Bangladesh – summing it up 

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. 

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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. 

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.

It’s a long (and difficult) way to Paradise

I arrived in Batad to admire the UNESCO heritage rice terraces.

The bus from Manila arrived in Banaue at 5.30am. From the tourist information office I had to take a tricycle for myself as no one else was heading my direction. I got a discount and headed to the small village of Batad. At 7.30am it was already 34°.

The tricycle can go as far as “the saddle” then is hicking. 

From a lady at the saddle I have been taken to Top View homestay and the name is no wrong. From the terrace you can get a spectacular view of the terraces.

The rooms are decent and the food is good (and there is also a vegetarian option!!)

So after leaving my luggage I started to track down the path to the famous Tappiya Waterfall.

It’s about an hour walk, under the sun and on rocky grounds. Thank god I had my brother’s hicking shoes so I managed not to fall or kill myself along the way. 

From the lodging area the path follows the rice terraces and it’s up and down hills and fields. There is just one track that takes you there and every now and then you have to take a break, stop checking your footsteps and embrace the breathtaking view.

There are parts where the path is pretty dangerous and you have to be careful where you set your foot. And then the are the murderous stairs made of uneven steps that kill everyone’s breath.

I consider myself pretty trained but at some point I thought my chest would explode.

But after all the ups and downs along the hills you get there and you understand it was worth it.

The waterfall is small but absolutely amazing. If you get there around 8am you are lucky as I was to see the rainbow. There is no civilization around. You just hear the water flows, the crickets “singing” the the birds. The trip has been trying but walkig in this beautiful surroundings, with as a soundtrack the water wetting the rice fields, the crickets and the rooster calling from afar it was really rewarding. Of course I couldn’t stop myself to get into the water and refresh from the sun and the sweat of the long walk. The water is clear, fresh and invigorating.

Don’t get discouraged by the hard way to get there​. The reward is definitely worth the effort (and the sweat. A lot!!!)