Summing it up : Malaysia 

Now that I’ve left Malaysia I see how much more westernized it is comparing to the other SE Asia countries.  

I’ve spent around 40 days in the land where number 4 is forbidden (4 and death have the same sound in Chinese),  where English is phonetic (teksi,  polis,  julai… Etc) and the currency has the name of a cartoon character (Ringgit). 

I was not meant to spend all that time there but I decided to extend my stay and take a massage course.  Kuala Lumpur is very cheap comparing to every other big cities I’ve been.  Food is extremely cheap and being multicultural by nature you can find every type of food.  I got stuck with Indian,  and with roti canai in particular (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roti_canai).

The population is composed by Malay,  Chinese and Indian for the majority.  Only a small percentage is made of foreigners (and there are many).  In Malaysia is difficult to meet people (as explained in my previous post)  but I still managed to meet a few very cool characters.  In particular my CS hosts.  The islands are beautiful places and in general pretty well preserved.  Tourism has not corrupted all yet.  

Every nationality is well integrated in Malaysian lifestyle but each of them keep their own specifics.  Chinese feel Chinese,   Indian feel Indian (as opposed to Malay)  but neither of them would like to live in their original country. It’s funny how they insist on the fact that they are this or that although their passport is Malay. 

I volunteered for 2 weeks in Oriental Heritage House and even if nothing went wrong I didn’t enjoy the experience (but the house is amazing!!! https://m.facebook.com/orientalheritagehouse/). I didn’t really learn anything and the communication with the management is very poor.  Also it is in a very quiet area but this means that you’re far from the city center and the public transport is very bad – as in Kuala Lumpur in general.  So,  since I was busy only in the mornings I decided to fulfill a dream that I had for long time and take massage classes in the afternoon. 

After a research in internet I decided to go to Wellness art training centre (https://m.facebook.com/well.ness.3158) in the very center of the city,  a few steps away from the famous towers.  It all started on a bit bumpy way.  I had discovered that my CC had been cloned so my bank blocked it.  Therefore I could not pay the entire price in one go and the management insisted that I had to pay before starting the class.  I told them I could not and if it was a problem I would just cancel the course.  They told me it was OK but the didn’t stop to send me WA messages asking me how I was and when I could pay.  So at one moment I told them that their attitude was very annoying because I felt they didn’t trust me.  And I understood that they don’t know me so why should they trust me but also told them that in Europe you can pay in two or three times and it was not an issue.  And the management replied that in Malaysia things are different.  And so I realized that even in the small things we have to be careful.  We all think in different ways and we should understand that something that is absolutely common for us it might not be for some other culture. 

If I had to choose one Asian country to live in Malaysia would be one of the candidates but honestly I felt a bit lonely there.  People told me that Malaysia is cool,  fold is amazing and places are beautiful.  And it is true.  But still.  There’s something missing that I cannot quite spot.  I still enjoyed my stay in KL and I loved my massage classes.  

I’m still in touch with some of the people I met along the way and hopefully I will see them again some day. 

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. 

Melaka and Penang 

After KL it was time to move to a smaller place and this was Melaka (aka Malacca). 

Melaka is a city two hours drive south of KL.  I checked in at “Victor’s guest house ” (30, Jalan Munshi Abdullah, Kampung Jawa, 75100 Melaka).

 The place is very nice,  clean and very quiet and the staff very helpful. At first you have the impression that it is located far from the center but don’t be fooled by appearance.  Behind the hostel there is the river.  The entire area is under massive restructure and there are plenty of nice places to get a coffee or beer.  Walking along the river and crossing the bridge you’re in the cultural center of the city in 10 minutes. Melaka has a long story of invasion from different people (Portuguese,  Dutch, English)  and it is all reflected in the architecture and the language.  People are very nice and friendly and you never feel uneasy anywhere in the city.  Apparently the night market is very nice but it’s only on weekends so I didn’t get the chance to see it.  

At the hostel I met some people and together we went to have food in a Himalayan restaurant not far.  The food was good and cheap but the communication with the staff was not easy. Melaka is a place that I really enjoyed. Life is easy and quiet there although the tourist and you can take a rest from the fast pace of KL. On my second day I had lunch at “Mori vegetarian tea house ” (3, Jalan Kampung Kuli, 75200 Melaka), a bit pricey but the food was delicious!!! 

After two days in Melaka it was time to move on and since Singapore was not an option (that’s where people usually go after Melaka)  I decided to move north to Penang an island on the west coast. The bus trip was long (around 9 hours)  but not too bad.  I arrived at Butterworth harbor and from there I took the ferry to George Town.  The trip is about 10 minutes and once in George Town you land at the bus station. 

My host David told me to fetch the 302 to get to his place as he was not at home yet but after almost half an hour I was not even half way as the traffic is pretty bad so David – that in the meantime had freed himself – told me to get off at the first stop and wait for him there. And I did. And I waited another half hour.  

