The bubble 

So… Where to start… 

I’ve been in KL for more than one month now and I think it’s time for me to move on. The time spent here it’s been good,  a needed a little nest to make home for a little while.  Travelling is cool but it’s also tiring and every now and then is good to go back to the comfort zone. 

But yeah my time here is up.  I realized it yesterday. It took me time to buy the ticket to Cambodia.  And not only because of the problems I had with my credit card (yes.  It’s been cloned… but this is another story…).  It’s been difficult to make up my mind and buy the ticket because I was good here in KL,  I had a home again and it was nice to settle down in the everyday routine.  But luckily for me KL is not the place I wanna settle down again.  It’s a big city but still very human in a way.  The prices are honest (apart from the rent,  like in Barcelona basically) and the food is good.  But the dark side of it all is that people here are very busy, for real or not. 

It’s really hard to meet anybody,  let alone get to know them.  Via couchsurfing and other apps I got in touch with hundreds of people (not kidding) but I managed to meet only a few.  They’re all super interested in meeting with you but you can never get a date from them.  And when you finally get a date they cancel at the last moment.  Or you meet,  all goes well,  “let’s meet again ” but again never comes.  You have to organize with at least a couple of weeks in advance.  It’s true that distance here can be discouraging and that public transportation is awful but still… There is always something else in the middle. Commitment is a word that is not really taken into consideration in KL.  The enthusiasm is killed easily.  I feel like they are collecting chats or friends in CS or FB.  The virtual word is waaaaaay more important that the real one.  Even when people go out together they are checking their phones all the time.  There is always someone or something else capturing their attention.  They’re there but not really. I’ve wasted so much time and energy try to connect with locals and in the end I was so frustrated that I decided not to open any app anymore. 

I have only a few days left in KL.  Time to finish my classes (to be discussed in next chapter)  and then I’m off to Phnom Penh.  I’m really looking forward to visit Cambodia.  A change of scenery will do me good. 

Pink clouds in my plate 

In Yogyakarta I checked in at “House of Nasi Bungkus” (Ngestiharjo, Kasihan, Bantul Regency, Special Region of Yogyakarta 55184). It’s a bit far from the center but the view on the rice fields is gorgeous. Besides they give bikes for free so after checking in I got on a bicycle and pedalled my way to town (20 minutes) where I met with Roberto, a Spanish guy met at Malang hostel.

We met at the “food street” where everyone gathered at nightfall after fasting for Ramadan. The street is packed with people, cars, motorbikes and all sorts of amusement and “business”. Food prices are higher than usual but we managed to get our noodles (vegetarian for me of course!!!) for around 1€.
After food we wanted to go for a beer but we discovered that it is not so easy to get one as in Bali for instance. The further west you move in Indonesia, the stronger is Islam influence, therefore getting alcohol in this area can be quite a challenge.
Not able to get our craved for beer we called it a night and headed to our respective hostels.
I was SO looking forward for a good night sleep but to my big disappointment at 4am the choirs started to play outside the windows and it was impossible to sleep. When the prayers were finished (at around 5), I managed to fall asleep only to be woken up not even two hours later by the songs coming from a school (my guess) not very far. There goes my quite night in the rice fields!!!

After breakfast I checked out of the hostel and borrowed a bike to go downtown and meet with Dea, a very fine young lady that contacted me via Couchsurfing. We took a long walk around town (very unusual here in Asia where walking is just for the poor!!!) and talked of everything. She is very curious about the world outside Asia and asked me plenty of questions about Europe and our lifestyle.

I left Dea and headed back to the hostel to get my backpack and move to a couchsurfer who has a home stay but sometimes gives one of the rooms to couchsurfers. 

At dinner time (6pm) I met once again with Roberto. We wanted to go to Merapi volcano but we realized that it would take a lot of stress and money (leave at 11pm. Get at volcano 2 hours later. Hicking steep for 4 hours and back for about 30€) so we decided to skip it and just enjoy the evening in the center.
We were both looking for food that was not Asian for a change and ended up in this place in a small alley just off the main food street where we had burger and French fries and also managed to finally have a beer!!!
Very happy with our food we parted and said our goodbyes as the following day I was going to Semerang for one day and Roberto would leave town also. I didn’t visit the temples that are close to the city as the entrance is pretty expensive (25$ each) and travelling on a budget I have to make choices. I found the price too high especially because people that went there told me that they’re not spectacular and I felt that it was not worth it. Wanting to spend almost a year travelling I really need to be careful with my budget and sometimes I have to give things up.

I arrived in Semerang where I met with Sigit, a young local CSer. His house is big and very nice and has also a wonderful little garden! 

He took me to the “Brown Canyon ” and at night we went in town and walked around with Sigit giving me some information about the town and telling me his projects for the future. He taught himself 6 languages and counting and he dreams of leaving Indonesia.

