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. 

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. 

Summing it up – Indonesia 

And Indonesia also is done.  Strange country, three big islands (main ones) and three different realities. 

Bali is the “easiest” one.  Being the one more known and exploited buy tourism is the one more westernized.  Locals are very used to foreigners,  English is spoken almost everywhere and it’s easy to go around. But being so it’s not necessarily a good thing.  Prices are higher and once again the white person is a “walking wallet”. Every step you’re asked if you wanna a taxi (taksi sorry!) or a sarong or a selfie stick or if you want a drink or some food.  Well basically like any other Asia country where tourism it too well developed.
 

 

Comes Java and things tone down a little bit.  You’re still a walking wallet but it’s more discreet.  You are not attacked.  Just invited.  Over and over but it’s not too annoying. People in general are nice and help you.  Smile on their face but you can notice the difference from Bali. 

Last (in order of appearance)  is Sumatra by far my favorite. Unfortunately I only had a fee days to spend in this beautifully green land.  Here tourism and infrastructures for it are at a very basic level.  Tourists are but a few and locals are as nice as it can be. My hosts and his family have been fantastic.  People are very curious of the foreigner and are not annoying.  Don’t try to sell you anything and you are still you.  Just a foreign person in a beautiful foreign country. 

In my deep ignorance I always thought that Muslim countries are close and unfriendly but I haven’t seen anything of the kind during my wanderings  in Indonesia.  People are warm and friendly, curious about you’re country,  you’re habits, you’re life and the cold climate. 

Food is good and cheap and you are in trouble only if you desperately look for a beer.  Other than that life is humble but beautiful. 

I haven’t necessarily done all the typical things that visitors are supposed to do when they visit Indonesia.  Actually I’ve done very little but I don’t regret my trip at all.  I was looking for a true experience,  to meet locals,  mingle with them and live their lives and in a way I’ve succeeded.  I’ve learnt that this are far from what the TV and news papers tell you. I’ve learnt that we are more similar than we think and at the same time worlds apart.  And life is not really better in our uber developed society.  Here people have nothing or close to nothing but they’re more than happy to share it with you.  We should learn to do the same. 

Idul fitri 1438

For those of you who know nothing about Islam like I did (and still do for that matter) Idul Fitri is the end of Ramadan,  the month of the year when Muslim people fast during the day. I happened to arrive in Indonesia exactly at the beginning of Ramadan  and I’m about to leave it as the fasting period is over. 

I crossed from Java to Sumatra by ferry in about an hour and then in 2 hours I arrived at my following destination: Bandar Lampun where my host agreed to pick me up from the station and drive me to his place. 

While waiting for Ageng and eating an entire tube of Pringles many people approached me just to say hi or to enquire where I was going.  One of these people is a very shy man called Christo (in a Muslim country!!! 😀). We exchanged a few phrases and in the meantime I said hello to some 10 people looking at me with a smile on their face. 

Ageng arrived and drove me to his home where I met all is close family : mother,  father,  little sister and his uncle that is only 4 years older than he is. Aziz’s English is pretty good and we managed to have a decent conversation.  Ageng’s mom cooked dinner for me and then I went to bed as I  was pretty tired.  Ageng left his bed to me and slept on a mattress on the floor.

The following morning we woke up at sunrise and at 7.30 we were already on the road to go to Angeng’s grandmother. But before we made a pit stop at his aunt’s house to get more family in the van.  It took us almost 2 hours to get there.  But the road passed through towns and parts of forest so it was nice. 

Once arrived to destination we found more family waiting for us and everyone was super interested in me.  I was at the center of attention, the first to get the right to eat,  the one to have the right to the best food,  and was served tea,  water and everything that was available to eat.  In Sumatra (but I imagine it’s the same more or less all around Indonesia)  every house is always ready to receive guests. They have always a table set up with cookies and biscuits,  some water and tea (very sweet of course). So there I was, stuffing my face with all the food that had been prepared to celebrate the end of Ramadan and in the meantime receiving the complete attention of the all family that was getting larger and larger every moment.  At one point I asked if I could have a picture with all the family.  They agreed and it took a while to organize but in the end I managed to get my picture with part of the family, and it was already a big part.  But then the whole family wanted a picture with me.  One by one.  I felt like like a monkey at the zoo but it was funny.  After the photo call we were on the road again direction Way Kambas that I thought was a sanctuary for elephants.  The entrance is 7500RP for the locals and 250000RP for the tourists… The worst money ever spent. 