David lives in Gelugor 15 mins drive from the city.  We arrived at his place and after a shower we drive back to the city for dinner in an Indian place called “Thali-NR sweets cafe ” (Lebuh Penang, George Town, 10200 George Town, Pulau Pinang) in Little India. The food is very good and very cheap like in most places in George town well known for this.  I was supposed to spend only a couple of days in Padang but in the end I stayed 4. The city is very nice,  good choices for food and I felt at home there. In the morning David worked so I had a lot of time to visit and in the evening we met for dinner.  

  

On my second day there I met Tom and Jep,  from CS and with them I went to the temple on the hill and the evening we had dinner with David. After dinner David explained the he does charity work three nights a week and asked me if I wanted to tag along.  With his volunteer friends he goes around the city and distribute food and water to the homeless.  It was nice and sad at the same time.  People know them and wait for them.  They’re very nice and humble and when they take the food they say thanks 20 times. It’s been a very nice and enriching experience. 

The following day David was working only half day so in the afternoon we went hiking on a beach half an hour out of the city. The hike is fine but not for everyone.  Along the way we met with people from a CS group that David attend to and they invited us to a BBQ at the beach later on. After an hour we arrived at the beach but couldn’t swim as the water was very shallow and muddy.  To go back we took a boat as it was getting dark and it’s not advisable to do the hike at night.  We then drove to the beach for the BBQ. The others were already there and setting up the fire. It was very nice to spend time with them and talk.  They’re all members of CS from different origins and religions.  Indians,  Chinese,  Malay,  Buddhist,  Muslim and they all get along very well.  That’s why I really like Malaysia!!!

After the BBQ someone suggested to get into the water and since no one had a bathing suit we skinny dip although it’s forbidden in Malaysia.  It was funny,  we laughed a lot and a Muslim girl that until 2 minutes before was wearing a veil bathed with 5 naked men (she was wearing T-shirt and underwear) and wasn’t worried or offended by that.  Well on the contrary actually!!!  We saw the fluorescent plankton (amazing!!!)  and the water was so good that we couldn’t get out. 

On my third day I met Leo,  a local guy in CS also and with him we went to the protestant cemetery and the haunted school.  I have a thing for cemeteries and abandoned building although I don’t believe in ghosts or burial as for that.  Afterwards we had lunch at a place called “Yin’s sourdough bakery and cafe” (11, Pesara Claimant, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang) because I was craving for pizza and I heard that in this place was very good.  And indeed it was,  pesto and mushrooms pizza.  Delicious!!! 

Leo is a local artist that lived in Armenian street very close to the bicycle painting and his place is full of cool stuff as he works as interior designer.  For dinner I bought some Indian food and got home where David had already arrived. 

The following day I decided to stay at home and organize my next move. So after fetching information from blogs and websites I prepared my bags and went buy the bus ticket to Perenthian island for that same night. 

Dinner with Sandokan 

So after leaving Indonesia one day before my visa expires I land in Kuala Lumpur. The idea of being in Malaysia brings back memories of my childhood.  Sandokan the pirate says hello from the depths of my memories and it feels funny to be here. 

For those who don’t know who Sandokan is,  you can check this link. 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandokan

The first thing that attracts my attention is the multi cultural environment in KL. People are Asian,  Indian,  Chinese, Malay and everything in between. It’s fascinating to see these people from so different paths of life coming together as one same nation. 

I meet my host in KL sentral (it’s not a typo.  It’s sentral with S) and by train we reach his house.  We go for dinner in an Indian place open 24/7 like the majority of Indian restaurants and after he takes me for a night ride around town. Obviously the main attraction are the Petrona towers (or twin towers as the called them here) and like many other tourists we stop to take a picture – well more than one. 

The following day I’m on my own around the city as Joko – my host  – has to work.  I really like KL that although is a big city is still very “doable”. They have a free bus that takes you around town like an hop on – hop off thing and once in the center I get off and walk around.  It’s really hot but there is a good amount of shadow so it’s OK.  I visit the main attractions and have lunch in Little India. In the afternoon I meet my host and after dinner we’re off to bed. 

The following day I switch host.  Jr is a very nice man.  With a funny Indian face (although his family is 100% Malay) he greets me in his very cozy apartment on the outskirts of KL,  very close to Batu caves. We chill in his place for the afternoon and we go to yet another Indian place for dinner. The following day we meet with his friend Raizan and his couchsurfer and head to the caves. 

Batu caves are two caves a little hour outside KL.  They are at the top of his hill and you have to climb I don’t know how many steps to get to the top.  It was hard but slowly but surely I made it.  The main cave is pretty big.  I was told that there were bats inside but thankgod I didn’t see any.  My host and his friend stayed down as they had been up there plenty of times and they didn’t feel like climbing in that heat.  So it was just me and the other guest, a young man from Algeria that took at least 40 (thousand) selfies,  ten for each position… I couldn’t believe it!!! 

There is also the Dark Cave that apparently is populated by snakes and rare animals but we didn’t have time to visit as we wanted to go also a waterfall a little further down.

