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Malaysia South-East Asia (2019)

Our home away

Passing the friendly guards, you’d head to the right to curve around the main building and into the second with the big letter ‘B’. An elevator ride later and you find yourself on the fifteenth floor, from which you can see the distant wavy water bouncing towards the island. Coinciding, that same wind causing the mesmerising waves whooshes through the wide gaps of the building singing its song. During storms and huge downfalls it becomes an event more daunting, bringing the whole place to a shake. Heretofore, the monsoons had turned the hallways into a river resulting in the flooding and destruction of the elevators. Due to poor management, this could last months, but fortunately, we hardly felt affected by the weather or the indolent management. At least not to such extreme extent.

At the fifth door going left, you’d pause, enter a code and then step into the humble abode. On your immediate left is a kitchen, straight is an incredibly spacious living room and to the right is the bathroom connected to the bedroom – which then again leads back to the living room. At the opposite end of the entrance is the glass slide door keeping out the humid heat. As you exit through the slide, standing on the balcony, you could lean over and watch the other inhabitants of the complex do their laps of swimming or you’d gaze further and watch a group of young children outside of the premises indulge in a game of football. Perhaps you can take a peak of the top floor of the ‘A’ building, reachable by going to the fifth floor where the swimming pool is stationed and crossing to the other side where another set of elevators awaits you. Flying up, you find a small gym. Personally, I do not partake in going to the gym – too many people. I have purchased my own minuscule set-up which, obviously, remained in the Netherlands. With that, I felt in luck with this, compared to mine, luxurious yet relative idle gym that was also within close enough vicinity. I even managed to make friends during the time span of my sessions. The only downside was the dress-code I at home wouldn’t abide by – shoes and shirt. That, and the downstairs neighbour stealing the machine’s pins turning it into a ‘Bring your own make-shift pin’-gym.

Mere a minute’s walk away awaits a haven of basic stalls seemingly coated with health code violations, however, upon close inspection, you find yourself in a wander in a heaven of foods. Uncostly meals ready in a whiff, once again served with the sweetest of smiles and with a taste uncanny bearing resemblance to the most lavish meal consumed. Except for the part where the pricey meal in the fancy restaurant with a table clothed and chairs comfortable was nothing but a disappointment and disgrace and the second the feared barrier of comfort was crossed, Utopia was found. Sitting on the wobbly, plastic chair, time after time they manage to wow you. Every food court is the same with every plate being the very picture of the previous ones, yet all tasted completely different. Finding the ones to cherish, you are in a state of absolute bliss, but the Chinese and Malay courts are not the only ones where the Nirvana of food rests, as a couple of minutes further up the road is a 24/7 Indian restaurant that spits out constant ravishing and extraterrestrial delights that had me and my missus gorging away as if our lives depended on it. I can type and type but the love I bear for half the feasts indulged in during my accumulated months on the peninsula remains indescribable and unending.

When not capable of beating the heat or simply aiming for a place further, the taxi-company Grab, the Uber of Asia, would at a bargain drive us anywhere we desired. Taking us to the nearby harbour for some sad pennies to cross for a day or hang out at the air-conditioned mall where we’d watch a movie. Go to a recommended restaurant some kilometres away or to further-away attractions, you name it, Grab is at your service.

All with all, this was perfect. The time spent there can’t be taken away. The morning toast with eggs as remembrance to my European roots, though the bread was an incompetent version, followed by daily eat-outs. All the while, we combined enjoying life and love together, going to the gym and for her working online whilst I did my courses. We both concurred that Malaysia would make a wonderful home.

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EU

Keukenhof, a could-visit

Stuffed inside a car on a late April’s morning, the four of us along with a drooling shih tzu headed for the well-known Keukenhof infamous for the fields and paintings of tulips. Perhaps too well-known, as the man blasting from the radio told of traffic jams leading to our destination and before tomorrow being the worst possible time to go there. However with date specific tickets tucked inside my pocket, the only chance we had was departing before dawn and counting on late risers as we enter the park before the masses gathered at the gate.

