Don’t Mess with Malacca…

…or with Melaka. 🙂

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No jokes, no mess. Malacca is a great city.

The people, the neighbourhoods, the food, I enjoyed everything about it, even the massive tropical thunderstorm in the afternoon, after hours of sun (and haze).

Few highlights and reasons to visit:

  1. It’s an easy, cheap ride from Kuala Lumpur, around 2 hours away. Perfect timing for a nap, or some quality podcasts.
  2. People are more laid-back then KL, they don’t harass tourists so much, they don’t need it, there are already plenty of them. In fact, Malacca City is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and former Portuguese, Dutch, then British colony.
  3. Due to its intrinsic multiculturalism, the food is great. I ate superb Chinese Malay food in Chinatown. By the way, there is a significant number of Chinese, immigration started in the early 15th century!
  4. The central area is quite pocket-sized, divided by the Malacca river in Chinatown and Dutch Town. Both are great to walk around, and full of restaurant and shops.
  5. If you have time go check the harbour, now a bit modern part of the city. In the middle between the old town and the harbour, there are residential areas that looks quite interesting too, especially to eat ‘like a local’.
  6. Temples, churches, mosques. Beautiful to find them all together, for once.
  7. Mine was a day-trip, but I saw some quirky, cozy hostels while walking around, and also some nice bars and cafes, so it must be really nice to spend a night out too.

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Rain stopped the wander, but not the wonder. It’s indeed a special city.

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I was almost forgetting: I had a makeover! I became a Chinese princess for a good 15 minutes. It was boiling in that dress, but a fun experience.

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See you next time, Melaka, it’s a promise, rain or shine.

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Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

Good news is that you can reach Batu Caves by metro, easy peasy. Bad news is that you’ll lose both legs and a lungs, while climbing the stairs.

I somehow survived, and have fairly nice pictures to show you.

From Wiki:

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia. [..] Rising almost 100 m above the ground, the Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones. The biggest, referred to as Cathedral Cave or Temple Cave, has a very high ceiling and features ornate Hindu shrines. To reach it, visitors must climb a steep flight of 272 steps.

Well, Mister Wiki, it sounds like something people (tourists) want to visit. There is the element of history, the one of nature, the adventure one. Let’s go.

First problem to solve (Asia is a constant exercise of problem-solving) is where to buy the ticket and platform. Heads up, there is no sign, so just go to the central station hall and ask to the small information desk which counter/platform is the right one and get some cash ready.

The ride is an easy one, and gives you the possibility to see from the center to the outskirt of Kuala Lumpur. When you get to destination, there easy distractions: monkeys everywhere, trash scattered by monkeys everywhere, vendors everywhere. If you don’t get distracted by all the above, and concentrate on the temples, it’s really an unique and interesting place.

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After the marathon of sweat and stairs, inside the main cave the view is fine (and not that bent like in my next picture):

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Up there, the sharp contrast between darkness of the caves and light is really something to experience.

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Poverty and Nobility in Kuala Lumpur

Both of us were fast asleep in a bus to the city centre (from the airport, a mere 45′ ride, but we were tired). The last image I had in mind was palm forests everywhere, paradise for coconut oil producers. Then after what seemed only one second, traffic jam, honks and chaos. Eyes wide open. And we saw something. We saw a city that looked like if every American movie and tv series about apocalypse came true, a great mix of “50 years after the most powerful nuclear bombs“, or “That time the disease spread and killed them all” and “Katniss Everdeen living in a metropolitan jungle“. I’m not kidding. And coming from a profound and sacred state of REM to this drastic change is cray cray. For sure, the air smelled like atomic disaster. Cheers haze.

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There were some questions popping in my mind:

1.Are the buildings supposed to look so old and kinda falling to pieces? By the way, you get really used to decrepit places, in Asia.There is a poetry in everything. Even in mould surrounding everything.

2.How come that you can pay every place and turn its name in advertisement? Shout out to Bukit Bintang station, now Air Asia Bukit Bintang. No biggies, it’s just the shopping and entertainment district.

3.Is KFC the national sponsor? They seem to appear everywhere. Boi, they do love chicken.

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We summed up Kuala Lumpur with the 3 Ds:

 Disaster. Decadence. Discomfort.

 

There is this old Italian comedy, Miseria e NobiltĂ  (Poverty and Nobility, in English) where two poor men pretend to be aristocrats, a farce to convince a rich, educated man to marry the daughter. That’s a comedy, and KL can be that too. We got sometimes the impression that some “cultural” landmarks were a bit of a farce into tourist trails. But you can still have a good time in KL.

Some of the highlights:

  • Bukit Bintang, chaotic but lovely.Shopping street, food vendor stalls, massage places, plus many hostels in the area, ask for a room upstairs and avoid the trap to have to share your bed with another tenant. Mr. Mould.

 

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found by mistake in my camera the panorama option, here’s an attempt. (click to enlarge)

 

  • Petaling Street – Chinatown. Great for deals, food, and friendly chaos. Plus, fancy a new watch? Head there…

 

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  • The streets around Merdeka Square, Central Market and Triangle.

