I’m like the road, just going on – Taipei version

3 days in Taipei, all by myself.

What happens naturally, when alone, is excitement. No schedules, no waiting, plenty of time for thinking and for photography. There is also, however, a small component of loneliness and a bit of fear, especially at night. Maybe a pre-concept of my parents’ predicaments when I was a child, maybe a bit of melancholy thinking that I could have brought someone with me. I guess these thoughts are part of what travelling solo for a woman means. So I embraced it.

I took lots of pictures. I shared my loneliness with fellow lonely commuters in the MRT, fantasising if they were feeling a bit like me. Just going on.

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Under secular trees, I explored empty streets. Just going on.

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I took photos, loads of photos, and enjoyed the colours and images of advertisements in the shops. Just going on.

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I spend an entire day without phone and camera, only a paper map as a friend. I got lost more times I’ll ever admit. I had yummy food at food stalls, restaurants and street markets. I don’t usually take picture of my food, because I simply eat it. Not enough Millennial, I know.

I contemplate stuff, I contemplate not judging things I could not understand, like this dadaist mirror, for example:

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I saw incredible temples, then I spent Easter in a Chinese-Buddhist temple with hundreds of people leaving useless non-spiritual stuff as offers. Again, I pushed myself to check only the aesthetics of it, leaving comments behind, because “You know nothing, Jon Snow” can be applied to every tourist. Just going on.

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I fairly enjoyed the shopping, the music in the street, happy faces of youngsters walking the lanes. Just going on.File0717

I kept going on, street after street, station after station. I explored, witnessed and silently reacted to everything.

Bangkok’s Top Places and Things

1) Get involved in a tuck tuck scam

You might want to believe that drivers in BKK are not trying to squeeze money out of you but they just really want to show you the city, but it’s of course not true. The most active ones are around street waiting for youngsters to jump on, especially for a temple tour that you pay at the end or not pay at all if you don’t mind visiting a tailor and tourist shops full of crap from China..The tour is actually nice, if you are able to breathe during rush hour (conveniently at every hour in Bangkok) and to avoid the shop assistants trying to sell you everything from a true silk tie to their passports. The best part for us was to be dumped at the last stop of the tour, where another driver was “miraculously” waiting for us…to get paid. We blissfully ignored him and took a bus instead.

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2) Eat from vendors on the streets

Simple as. Nutrition on the go, a cheap alternative probably not the healthiest option, but especially in Chinatown if you pick one with only locals you might just enjoy it, like a lot, believe me.

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3) Get lost in Talat Noi

Probably my favourite area in all Bangkok. Talat Noi is an unspoilt part of Chinatown, its oldest one, and I was blessed to stay there during the Vegetarian Festival, and its final day was something unbelievable to witness. I need to write a blog post only about it, remind me of that. 🙂 The people there -living quietly in all in garages facing the street, working metals and motors day and night-are kind and reserved, not pushy as in the other parts to get your money. Prepare to get lost, it’s impossible not to, and embrace it.

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>>Bonus: River View Guest House best chilled budget hotel in BKK!! And its terrace is to go ballistic!<<

4) Have some hipster downtime with a brunch in Ari

It’s still Bangkok with its alleys and mess, but it’s also a bit of Brooklyn and a bit of my Berlin. There are many nice cafes and restaurant, perfect for a flat while, a brunch or a more homie dinner.

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5) Take as many boats and ferries as possible

Because…breeze.

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6. Take pictures of all the people taking pictures at the sacred area

The buildings are majestic, see link, but how people are willing to sacrifice their lives and pose like demons to get the perfect shot is highly hilarious to watch and frame.

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7. Visit the parliament, highly underrated

The building and the royal collection….

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8. Find a terrace bar to take pictures of Bangkok in the night-time

It doesn’t have to be the one where the hungover was set (that is anyway a good one, aye), just pick one and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the lights and streets, really inspiring.

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Now time for some games for the last 2 ones:

9. Count how many rats hang out in the street during night

Ratatouille was a sucker compared to the colonies in downtown Bangkok! Maybe – maybe – that’s because of the rubbish left on the streets during night? Just a guess, mine…

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10. Counts how many taxi drivers can constantly honk you while you simply just walk down a street

…. Because it’s warm, you are a tourist and you should not want to walk. Your feet were not made to walk… Come on, giv’em dat money!