Alas, luck be far from our side when many had amassed at said gate, as we spurted through the sea of parked cars. Amassed at the gate, through it, on the paths and practically anywhere within the vicinity. Bundles of nationalities came packed with overly large cameras and squandered their day of heat to be skin-to-skin with hundreds of other flower enthusiasts. In a slow, steadily pace we polonaise-d through the gardens in the shape of a thousand-footed centipede with “awe” and “ooh” sounds escaping people along the way.

As flowers blossom at the law of nature, it is understandable that all desire to witness this miracle and with that the attraction of Keukenhof resembling that of ants to syrup and bees to honey, but the gathering of groups and mobs practically killed the experience. Though given the option, as overall experience I’d choose it again and again. The sky-high number of people was overkill, but throw away the sour attitude, embrace the beaming sun and meander the many paths of the mega-park and you’ll be in for a great, fun day. Bring along the girl who mentioned she adores flowers and impress her with the haven of it. Take your family for a day out or go by yourself to indulge in sights and smells leaving you with pleasing senses. Come on in to explore all the wonderful, colour-rich creations and, as advisory, upon departing drive some kilometres towards the actual fields as in my mind, they are the true enchanters. Doing such, you’ll ensure yourself with a splendid day and resulting with a field giving you the opportunity for a shot worthy of your feed.

What is an overrated/largely visited attraction you’d still recommend going to?

Categories
Life outside of travel

Welcoming her home

At last, the tiny Filipina hidden behind her trolley rolled through the gate with tired eyes and a dreary face that screamed to have gone through hell. Short domestic flights with her hand tightly gripped into her lover’s had been an anxiety-riddled adventure. One must imagine the peaking of adrenaline and anxiousness when she stood alone on the Filipino airport, about to embark on a multiple flight journey of over 20 hours. Cheeks came doused with tears, dried over the hour-long flight and a heart was beating at an alarming rate throughout, but she bit down and fought through to finally arrive in Schiphol, Netherlands. A smile of exhaustion and weariness painted her face as she shyly moved closer to me and my father. A father I was glad to still be there and not hauled off by the Dutch military police after a near incident. After introducing the two to each other, we walked the same route I did a month before upon returning home.

I remember the drive home being foggy as ever, diminishing the views of the lowlands from our car, however with a dozing off girlfriend simply pleased to be back in the arms of her boyfriend it hadn’t been the greatest bother. For once, the restaurant on the way as usual stop was skipped and we headed straight for the house. Her to-be home. The pets and cuddles with the dogs were curt, since we quickly thereafter had taken on a horizontal position and caught up on some due sleep before introducing her to the initial Dutch unhealthy snacks.

From the day that I met her til the moment she stood bearing her encharming smile at the airport, I indubitably got to know more about her than anyone can claim. To this point, she seemed a perfect fit for me. For reasons unknown, she puts up with my weird, childlike behaviour and accepts as well as endorses and loves the wandering side of me, which means the acceptance of staying at our future home whilst I am off and to be open to migration more than once. However, the final tests remained within the Dutch culinary masterpieces and her opinion on such. So, the same day and weeks to follow I dragged her to local snackbars, the Wall of Febo and through stands of liquorice, stroopwafels and baked goods at supermarkets. With hopeful eyes I gazed at her as she put her teeth into a soft bread with a long croquette and atop of it a mush of mustard. My prayers and pleas had been answered when she shivered out of giddy excitement and exclaimed her love for the food, along with all other – admittedly unhealthy – that I had shoved down her throat.

After the Dutch delights, it remains without a doubt important how well she fares with my family. Bearing gifts from the marble capital Romblon, the two of us trotted up and down, hopping on the train for a weekend at my mom’s, followed by cycling through town to visit the grandmother, another deceased grandma’s sister and my aunt, meeting up with my sister and bonding with the younger brothers. One of them already excelling in English would understand every bit whereas the other would progressively gain more knowledge during her stay. And besides the grandma, everyone appeared to have a handle on the language and within family she clicked in perfectly, as she learned my trait of weirdness had been an overflowing mixture of that of both my mom’s and dad’s. And having met my sister and younger brothers, it is clear that there runs no exception. Nonetheless, she coped and chuckled along with the jesters.