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  • Hearing the prayers from Jamek Mosque, before sundown. And see veils everywhere.

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  • Joyful Brickfields, also known as Little India.

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  • Of course, the Petronas Towers. Really wonderful at night. The only bad thing about the place, the amount of selfie sticks around.

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*This blog post is sponsored by a bottle of Dasani water, from the genius behind Coca Cola Company and its bad bad great multinational beverage corporation. Dasani, the only choice available in almost every corner of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

 

Singapore’s Top Places To Visit

I confess. I thought Singapore was mainly finance, clean pavements and skyscrapers. But what we saw in three days of strenously walking up and down was more than that. The city turned out to be an intricate plot of little, charismatic villages with their own, yet interchanging, vibes.

Yes, you can tell it’s always the same city, but it’s like if every corner can add something new and exciting.

So, without any further ado, this are the highlights of every place I saw (in the limited time I had):

  • LITTLE INDIA

– Wonderful Hindu temples: the colours, the statues, the dresses worn, everything is intensified by celebration and the rhythmic of prayers. Lovely.

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–  The nicest people in Singapore too! Just walk around the street, mingle, dance to the Bollywood music boasting from everywhere, stop at a fruit and vegetables shop for a fresh coconut, look at jewellery and shall we even talk about the dress shops? Little India is a splash of colour and chaos with a contagious joie de vivre effect.

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– Affordable shopping malls! Thumbs up for Mustafa Shopping Centre, the most interesting mall, a bazaar with the most random assortment and affordable prices. We (Cuz and I) bought the same Casio watch and I am simply in love with it.

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  • CHINATOWN

– Incredible food. You can’t go wrong, especially with the places with not a single English word on the menu. I still crave for everything I had (a bit ashamed to say it was a lot of stuff).

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– The majestic Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. A temple to visit without any doubt, rich in history, meaning, and decoration. In front of it, in the square you can stop for a while and check men playing Fangqi. I am still trying to understand how the game works, but people looked really into it.

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– The streets around the temple and their street market, selling everything you don’t need. Full of tourists, but also perfect spot for photos.

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  • KAMPONG GLAM (ARAB STREET)

– Hipster vibes! There are some delightful little streets full of cute shops, restaurants and bars where you can sip a beer and watch footie.

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– There are also nice graffiti and a general openness to creativity: it’s clearly an international artsy hub.

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  • THE COLONIAL DISTRICT

– The striking contrast between Neoclassical building and skyscrapers in the background… past and present all in one sight.

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– The beauty of walking around when it’s dark, and wonderful lights are everywhere. Perfect spot to have dinner too (yes touristy, but worth it once).

– Sipping a delicious Singapore Sling at famous Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar. What an experience.

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MORE PICTURES AVAILABLE SOON ON: https://500px.com/valanzo

Singapore, Futurama in the Garden

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There is nothing more extraordinary when in Singapore than exploring Gardens by the Bay and get exited by what the next generations could see. The anticipation is there, and it’s tangible.

It is basically like seeing a glimpse of the future in your own backyard.

Visually, it’s an adventure. It’s pitch dark around, but the trees pop colours: green, followed by blue, followed by purple, followed by pink. A loop of colours and emotions. Everything is curated, everything deserve to get a picture. If you go away from the main square and the crowd, the silence is second only to the light. The usual clouds of Singapore, contributes too, moving along the trees, artificial and real ones, and changing colours.

Inputs run all over your mind and body. Yet, it’s not a chaotic feedback, what stays with you. It’s the wonder, mixed with positivity that the future can be a balanced mix of nature, respect and technology. Maybe, we can be optimist after all.

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Want To See More, Much More You Want to Overdose?? You’re just one click away. Even from your room. Or garden. Head to my brand new 500px account: 

https://500px.com/photo/128169977/gardens-by-the-bay-in-singapore-by-val-anzo

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Singapore, the Heat and the Haze

So here I am, waiting in line to get a stamp from immigration, hoping the employee uses a brand new page of my pretty-big-yet-pretty-empty passport. I am quite fussy about it. I hate in equal measure controllers who:

  1. open a random page in the middle and stamp it there;
  2. cramp page 1 because there is still 3mm left;
  3. think the stamp MUST go close to the nearest country.

I would like to talk to them, and not only staring at the camera or leaving my fingerprints, and tell them that I do care about my passport, moreover that the legacy of a passport lies in the space-time continuum, and grows within the ten years of validity, not within the wimp of a human decision. Let my passport be the timeline of my travel diary, not just bureaucracy. But it doesn’t go like that, and I’m left to reluctantly thank for the stamp. Time to collect the luggage, and get out of the airport, we’ve arrived to Singapore.

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We watch getting dark so early, so quickly that we decide to hit town. Little India, our home base for the stay, straight down to the Marina. From a colourful noisy neighbourhood to a colourful triumph of metal, glass and style. Hidden by the skyscrapers, colonial houses, or what remains of it.