To get to the actual sanctuary it takes 40min from the check point by car on a VERY bad road . Once there it’s easy to realize that the place couldn’t be further from a sanctuary. It’s more like a circus where the poor animals have to do the clowns so people can laugh.  As I  didn’t want to disappoint my host I didn’t say anything and tried to watch the show but it got to a point when I started crying so I decided to go to the toilet not to see the rest of the horror show and not to show my host my disappointment. Luckily they were in a rush to be back with the rest of the family and since it was raining they decided that it was time to leave and that way I could put an end to my agony. 

Back at grandma’s home there was still the family and still waiting for me and take some more pictures.  One of the relatives (don’t know what kind of relationship, here were at least 40 people in the house!) asked me if I liked coconut and when I said yes he offered to get one for me.  A few of us left to get the coconut from the jungle behind the house and the relative climed on a palm tree and got some coconuts for us that we drank and ate there and then.  (and in the meantime we gave a good reason to mosquitoes to stick around!) Back home we were really exhausted and went straight to bed. Idul fitri is something like Christmas for Christians so there is always good a gathering to attend to.  And just like Christmas it can be pretty exhausting. 

The following morning Ageng and part of his family took me to the airport but before we made a pit stop to introduce me to another branch of the family and do some other photo call. Ageng and all his relatives have been amazing.  They have treated me like a prince and also adapted the cooking to my diet restrictions.  They made me feel the most important person in the world and walked the extra mile to make me feel at home.  They also gave me presents and made my stay in Lampun unforgettable. 

My plane to Padang was more a bus than a plane.  It took three hours to get to destination and due to the fact that we stopped  in Jambi to let passengers out and pick need ones… Weird… 

We got to Padang with an hour delay and at the airport I found Alfano, a couchsurfer, to pick me up.  I didn’t find any host so I booked at Brigitte’s home (Jl. Kp. Sebelah X, Kp. Pd., Padang Bar., Kota Padang, Sumatera Barat) and Alfano although could not host me was so nice to take me there on his motorbike. Brigitte’s house is a very small hostel where I got a room for myself.  The place is more than decent but the fact that there is only one bathroom for the entire place can be sometimes really uncomfortable. 

Padang is a very nice city by the sea surrounded by beautiful mountains and jungles.  With Alfano we had dinner in a sushi place and then I called it a night. 

The following day Alfano came and pick me up and together we went to the beach some 20min far from the city.  Honestly it was nothing special as a recent storm had torn down many tree on the beach and the water is not crystal clear due to the movement of the sands.  Besides to get to a depth decent enough to swim you have to walk around 100m from the shore.  But it was still nice.  The area is still very wild,  with animals walking around free and I tried to get an interaction with some of the goats walking around but they always ran from me… 

After a nap in the afternoon Alfano invited me to spend the night at the hostel where he works (as he was doing the night shift and could easily sneaking me in) and so I was able to spend the night in a four star hotel and in the morning I had a gigantic breakfast and all this for free!!!

The night before we had dinner at this street food place called Waroeng Koki-koki where I had kwetiau goreng,  some kind of really thick rice noodles with vegetables and afterwards we had an ice-cream at Es Durian – Ganti Nan Lamo. At the restaurant there were these two kids singing and they were pretty amazing. Little Indonesia got talent 

The night rained cats and dogs but this morning the sun is shining. 

I really loved Sumatra even though I just spent a few days here.  Despite the fact that is the more Muslim compared to Bali and Java  I found the people very friendly and very open.  White persons are still something to look at with great interest, but they always say hello and smile to you. I’m not sure that if they knew that I’m gay they would be still so nice,  but I can’t really complain.  

Now I’m at the airport again ready to leave Indonesia as my visa expires tomorrow. New destination Malaysia.

the beginnig is the end is the beginning

So tomorrow I will take the plane to the Philippines where my new adventure begins. I have been good here but the thing is that I have been feeling like a stranger in a strangeland.

I need to go now and it makes me feel a little sad but at the same time I know that every end is the beginning of something new. According to the numerology this year 2017 is number one (2+0+1+7= 10/ 1+0= 1) so this means the year of change, of many new beginnings, new stories, now adventures.

All travel makes me grow, I will get to know a Giorgio that I haven’t met before, I will discover new strengths, new weaknesses and I will get to love this new person, as much or hopefully more than the one that I leave behind.

Tomorrow is the end of my staying here, in the false comfort zone, tomorrow is the beginning of a new episode, of a new adventure.

the last days before the beginnig…

Even though you are happy and sure of your decision to take that trip, there is always something that feels strange. There are always doubts and fears, always the feeling of uncertainty about what you’ll  find and the longing for what you leave behind. But then you know that whatever the future will bring, it will be good. It will make you grow as a person, it will make you see things under a different light and then you will understand that the decision you took was the right one.