Though, 18 months had been far too long. And you might take the globetrotter and put him back in his country, but you can’t remove the wanderlust nor stop the flowing of his traveller’s blood. At times, its flow is tranquil and hardly palpable, but with every beat it flows. So, the second the commotion of welcoming and uniqueness had died down and work, the same, unaltered, routinely tasks had reached boiling point of the pot that is monotonous, stale and bleak, my lust for being on the move came to a rise. The only distinction was, with an Asian’s arm locked into mine, I became tourist in own country!

For those utterly confused regarding the timeline, this belated blog post is written about the events on begin 2019, shortly after returning home from my South-East Asia and Australia venture. However, with the rapid speed I am currently writing at, soon, hopefully not too soon, they’ll be completely up-to-date. For now, to the travellers reading this, have you been tourist in own country?

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A brick of the wall of fear

Back in my lover’s arms, it was not long before I dragged her with me from island to island in the beautiful archipelago. A short flight had taken us to the well-known Cebu where both of us would, without truly realising it yet, face our fears. Though it would be under mild conditions, nonetheless it required a big swallow and hopefully it is a brick in the build-up of the real deal. For my lovely Filipina, it is the water she fears. No, she is not scared of the kiddie-pool or anything to that liking. It is the depth of the endless oceans and seas as well as the big creatures within that intimidate her. Nonetheless, time after time she had proven herself to be bigger and stronger through the swimming and snorkelling we had done up to that point. But, today would be different, today would be a terrifying day for her.

Categories
Australia (2018) Life outside of travel

A Temporary Goodbye

Tears flooded over her precious cheeks. We had spoken of our time together, our “December” frequently, holding on to the tiny thread that held us sane, yet when it was finally within our grasp, the moment had just as soon passed. Begin of December, we finally intertwined with the longest of hugs. I then met her family, we travelled together, went on ventures normal couples go and made life heaven and hell during the two glorious months spent together. All the time that we had already known each other cramped into two measly months. Two bloody months of passionate love and happiness and then life takes it all back. Kicked out of the garden of Eden, my paradise. Back at the airport, with parents and daughter in tears. The hourglass’s sand had gone and there was no way to turn it back around. We already used up that trick on my 2nd one month’s visa. Time’s up, money’s up, get out of the Philippines. We both wished it to be easier, but we knew then and we know now that not all passports have equal privileges. So, morosely, I swung my bag over my shoulder and trudged my way to the security while she remained. Gloomily, but nonetheless a little excited for the land they call Down-Under I boarded my flight.

It won’t be the last time this gets mentioned, but the toughest part always lays in the first and the later stage of a long distance relationship. Upon the onset of being companion-less, it is the change that crashes upon you. Alone, there is now a constant silence. For many years, I had embraced that silence and been happier within that space. After finding my true love, that changed a fair bit. Because she is the only one with whom I don’t filter my personality. Then, getting used to being on your own again, you begin with accepting the temporary forsaken feeling. Not being able to communicate the random, silly thoughts that pop up or discuss the topical events of the day. It’s what makes the first days or weeks hard.

For every person it works different, but once you get there, to the accepting the distance and working with it, life is good for awhile. You do your thing, whilst often in contact with each other. Loving messages, late night calls. All the good stuff. But, slowly yet steadily, the later stage encroaches, when it has been months since you have been within miles reach of your lover. This, is when you go down the slope of insanity. At the brink of, you crave the touch and sight of your partner. The need to breathe the same air, share the same space. Honest to god, it doesn’t even matter what you do, all you want is to be in the same room, because where you are now is a lonesome pit that craves the feeling of being filled with love. Love that is at a distance had oft been worse than the life of a lone wolf I lead previously, as the latter would not feel the lacking of it. In lieu of, I knew what I could have and yearned for more. Friends and family could be all they are, but being months, a year, or more for some, away from the one you love so dearly, it would drive almost anyone mad. This, we experienced every time we had to say goodbye – and also explains some of the future decisions I made, but more on that later.

