To travel is amazing. Is cool. Is exciting. But to travel is also tiring and exhausting. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I realize how tiring traveling can be. The fact of moving constantly, the fact that you have to readapt every other day and face new realities and new people can be tiresome. I don’t how many times I had to repeat my story. Where I’m from, where I’m going, why I’m traveling and so on. Over and over again. Everybody goes “Wow! I wish I could do the same!” and maybe they really mean it, but then they don’t do it. Maybe because they know deep down inside that to travel is actually a “job”, it takes a toll on you, like every other job. Maybe they know that it can be lonely, and that sometimes you feel lost and abandoned. That traveling is not just about money and meeting people and see cool stuff. Traveling is also getting to know yourself, testing your limits. And sometimes it is scary. Sometimes you don’t know if you’ll make it, you don’t know what you’re going to eat that day, or if you’re even eating at all, you don’t know where you will sleep and who you’ll meet. Of course it’s all part of the adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world, but sometimes we all need to stop and make home even if for a couple of days. We all need a little consistency, for some peace of mind. And then your feet start to itch again and you’re ready for your next adventure, for your next connection, your next flight. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I feel the urge to move, to pack my bag and go. I’m nervously checking the flights and I’m already thinking about my next trip. I have this need to meet new people, see new places, eat different things. I need to feel free, to be out in this world, the travel bug had infested my body and there’s no cure. I just need to travel. I can’t explain the adrenaline that rushes through your veins when you arrive in a new place, when to talk to someone new, when you have to face a new problem in a strange land and you manage to solve it. I really miss all that, and even though I love my family and I like to spend time with them, the call of the wild is stronger. I left this instinct sleep for a few years but now that it’s awaken again there’s no way to put it back to sleep. I watch the pictures from my trip and I’m back there, with the sounds, the smells, the breeze and my heart starts to long. I have to be patient and wait just a little longer and I know it’s for a reason. But it’s really hard, I’d take the first plane out if I could, but I’ll try to calm myself and use this time to organize better my next trip. I’m like the scorpion from the tale, it’s beyond my control.
Some LOVE it, some HATE it and someone like me loved some aspects of it and hate some other. But when I left (and I was looking forward to leave) I was sad and felt I wanted to stay longer. India is a strange and magic place. When I got my request for visa approved I was almost disappointed. I had read so many bad things about it that I was almost terrified to go there. And since I had no expectations whatsoever I was able to actually enjoy it after I realized that it was not so scary after all. My experience in India has been some kind of an adventure. There were moments that I asked myself what I was doing there and others that I couldn’t get enough and I wanted more.
Indians with their barefeet, their obsession with hair, with their constant talking, their clumsiness, their naivety, with their contrast of poor covered in gold, their attitude of Jack of all trades , their constant trying to get more money from you, with their despise of stray dogs, their togetherness, their faulty legs (mainly men), their loud music in the buses, their habit of spitting, their food served in newspaper pages and most of all their inquisitive bobbing heads are the most annoying but at the same time charming people I’ve ever met.
With the hindsight I realize that India should have been a trip by itself. By the time I got there I was already tired and extremely annoyed by anything that was not working in a western way. I could not really make the best of my time in India for this reason but at the same time, especially towards the last days when my homecoming was approaching I realized that I wanted more, that I wished I had stayed longer. Now that I’m back home I miss the mess that is India. I miss the colors (not the smells…), the smiles, the friendliness, the carelessness that characterizes life in India. I miss the easy going attitude, the chats in the streets or wherever as a matter of fact, their way of seeing life, the it’s OK attitude. I’m already thinking of going back some day. Don’t know yet when. But I feel I have left something behind and wanna find out what it is.
