofu e…popcorn!

Buonissimo!!!

Per concludere, non tutto è andato male. E devo ammettere che in parte la responsabilità di ciò che è andato male è mia. Non mi sono preparato per questo viaggio, non ho raccolto informazioni e mi sono affidato al “flusso delle cose”, e mi sono sbagliato. Immagino (spero) che questa esperienza mi aiuti nelle prossime tappe del mio viaggio, specialmente per ciò che riguarda gli ostelli.

Ho passato le ultime due notti al “Pink Manila” hostel (2551 Bautista St. corner Don Pedro, Malate). In Hostelworld ha delle recensioni buonmissime (10 per la pulizia!!!) ma ho imparato che non sempre ti puoi fidare delle recensioni. Il posto cade in pezzi, lo staff di puliia praticamente non esiste e l’acqua della piscina non è mai stata cambiata. La sola cosa buona del posto è che ho potuto farmi da mangiare (e evitato così lle peripezie di cui sopra). Pasta con i funghi e il pomodoro “alla Manila” e “ramen a modo mio”.

E questo è il Pink Manila hostel. Un ostello per una Barbie zozzona!!!  😂😂😂

Ma alla fine ho potuto godere di questo tramonto meraviglioso!

Pos

Summing it up – The Philippines

Last moments in Manila. Tomorrow, in about 24 hours I will be at the airport waiting for my plane to Taipei.

These 2 weeks in the Philippines have been very proving for me. Even if this is not my first time in Asia here evething is different. Manila is a city full of contrasts. There are the slums and on the other side of the sidewalk (literally) the financial district and the big skyscrapers, the expensive shops and the expats.

To move around is very complicated. I was talking to a local CSurfer the other night and he admitted that sometimes it’s also difficult for him to understand how the city, the transportation works. I got lost so many times that I don’t even remember. Credit cards here work only in big cities, otherwise is cash. Transportation system is as bad as it can be. Moving from one place to the other can take up to half of your day. You have to pay for everything (for instance to get access to the boat you already paid for). I’m still happy I came though. I’m met very nice people, especially my two hosts, Dennis and Bon. I think that without them I would still be trying to find my way out of the maze of streets that form the city.

Food wise it’s been a real challenge. Meat, fish or chicken literally EVERYWHERE. But in the end with some patience and a lot of compromises I found something to eat. Yesterday walking down the street towards my hostel I found this place that had a special offer. The place is called ” Chooks to go” (Pablo Ocampo st) and I got this

Basically it’s just genius!

It’s a cup inside a cup. In the big one there was cucumber lemonade (delicious! and I hate cucumber!!!) and in the small one there were French fries. They​ insert the straw inside the small cup and it’s done. In just one hand you have food and drink!

Then later in the afternoon I met with another CSurfer and we went to the Greenbelt mall that is basically a small village made of shops and restaurants and cafes (all very posh). Once again there was the food issue. But “Chimara Feel Good Kitchen” (Level 4, cinema lobby, Greenbelt 3, Makati) solved it for me. I got a delicious sandwich with pesto and tofu, with popcorn! 

Sooo good!

So, in the end not​ everything went wrong. I have to admit that a big part of what went wrong is my fault. I didn’t prepare for this trip at all, I didn’t fetch any information and I relied only on the “flow of things” and I was wrong. I guess (I hope) that this will help me in my following destinations​ especially regarding the hostels.

I spent the last 2 days in “Pink Manila” hostel (2551 Bautista St. corner Don Pedro, Malate). In Hostelworld it had very good reviews but once again I have learned that reviews are not necessarily helpful. The place is falling to pieces, the cleaning staff is basically non existent and the water in the pool has not been changed forever. The only good thing about it is that I was able to cook for myself. Tomato sauce and mushrooms pasta – Manila style and “ramen” (my style)

And this is the Pink Manila hostel. A hostel for a very dirty Barbie!!! 😂😂😂

But I at least I managed to see a fantastic sunset