Luckily, still deeply embedding the happiness this trip had brought me after ages of waiting and bearing the excitement of a little kid in a candy-shop as I was headed for a work opportunity in Australia, it could have been worse. I felt more grateful for the life I had than the solemness of who I lacked. I am young, healthy, got an amazing girlfriend and have the opportunity to travel in this manner, so stop bitching, amirite? Australia would be exciting and could help with the funds for a return. Some weeks ago, I had contacted the owner of a backpacker’s motel and there was a promise of farming jobs. Eager as ever, I flew to Mildura with a stopover in Sydney and Melbourne. Forced to linger a night in Melbourne, as a flock of birds had flown into the engine, Qantas Air had provided me with the nearby upscale hotel. I paraded in my fancy room upon having graced my body with the bathrobe and ordered myself some late night costly dining on Qantas’s credit. Australia had welcomed me with a grin from ear to ear and delirious from lack of sleep I fell onto the soft mattress for a long due rest. The following day, full with good spirits and believing nothing could bring me down, I would arrive in the insignificant town 500 km North of Melbourne. There, the lady from the web would bring me to the wee village Wentworth and soon that smile turned to a frown.

What are similar unexpected surprises you got from an airline?

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A Filipino Household

A beach seemingly endless with sand shiny from the bright sun hanging at twelve in the clear sky. A sky mesmerising blue. Then a small whiff of the fresh air enters your nose with a pinch of the salty smell that comes from the sea. A sea with water so clear it is hard to tell how deep it goes. Taunting you with its alluring waves gracefully crashing onto the beach. You share this galaxy of sand and sea with few, whom are scattered either basking in the sun or bathing in the refreshing water. This, is the Philippines. Staying in a little hut or cottage, chasing after waterfalls and the many water-based activities. The heaps of beautiful islands and beaches, is what majority who has ever been to this archipelago will remember. But, crushing that paradise picture, it is not the Philippines I will be taking you to now. No, I am talking about quite the opposite – although for me a tiny paradise nonetheless. Imus, Cavite, a suburb of Manilla. Quite the distance from the capital, yet the same jungle of rip-roaring tricycles, jeepneys and usual traffic. Coming from my teeny town with scarce traffic, this mayhem of continuous honking and dashing vehicles left me quite bedazzled. The house had been right on one of these crazy roads, but, believe me or not, the traffic wouldn’t be the main issue. No, it wasn’t the endless sound, it was the daily heat during Philippine’s cool period. A humid heat arising from late morning until the end of the afternoon would leave me blazing the fan as I laid like a dried up frog sprawled out on bed. This hot madness, was where I would be staying for a large amount of the time.

Now some of you might wonder how I wound up in a Filipino home so far off the beaten path to begin with. To those unaware, three years ago, through the wonders of the internet I came upon a tiny Filipina by the name Kath whom managed to charm my heart and leave me enamoured enough to plan a visit. So, fast forward a year later when I had begun my Asian travels, indubitably, her chaotic suburb had become part, if not the primary destination, of my travels. Something that kept me up at night, was that I would be spending my time in her family’s house. It had made me nervous, to say the least. With hindsight, the anxiety was just. I remember when the mascot of Jollibee made me dance to “Baby Shark” in front of dozens of Kath’s relatives. Seeing how every time that we entered a Jollibee anywhere one of these mascots would be there, and as only white guy attention was oft on me, I was not the biggest fan of this food chain. Especially with regards to their horrible menu. Though I am a great advocate of pineapple on a pizza, I’d keep it off a burger and the mushroom gravy turns the burger into a soggy gravy-yard.