And like everything else this trip has also arrived at its end. I left Goa with a bitter taste in my mouth as I knew that I was not coming back. At least for a while. Arrived in Mumbai in the morning I went to my host house. Rintu is a nice guy from the north east of India that has moved to Mumbai for his studies and has not moved back. He smiles from down the road, a nice and honest smile that makes his round face shine. He looks more Indonesian than Indian so I tell him but he confirms that he is Indian. After a shower and a quick chat we have breakfast in his place and then we take a bus to go to the train station to go south where the historical area is. Mumbai is a big city but I like it more than Delhi. The weather is much nicer and people seem more relaxed. Rintu takes me around, we walk for a couple of hours and I’m in owe of the beautiful crumbling buildings, remainings of the British era. I take a lot of pictures as usual and the heat is quite hard to stand after a while. So we decide to go for lunch at a local unnamed restaurant where we have thali. My last one…
I was on the mood for beer so after a shower and a quick nap for dinner with Rintu we go for beer and food at a place nearby his house. The following morning we wake up early but we’re both very lazy so we chat, have breakfast, we take tea and chat some more and only at 12 o’clock we decide it’s time to go out. We go to a mall nearby (India distances) where we meet a couple of Rintu’s friends and where we shop the ingredients for the dinner that I’m asked to cook. Brunch was nicely offered and cooked by Rintu so for supper is my turn. I happily agree as cooking is always a pleasure to me. I cook spaghetti with vegetables in tomato sauce and Rintu is very satisfied. We chat some more and then it’s time to head out to go and get my 3.00am flight to Venice.
Parting time is a difficult moment for me. Although I know it’s good for me to go home it’s still very sad. These last 2 days spent with Rintu and his friends have been very good and made me think of all the good things I lived during the last 7 months and all the beautiful people I met along the way and that it will be be hard for me to readjust to “normal” life back in Europe, a lifestyle that I’ve often longed for during these months but that at the same time I don’t feel mine anymore. In India, in Asia people are maybe less “civilized”, trash is very common in the streets and hygiene level is not what we know. But people seem more carefree, happier, they dress in color and talk to each other. Once again Asia has been a good school of life for me. I learnt so much of myself, of the world, of the fact that I call myself open minded but in the end I’m prejudiced and racist as those that I judge. I have tried to get rid of all the conventions acquired during my life in a privileged society that considers itself better than the eastern society (unknowingly most of the times) but where we’re all stressed and grey, where the colors we use to wear in general reflect the status of our souls, grey and black. A friend of Rintu just got back from Paris and complained of the fact that people look sad and angry and they dress all in black (comment made also by a friend from KL).
It’s good to travel abroad, I know. And at every trip I realize how much I don’t know about life and about myself. Landing in Paris to catch my connection to Venice I shed some tears. I’m happy I will soon see my friends and my family but I know already that I will miss these last months. I will miss the train rides, the colors, the food, the smile on people faces, the interest that people have shown towards me (although at the time it was really annoying having to repeat over and over the same things). I will miss my portable wardrobe and the excitement to try a new restaurant, to visit a new city. It will take me some time to grasp the entire experience that I lived in the last months and probably when I’ll see the whole picture I will be taken aback. In the meantime I will try to enjoy my family and my friends that although miles away have been with me the whole trip.
October 16 – 9.01am. Gate 1X at Dhaka international airport. My flight is in 2 hours.
My adventure in Bangladesh ends here, where it started 2 weeks ago. Just 15 days have passed but I feel I’ve been here much longer. In these 2 weeks so many things have happened, so many wonderful people have crossed my path. I still cannot believe at what I’ve faced during my stay in Dhaka and surrounding. Dhaka, a city that I didn’t even know it existed, has stolen my heart. And not for the city itself. As I said time and time again, Dhaka is not a beautiful city. It’s not even a friendly city.
Everything is a mess, it’s dirty, is tourist unfriendly, it’s chaotic, it’s hot but Bengalis are the most amazing people I met in my life. To them the guest is the king, the guest deserves all their attention, the guest has to be attended in every possible way. The guest doesn’t have to miss of nothing.
During my stay in Bangladesh I’ve felt like a movie star. Never in my life I had so many pictures taken. Strangers in the street, at the restaurant, in the park stopped me to take a selfie with me. I have been stared at and scrutinized to the point of being uncomfortable. But I felt like home everywhere I went. The Bengalis heart is bigger than anyone’s heart. I’ve been helped by total strangers, I’ve been given food and drink for free, just for being a guest. I’ve been asked time and again where I’m from and what do I do in Bangladesh (just visiting??? As if they could not believe that someone wanted just visit their country).