So after the caves and the “cover girl” photo shooting  we headed to the waterfall. Can’t really tell where that is but when we got there it was pretty busy as it was a holiday. We had to walk quite a walk to get to the less populated area of the waterfall but once we got there it was nice to jump into the fresh water and wash away all the sweat and dust of the climb. 

 

The following morning I was to take the bus to Malacca so my host suggested that I spent the night at Raizan’s as he lives closer to the bus (bas) station. 

Raizan’s is the most messy place I’ve ever seen in my life but I felt at home from the moment I put my feet inside.  

In the meantime a friend of Raizan’s arrived and the four of us (Raizan, his friend, Mustapha and I) went for dinner and then to the hot spring nearby.  The hot spring is a shallow pool of hot water that springs naturally near Raizan’s house.  The water is pretty hot and it was very nice to spend some time there.  

The following day I took a bus to Malacca. 

Lost in translation

So, after the islands we landed in Lombok and from there I made my way to Java. I know I did very little in Bali but I felt my time was up. I spent an extra night at the same Mirah hostel and the following morning I was supposed to go to Canggu. It was raining so I just got on a bus direct to Java. 

I arrived at the bus station and got​ once again attacked by people who wanted to sell me tickets. I literally had to show them that I already had one in order for them to back off.

The bus left at 5.00pm and was supposed to arrive some 12 hours later in Malang. It was pretty comfortable but they were playing this Indonesian music that really sounded a constant whining to my untrained ears. I bet for locals our pop music has the same effect. The music was really getting on my nerves so I just got out my iPod and put on my headphones.

There were blankets on the seats because the AC was pretty strong (I actually got a cold). They also provided us some snacks and a bottle of water. But all the announcements were in Indonesian (which is understandable as I was – once again – the only white face on board) and so I lost everything that was said during the trip.

To get to the harbor it took us almost 5 hours and once there we got on the ferry with bus and everything. By that time it was almost 10pm.

Once on the ferry everyone got out of the bus and upstairs to get some food. Apparently here, every stop is a good excuse to get food. I was on the deck recharging my tablet when everyone was getting down the stairs to the bus level. I didn’t understand as we didn’t even left shore yet. 

But worried to be left behind I followed the locals (of course I was the only white on board of the ferry also) and got on my bus wondering if there was something wrong with the ferry and we had to get off. 

But when the bus left the ferry I realized the we were not on the same shore that before. The islands – Bali and Java – are so close that I didn’t even see the ferry leaving the shore!!!

On the Java side we stopped at a “service station” where the driver gave us the voucher to get free food. It was buffet style so I could choose and got rice (what else!) vegetables and tempeh. And for drink a delicious tea.

With my belly full I got back on the bus and fell asleep expecting to be able to have a solid 6 hours sleep. But of course I was wrong. Again.

After a little more than 3 hours we were woken up because we arrived in Malang. It was confusing to me as the trajectory of the bus was Denpasar – Malang but not everyone got out. So here I am, stranded in Malang in the middle of the night (actually early morning) half asleep. 

I decide to send a message to my CS host knowing that probably he won’t see it before morning. After waiting for 15 minutes for an answer I decided​ to call a cab – GO JEK to be precise – and go to the hostel that I booked just in case.

The place is called “Mador Malang Dorm Hostel” and it’s one of the cleanest hostel I’ve ever been. The rooms are small and without window but the “beehive style” bed are super comfortable and clean. I was supposed to stay here just one night but my CSer host although very good person proved to be very unreliable so I decided it was easier to just stay here. In the morning there is breakfast (with ginger tea!!!) and the owner is the sweetest girl I’ve met!!

On the morning after my arrival, I met with another CSurfer and together we went to the hot springs. The place is about an hour by motorbike from Malang, on the outskirts of Batu (also called little Switzerland!!!) and the view along the way is amazing. Rice terraces and fields of carrots, onions, cabbage and apple trees,  the main product here. 

The springs are on the outside, not much of an installation is done but that’s the good thing about it. The pool is not much but you’re floating in warm water surrounded by the jungle. Awesome!!!

After that we drove back to the city and stopped at the only open food stall in town (it’s Ramadan and everything is closed during daytime) and had Gado Gado.

Later that afternoon I met with my “host” that took me to this very fancy restaurant called “Javanine”(Jalan Pahlawan Trip A5, Klojen, Oro-oro Dowo, Klojen, Kota Malang, Jawa Timur 65119) where we met with a couple of friends of his. I had noodles and a broccoli salad. Delicious and not expensive especially because the Australian friend took care of the bill!!!

So today I walked around the city a bit (and I banged my head as here you always have to check where you put your steps and also check if there is anything hanging from the walls of the sidewalk… which I didn’t do…)



I had lunch at this place recommended by the Australian friend called “The library Cafe” (Jl. Baluran No.2, Oro-oro Dowo, Klojen, Kota Malang, Jawa Timur 65119)   and dared to order pasta. It was a bit overcooked but delicious and since it was cheap I also got an orange salad. There I met the Australian friend having lunch, so I took my chance and invited him this time!

Tomorrow I have a train at 8.20am to Yogyakarta, that us, in the opinion of many, fabulous!

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.