Speaking of Filipino food, I strongly believe, to truly experience the local food, you’re best off in a Filipino family. Though you will taste plenty during your travels, the surely authentic food remains within the households. Though no Malaysia, I have indulged in some of the greater meals within the four walls of my lady’s family. And one thing they did best was make sure I was fed. The whole house would echo “Kaiiin, kaiiiin” at the voice of the mother when food was served. I did have to get used to having rice multiple times a day however. Usually, we’d eat as a small group in the home, but at times we would be outside sharing the food with a bunch. I had soon learned my favourites. A plate of sizzling sisig with a smell alone that gave me a watery mouth or a plate of delicious garlic rice and some longganisa. It is when intestines, livers and pig’s blood is brought to the table that I fancied a break.

Then there is Kath’s family. A family unaware of a visiting lover until last minute. The house was quite full, with a younger sister, an older one, an older brother, her parents and grandmother. Coming from a place where we all have our own space and privacy, it was an interesting change to be in a home where most is shared and where I have slept at least once in every possible room during my two stays. From crashing on the couch to at times even sharing the room with others. But once you are nearly spooning the grandmother of the family, well, you become family. That, they did very well. They made me feel at home and welcomed into a new home. The younger sibling teasing me with a meme I am a “lookalike” of while the one older asks about our travels and future. Both the parents would joke around, the mother making me join in on a game of bingo whilst the father would urge me to drink the local whiskey with him. On Sundays there would be either Korean shows or karaoke. The latter being the national thing, occurring during weddings and funerals, birthdays and pub brawls, everywhere in the Philippines you will find karaoke. Thus even in this household.

Then there is the grandmother. She is a special one. She would wave at me, shouting in Tagalog and gesturing as if today I knew what she meant. Then she’d laugh and point at my face. That, or she would try to sway me into finding her an “Americano” prince for “dollah dollah”. She reminded me of my own grandmother, also fairly cuckoo but sweet at heart. The only tough nut to crack was the brother – who was often away at work. He had been protective of his younger sister who now all of a sudden had a boyfriend from the other side of the world. But truth be, I have sat down and talked to them all and staying there has gained me a whole other family. Even to the point that the oldest sibling long moved out had granted me with the status of god-father of her (then) unborn child. It has been a blessed experience and I am extremely grateful for everyone I have met in the Philippines.

Have you ever fallen in love through the internet, or are you currently in a long-distance relationship? How do you deal with the distance?

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A Filipino Feat of Fortitude

“Don’t worry, my love, we will have plenty of time”, had been the words that departed my arrogant smile as I calmly entered the bathroom. Cocksure that it would be the two of us on the pier with a tumble weed passing by awaiting the crowd that was to come. Alas, I was askew, as once we arrived in our carriage, known as a ‘tricycle’, all had long amassed. Accepting defeat, we passed through the check in before entering the tiny boat that was packed. I placed my bottoms on the seat that had been illuminated by sunlight. Like an over the top lit Christmas tree, I sat brightly in the sunshine. A bench of hot coals under me and a face glistening red from sweat produced by the searing hot, shining sun above. Perhaps now is a good time to apply sunscreen. Anxiety was resting on my shoulders, whispering in my ear how our bags would fall in that alluring, blue water would we place it down, as there was zero cover. Soon we would find a secure place for our luggage, however for now, we had to continue carrying the burden of the clump of fear stuck in the mind, displaying the event over and over. I have never been the same since the dive of my phone. I shook my head, as a fog of dizziness flew by. Winter, They said. It is winter.. Avoiding the sun had not been a task easy however. Thus, we awaited the commencement of the departure from El Nido to Coron as sweaty blobs, hoping the boat would turn from the sun.