Following day I’m back on the train on my way to Bundung where I booked a bed in “Buton Backpacker Lodge” (Jl. Buton No.14, Kb. Pisang, Sumur Bandung, Kota Bandung, Jawa Barat 40112) a super nice and extremely clean hostel. For dinner I went to “KUNST house” (Jawa Barat, Jl. Buton No.1, Kb. Pisang, Sumur Bandung, Kota Bandung, Jawa Barat 40112) where I dined with a delicious – although a little greasy – Rosti. After that I met in Braga st. with Tora (a couchsurfer) and his guests from Poland to have a beer.

After spending a very resting night at the hostel, and after a very generous breakfast I moved to Tora as Polish guys were hitchhiking their way to Bali. These are the final days of Ramadan and all public transportation is fully booked. Everyone is moving back to their hometown as on the last day of Ramadan is tradition to have a big celebration with all your family and so it’s hard to find a spot on trains or buses.

Tora is a very funny guy, full of joy with a very contagious laughter. He took me to the governor house (apparently a Bantung landmark) and to the monument dedicated to the war heroes. The afternoon we chilled at his place and at night we had dinner at a food stall near his house where I have nasi goreng (fried rice) that was served with pink clouds!

The morning after I moved to Jakarta but just because I wanted to go to Sumatra and Jakarta was the only option.  The trains and buses fully booked it’s hard to move around! 

I arrived in Jakarta without any expectations as everybody told me it was a very crowded and dirty city but with my surprise I found the city not so bad and the people very friendly. The only problem I had was finding the hostel as my phone finally decided to abandon me and so I was lost without Google Maps. I asked everyone around the area where the hostel was supposed to be but no one knew anything. I got on the wrong train, it took me more than 1 1/2 hour (opposed to 50min) to get to the right station as the train I was on arrived at one stop before I was supposed to change and backed up… and once again lost in translation… When I managed to get to the right station my phone died and have been walking around for an hour (not kidding) to find the hostel that was just 5 minutes away from the station. I arrived I was pissed off and sweaty. I checked in and was given an upper bed on the bunk. The only problem is that the upper bed is at more than 2 meters from the floor… and obviously getting off of it the first time I fell… Nothing serious just hurt a bit my back.  

The hostel is called Teduh Hostel (Jl. Pintu Besar Selatan No.82M, RT.1/RW.5, Pinangsia, Tamansari, Kota Jakarta Barat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota) and a part from the “sky high” beds, it’s OK. Clean, quiet and with a nice kitchen. Tomorrow at 10am I leave on a bus to Sumatra the one before the last stop in Indonesia.

Island hopping (this time is for real)

So after my days in Ubud I went back to Kuta for a couple of days just to make clear what I was going to to next. 

I checked in at Mirah hostel not far from Legian. The place is nice and clean. Far from the crowds if you’re looking for some rest is the perfect spot. There is also a nice pool and staff are extremely helpful and nice. The only little black spot is the breakfast, that although is included in the price, is VERY short in jam…

During this time I went to the beach and to be quite honest it was not much. It’s ok for being a beach in the city but you can’t really swim there as the currents are too strong and the waves too​ high, so perfect for surfers but not for swimmers.

My food was gently provided by this little restaurant not far from the hostel called VLAB Kitchen. Good food, good prices.

After this short relaxing break I took yet another flight to Flores. Everybody was telling wonders of this island so I decided to go there and move my way back towards Bali by boat.

The plane was more a bus with wings than an airplane but the flight was short so no big deal. Arrived at the airport I had to wait for my pickup. I booked one night at “Ciao hostel” as it was the best according to the reviews, for a decent price. My pickup was not there as promised from the hostel and I had to call to make them coming.

Ciao hostel is a charming place a bit off the center, out of the main street, on top of a hill with a breathtaking view over the harbor. But other than that, not much. For 11€ a night you don’t even get free breakfast and the beds have no curtains (unlike ANY other place I have been previously). The common area would be nice to socialize but everyone is in deep conversations with their phones, so no chance to make friends there.

For dinner I went with some other guys met on the spot to this burger place not far from the hostel called “Burger Time” that surprisingly has veggie burger. French fries are real potatoes made at the moment but the bill summed up to 10€ in the end, that is what I would pay in Barcelona. So this place is a no go…

Morning comes and I’m on my way to look for another, cheaper hostel. I found my luck at “Bajo nature” a small place right in the center of the city. The place is still a work in progress, not really sure if it is a renovation or it has never been finished, but the one big room is very nice and cozy, with keypad security lockers and breakfast included (bread, spreads, omelette, coffee and tea). And this for only 7€ a night. 

After booking for my night I went for breakfast at this place called “Bajo bakery” where I had tea, chocolate muffin and this delicious “Italian sandwich”, with pesto sauce, tomato and mozzarella. 

In the afternoon I went looking for a good deal for island hopping, to make my way back to Bali. I found my happiness at “Kencana adventure” where for 1550000 RP (100€more or less) I have a 4 days 3 nights trip around the island, finishing in Lombok. 

For lunch I met with 2 girls from the hostel and went to Mediterraneo. Very nice and cozy place, good food although a bit expensive, but the focaccia was great!

So now, here I am, waiting for the bus that will take me to the boat where I will spend the next 4 days, finally island hopping in South East Asia.

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!!!