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After the top 10, do you think the city is something for you or you better go fishing? You can do that too, at your own risk… Bangkok, you’re quite something. See you next time.

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Ecstasy of the Senses in Grand Palace, Bangkok

If everyone visits the Grand Palace at least once, it means it’s good, right?

Spoiler: It is.

But it is also overcrowded as f… People are everywhere. Yet, tourists can’t be not enough beautiful, or interesting, to overshadow those stunning buildings. After the first steps in a courtyard, I thought of how much engaging craftsmanship was used to create all that incredible horror vacui filled with gold. Another impressive thing is how asymmetry plays a big role in perceiving the space and in a certain way in making pondered the eclectic styles. The different designs and colours, impressively enough, don’t clash with each others.

I wonder how this place, all set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards, looks like when it’s empty. I wish I could visit at the dawn, when nobody’s already there. I bet it’s breath-taking. But, you know, being a tourist for a day you get what you pay for. Good news is that if you play it wisely, you can almost avoid big crowds an get some incredible shots of details. Not enough to cope with hoards of tourists, but enough to get a glimpse of royal Thailand.

So, what’s left from that visit? Tons of photos. Some of those I leave them here for you, enjoy.

  1. Surroundings:

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nice

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    2. People at the Grand Palace:

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    3. Details:

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first 2

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First Impressions of Bangkok

Let’s state the obvious: first impressions matter.

We get influenced easily, especially while travelling. Impressions turn in conceptions about the surroundings, to simplify the travel. We have, after all, a simple mind. But during my first day in Bangkok, I tried to hold the thought and every impression of the city: my cuz was ill, and needed to rest. We based our stay in Chinatown, where we knew we could trust in good food, less tourists and Chinese indifference.

We read incredible stories about how tourists were squeezed to the extreme in Bangkok (latest revealed all true: scammers, screamers, sellers are constantly trying to get money from you) and we just wanted, at least for a day, to rest. So we found our little peace in the little streets of Chinatown, that lies between the main train station and the river. We took a train from the airport, and experienced a third class ride; of course as in other intended moments, we were the only Westerners.

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People were kind to us, but quite alarmed by my camera (and the big luggage). I was able to snap a quick shot of the toddler in front of me, and it’s actually one of my favourite pictures I have ever taken.

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In the late afternoon I went out for a photo session around the neighbourhood. I loved the vibes, the humid weather, the food stalls, and the general buzz. I ended up in temples, dark alleys, street markets, and then the riverbank, all without a map/phone. It was a nice me-session, where I was able to capture my personal first impressions of Bangkok’s Chinatown. It’s similar to many other Chinatowns I have been, yet different. I particularly loved the jungle trees growing everywhere around the small, cute, decadent houses. I leave you some pictures (that means many, since I couldn’t pick fewer) here: get your own impression, and enjoy.

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11. chinese temple

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12. chinese market 1

8. building

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12. chinese market 3

6. river

 

 

Brutally Patong

Patong is pornographic.

It is, believe me. It’s a clash of buildings, wires, market stalls, vendors, screaming trucks, tuk-tuks, drunk people, young tourists and people who want something from you. All.The.Time.

It’s ironic that such a carnival-type-of-place is in the middle of a beautiful green island like Phuket. But it’s a great place for backpackers and people who are not in the mood of relaxing holidays. Also perfect for a night out of the resort.

Want to know more? Here are 10 snaps of the place, enjoy!

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The Wire – Phuket Version

A bit of digression from the usual travel story-telling this time.

I am preparing the first chapter about Phuket, and while watching back the pictures I took I got hooked up by one of my photo obsession: wires/electricity.

Since I started taking pictures I have been attired by some particular topics:

  • Posters
  • Convey Safety Mirrors
  • Phone Boxes
  • Janis (my dog sister)
  • Electricity (Wires, Power and utility boxes)

As soon as I got to Thailand I noticed how electrical safety has not the usual common European standards. Or any standard at all. Sometimes I was a bit freaked out by the warmth and buzzing sound they were emitting, but I must confess they were great fun to take pictures at.

The following series comes from Patong, enjoy.

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Phuket and Patong chapters coming next!

 

P.S. Even in this blog post I managed to create a list. My mind is that list-oriented. 🙂

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 Nobiltà (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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