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Uncategorized

Prominent in the Philippines

The day before we had seen a colossal turtle while snorkelling. My head dipped under the water with the rest of my body and the tube guiding air to my mouth gallantly wavering on the surface of the beautifully clear, blue water. I glanced up at her, smiling. However, she urged me to quit waving my hand like an idiot and to focus my attention down below. A massively big turtle was calmly passing by, blithely deviating from his track as to cozen its pursuers. I jutted my arms out straight, as if I was near enough to pet it. Fervently, I followed the turtle with eyes gleaming. I was amazed by its size, something unexpected. When we had abandoned the stunning beach after a delicious meal, they had briefed us that we would search for this water dweller. However, I imagined the size of the slow-pokes swimming in a pond, similar to when my phone had chosen for a dip. Mistaken that I was, I was now staring at this, with my comparison, giant turtle. Amusingly, it hadn’t been the highlight of the day for everyone. It was the royal blue tang, well-known as “Dory” to most, that shook my beloved to excitement and had her let out a giggle. Enamoured of her adorable cackle, I could not help but chuckle myself. It had been a long day of snorkelling and hopping islands. Two baked buns, one more than the other, had little choice left but to crash into a deep sleep after a mojito or two.

 

As dawn had come, shimmering its light through the curtains leaving sun ripples on our blanket, after that deep night’s rest with praise to the generous bar-lady pouring rum as if she was overstocked that evening, we had set plans to hike in search of cascades. Once we overpowered the strong gravity on the blankets, and our bags were hike ready, we commenced. Given a short route description in Tagalog, we headed out with a boiling sun heating our necks. A lovely dog, named Doug by the enamoured couple, left his tiny paw prints along the track following and guiding us with pride and joy in his eyes. In reality, a second dog had been there, yet we do not speak of him. When approached by a threesome of puppers, the double-sized dog had frantically chosen the direction we had come from, nearly flying until it had gone passed a turn and not to be seen again. Not Doug. Our dear Doug, when exposed to a threat, whether the tiny Cerberus or a giant buffalo, filled with fear he stood his ground and made no sound.

The first cascade on the list had been the small one, as I had gathered from the Tagalog explanation. The water had a delightful cool touch, which had been gratefully welcomed on this hot winter day in the Philippines. Having viewed a many National Geographic shows, I had anxiously hopped over the tiny, brownish puddles worrisome to be struck by that nasty parasite to in a string of time be aired on an episode and have a new disease named after me. My brother got the Danniasis after his travels in Asia. Whilst hopping, I had made the decision to climb higher up for a more picturesque view. Watching the dog follow me, with ease both getting up and down, he seemed the perfect Assassin’s pet. Perhaps with their next release, which is bound to come. The four-legged stray pet seemed to be comfortable amongst humans. A blissful smile resting on the carefree canine. The beach-life truly does bring joy to all, it seems.

Upon reaching the main cascade, after having bought snacks off a young girl keeping a shop all by herself, we signed a log book. Guiding Doug to pass the creek, having small fears that our new, temporarily adopted dog may slip, we cross and prepare for the dip we had been waiting all day for. “It is cold”, are the words I mumble, as I dip my toes into the encroaching ripples. The water that engirdled my pale toes was clear, yet its descendants further in grew darker and darker, until it was pitch black. Imagining the grotesque creatures inhabiting the deeper, darker water, near the dead log, created for a complete different ambience. As the words had left my parched lips, she had already been deep in, ice cold water surrounding her gorgeous waist. With a playful smile, she splashed water upon me and jested me to grow some and enter. A lady known to take her showers cold out of preference did not shy away from diving into the freezing water that only had grip of my tiny toes. Doug was waddling with waggling tail behind me, as well dubious of whether to proceed to enter said frigid water. Yet, bearing the cells for the next kin, it came with the duty to be – or come across as, which I am most certain I am far too late for – manly and thus I did. I followed the lady with the beautiful smile Step after step I advanced. Until I stood beside her, writhing of cold, as well as basking in the release that had come from cooling my body on one of the many searing hot days that make for the Philippines.