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As time passed by, I try to win over my new camera, and I can’t tell if it’s inexperience, heat exhaustion, or simply jet-lag. Everything I capture looks blurry. I blame myself and carry on walking around some of the most magnificent constructions the man has ever made. Then there is a weird sculpture/fountain half a lion half a fish? “Half a mermaid” tells my cousin. I get a bit weirded out by that and its spitting water into the lagoon. Maybe it’s the heat, it must be the heat and tomorrow it will look magnificent (it didn’t, to be honest).

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As we walk through architecture and artificial lights, the show starts. I decide to jump on board of “I love time-lapses” club and make a ridiculous shaky video. It’s hot now, and we have no water. Eyes are burning too. It definitely must be the heat, I’m not used to it.

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I am spinning into lights and colours. I even take few blurry pics, because art. “It’s so beautiful in here”, I keep thinking, “it’s so freaking beautiful”. In that moment I decide to start writing down every aphorism I can come up during the trip, at least one for every city. The one about Marina came watching around and getting blinded by Christmas lights everywhere “Men are really the most intelligent yet most stupid creatures in this world”.

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Only at home I realise about the haze alarm, the main cause of the blurriness. Thanks Zeus my new camera is not broken (or worse me…).

HAZE =

it is traditionally an atmospheric phenomenon where dust, smoke and other dry particles obscure the clarity of the sky. (wiki)

My utter dislike goes for days to Indonesia and their constant burning toxins. People, what’s wrong with you? Get a grip! I keep thinking that in Europe this could not happen, and then it hits me that this beautiful, squared, clean city lies – despite some of its appearance – in Asia.

So we call it a night, time to sleep, that tomorrow we are going to explore what’s Asian in Singapore. Good night S’pore, and remember to switch off the lights.

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Cuz On Tour: Prequel

I consider myself lucky to get along with my cousin so much that I can call him friend, moreover fellow companion for my quirkiest travel ideas.

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Few months ago, around my birthday to be more specific, I started wanting badly to change my life. Or something of it. Or everything of it. I spent last birthday completely on my own, and even the most stubborn or individualistic ones might understand how painful that feels. Especially after I also spent NYE alone, not on purpose. Avoiding Facebook and thoughts painted in black, I booked myself on a day adventure, to a tropical island in a German hangar, in the middle of Brandenburg forest. In that crazy place ( https://www.tropical-islands.de/en/ if you want to check it out)…That’s where and when leaving the city and my situation for a holiday looked like a bloody good idea. Traveling defines me, and I’m good at it. I no longer wanted to be stuck in my miserable state of…being the worst version of me.

I started fantasizing about Seoul, because since Hong Kong 2013, the city was at the top of my list. I spoke with my cousin about. Is it doable? We’re not really swimming in gold, lately. Even if we might have the attitude when we are together, a fashionable bunch of colonialists at heart with a serious mixology addiction. To understand, I once told him “rooftops make me look thinner”…. Anyway, once I explained the idea, we roughly calculate the fare. Too much. Darn.

What to do? Change destination!
Go to SEA, feel the warm weather, explore urban jungles and ancient cities! Who says no to that, right? From there, it was quite easy to draft the itinerary, spanned in a three week time. And money-wise, affordable.
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First things firsts: the flight tickets. It’s fair to say that few months in advance (4 for us) we got the best deal for a multi-city ticket with Qatar. Spoiler: I flew to Asia with Emirates before, and it was way, way better, so that’s my first advice.
Secondarily, the internal flights with low cost Asian companies also was quite easy step, a 3 months in advance booking also helped us sparing essential money. I used skyscanner.com, as per usual, to find the cheapest airlines (Airasia, anyway, is the easiest one, with infinite destinations).
I spent the last 2 months focusing on accommodation, clothing and camera gears.
Oh, and working three jobs to afford it, while Berlin was having the best summer ever. Best decision ever, the good weather helped me heaps.

On the Accommodation front, we wanted to experience everything, from living with a family to hostel, to basic hotel until luxury ones, where affordable. I spent lots of weekend finding the perfect spots, and I think we got it, quite proudly I might state. Not a single place was the same from the other, and that kept the tour fascinating too.
Talking about clothing, I went classic: white to win, cotton and viscose the only way. That didn’t stop my sweating and sunburning, but hey, I’m a whitey with freckles…

Now, talking about cameras and camera gear. I extra worked in order to afford my new baby, a Panasonic LX100. Small, light mirrorless with the soul of a Tiger. Winning choice for the adventure. I paired it up with some necessary gears, like a wristband strap and Solar filters.

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After the preparation and few skype call with cuz, it was time to go. Next stop: Singapore. More about that in the next chapter, as I hear from the radio podcasts “The story continues. Stay with us”

P.S. I’m writing this prequel from a rooftop, river view bar in Bangkok. This is what I see. Ace. (If you read typos, I’m sorry, I’m writing on a smallish screen!)

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