Bangladesh, where men go hand in hand on the street, where the ads are still hand painted on the walls, where having drinks means drinking tea at the closer “tong”, where there is no official bus stop and traffic lights are non existent, where Barcelona is know for Camp Nou (Sagrada Familia… What’s that?), where people eat with their hands, has a special place my heart.
But many of the people that have accompanied me these days have a dream to leave the country. Usually to Canada or Germany. I discovered that there is a big community of Bengalis in Italy. Youth don’t like their country, they wanna flee, they believe that everything is corrupted and that there is no future for them here. Government doesn’t make things easy for anybody. This is a jungle (especially in the traffic) and everybody tries to survive as best as they can.
Once again I didn’t travel to the “best” parts of the country. I haven’t been to Cox’s bazar, the longest beach in the world, I haven’t been to the islands or haven’t seen any waterfall. But this place will always be special to me.
Thank you Joy, Shoshee, Rossi, Rasel, Pryom, Adnan, Shammi, Mukul, Shariful, Dola, Ishti and everybody else for making this trip memorable. You will always have a friend in my. I will never forget you.
So even my time in Myanmar has come to an end. Tomorrow I will be on a plane direction Dhaka, Bangladesh. I have to admit that I had a very good time here. Myanmar is a very nice country, I expected to like it and I haven’t been disappointed. My time in Yangon has been a revelation. I spent my days at Adrian’s, a Filipino guy that have been living here for the last years. He lives with a Filipino girl accidentally named Adrienne. During the time I spent at Adrian’s and Adrienne’s I took part in a surprise birthday party (for Adrienne) a house warming party and to the FAB party, LGBT community party in Yangon that takes place one a month, last Saturday.
So Adrian has taken all the pain to take me around, show me the city, take me to the cool places in town (Gekko, Rangoon Tea House, Penthouse, Sharky’s) and then convinced me to go to FAB (never been a big fan of disco parties). But I’m SO GLAD I gave in and went to FAB party. The place was packed with LGBT people and friends. The crowd is very mixed and people are there just to have fun. In a way it made me think of my early years when I used to go dancing with my friends on Saturday nights. I haven’t done that for ages, until yesterday. All the people met during my stay were there and it made me feel happy, people were having a blast and so was I. And I didn’t even drink! There were boys and girls (and all that’s in between) of all shapes and sizes and I was not even the grandpa of the party!
Yangon and the people met here managed to give me even if for a while the sense of home, comfort zone limited in space and time that I needed. Now I’m ready to move on. The time has come for me to move to another place, time to meet other people, time to live another adventure.
To be honest at first I didn’t like Cambodia. The problem was that I didn’t like Phnom Penh and I still don’t like it. It’s the only place in Asia where I haven’t felt safe. But then the rest of the country is very different. This land of ebony skin and pearl white teeth, with double currency and triple language (in a way) all remainings of different invasions suffered during the past. This land that is very poor but very proud where surprisingly enough is easier to contact with locals in English that it is for instance in Bangkok. I can’t say that Cambodia is my favorite country in SE Asia but it’s not either my least favorite.
Cambodia it’s been a land full of surprises, a real discovery, a place that grew on me little by little but at the same time a place that I wasn’t sad of leaving. A place where one room is less expensive that a dish of noodles (that is very cheap already). A land where people get drunk drinking towers of beer, where you are offered from the same person a ride on a tuk tuk or a lady for a few hours. A place where a woman is run down by a motorbike near the market and people are more interested in the state of the motorbike that on the woman laying under the white sheet on the street.
A place where locals thrive on horror from the past and on temples from the further past. A place where it can rain like crazy one moment and it can be scorching hot the following moment. A place that is somehow magical where everything is possible but life is really down to earth. A place that I will keep in my heart. A least for a while.
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.
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.