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. 

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.

January has two faces…the same goes for Manila

Yesterday my CS host was busy so he drove me around the town and dropped me in Bonifacio, the new financial and residential area.

Everything there is clean and beautiful. No weird smells, no strange liquids oozing on the streets, no kilometers of wires hanging in the air. It could actually be ANYWHERE in the world. And I would be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate the clean streets, the dustbins, the impeccable WiFi but at the same time I thought that that is not the real Manila. Or at least, the one you would expect.

And then today, walking home all sweaty and disgusting I passed by the “real” Manila the Asian city that you would expect. Barracks everywhere, people cooking on the streets, kids playing with water and stray dogs and cats and I thought that this condition of the city is eventually bound to disappear like it did in so many (well, every I guess) cities in EU and other “civilized” countries.

We are so used to have clean streets, light poles, proper appartmens that we forgot that not so many years ago, we were not so different from the Asian cities that surprise us so much. How easy​ it is to get used to the clean and proper and how easy it is to judge what’s not.

Make a wish (but be careful what you wish for…)

When I was in Europe I was complaining about the temperature and I wanted sooo bad a warm climate. Now I have it and I’m not really sure I’m happy with it….
Temperatures here are between 27° and 37° and the only escape from the heat is the AC.

Manila is a very BIG city. 

The traffic is horrendous. It took me almost 2 hours from the airport to the hostel where I spent the first night.

I went out to check the neighborhood this morning and I got thrown back to last year trip. The images of a city, of a way of living that I almost forgot. Those smells that I got used to last year and that I was not used anymore, that almost insult my sense of smell. The arrassment from the poor (or anyone else for that matter) to give money, buy flowers, buy sigarettes, to give part of your meal. People living, eating, and doing anything on the street. 

Yesterday night I had dinner at a “Cafe” near the hostel. I was with some guys from my room and it was fun. More memories from last year’s trip. It’s crazy how we idealize our memories. I’m not saying that I’m regretting my decision to come back to Asia but my memories were pretty different from the reality. 

First impressions

I’m almost there. Another little effort and I can touch grounds in Manila. Honestly, I can’t hardly wait. The “pilgrimage” has been long. 22 hours of trip. The layovers where not too bad. The airport in Riyadh is incredible. 

Everything is marble, it’s exactly what you would expect in Saudi Arabia. The toilets are all covered in marble and there is the area where you can wash your feet. And of course the “bidet” option. My favorite. (Which I found also in the airplane toilet!!!)

As it happened often last year during my trip in Asia, I’m the only white around. And the plane is packed! But it’s fun to be for once the minority. 😊

I’m really excited. But I need to take a walk now. Really bad. My legs are soar and I need to move. I feel like a sausage (vegetarian of course! 😉) squeezed in between two large slices of bread! Please let me out of here! 

This morning (or was it yesterday) at the airport and before at home, it has been hard to say goodbye. It always is. Even if a travel a lot, that never becomes easy. And it’s​good it doesn’t. And it’s good to know that wherever I go, there is always someone somewhere that cares for me and looks forward for my homecoming.