 

Watching her feed the staunch dog that seemed bound to us, having followed us, now guiding us back, I could not help but smile. I reminisced back at the day I finally had gotten to see her in person. Shied away behind her father, she had shown to be smaller than I had expected. Lips arched into that gorgeous smile. Her hair curved around her head, the frame to the perfect picture. That very moment, I had not been anxious. All fears, nervosity and anxiety had disappeared like stars come dawn. Not a single trace left. It felt normal, yet special. The way it was supposed to be. For so long I had yearned to see her in person. Bound to be, but distanced, we fought each and every barrier to be there to hold one another. It hadn’t always been easy. Struggles, fights and aching. But now, at last, I was here. Holding her hand, watching her feed a stray dog that may or may not be dying by the hand of the leech on his ear and everything felt perfect. That, is how love is supposed to be. Perfect through its imperfections and difficulties. The woman who agitates the hell out of me, yet is the balance amid the chaos. The sunshine on the darkest of days merely by being present. She is a present indeed. Worth every single effort. She gave me a loving smile – mesmerising really, magical, capable of bringing joy on the gloomiest days – as she handed me the chips to give Doug a handful. Hungry that he must have been, politely he awaited without snarling or wheezing. He did not bite upon receiving the snack either. A stray canine with manners topping most pets. May Doug have won the fight against the leech.


Gazing at the horizon, viewing Filipino ships in the the clear, blue sea, I had a gluck of my nth mojito and thanked myself for the choices I have made. The choice to be happy, rather than stuck in a college dorm surrounded by walls seeping depression into the room. The choice to enjoy life as I find my place into the world. Thereafter I thanked my family for supporting me with every step that I took. Too often I had to listen to the phrase “If I was your parent I would never let you do this.”, yet here I was, from a South-African tour, to a cycle and hitchhike in Europe to a love in Asia and never had I been doubted or restrained by my amazing family. Then I thanked her, Kath, the lady that brought and brings strength and happiness into my life. Grateful for the life I lead, I must move forward. Once finished with the Philippines, I shall, however, that must come after the mojito. What is next? We shall see. See, we shall.

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Uncategorized

Marvellous Malaysia

Enough equal experiences everyday elicited eager to erratic events. The honking and heavy traffic had held me hostage. When a city not even considerable had been too much, I knew it was time. A break within a break, a journey during a journey. Journception. Without much of a plan and zero intention of taking public transport I commenced the journey through Perak, breaking out of the newly obtained routine. Departing from Ipoh, where I had gotten to know new friends and a celebrity at the brink of a scandal, I had gathered that the direction would be full of sights and away from the tourists. That had been clear, when school was over in Lenggong and children paused to point at me. A quaint town it was. A town where I had taken a bite of the wrong green spicy ‘vegetable’. Due to similar incidents, all the honour going to Asia, I have trust-issues with any vegetable including a rice dish. Thank you very much. Luckily, a third degree burn on the tongue, was not all that the getaway – from a getaway – would bring me. Thus, excited I had gone with the wind and marched out of the town. Within the half of an hour, an irascible man had scolded me as he scurried by. He had insisted on giving me his two cent’s on the matter and chose that I could not go hitchhiking. Too dangerous! Friendly, I had dismissed and continued. Amid the monsoon season, it was bound to be a soaking trip.


A first night had been spent at a motel of mediocrity, swimming in a bath of bugs that had me run an all-nighter.  The drive there was spent on the backseat of a family of three. I sat beside the son. Young of age, his prowess involved three a ball and pins. This dexterous bowler, achieving medals and trophies throughout the country will indubitably entice many with his incredible skills. Rain had poured down upon the town the moment I arrived. When exiting the vehicle, the father had gifted me with an old, yellow and blue fisher’s hat. Without intentions to parade said hat, I accepted it with a smile. Hastily I scurried over the puddles and made my way to what appeared to be an affordable motel. A man with a belly eclipsing the sight of his shrimp occupied the reception. Gawking with a nasty grimace at my passport, remarks and questions regarding my lonesome trip followed. “Why, ehm.. thank you. Yes, I am alone. Indeed. No, I am not looking for a lady. No, I am not lonely either.” Not that I swing that way. Apparently, such was not obvious enough, as he forced his bulging belly up from the poor, squashed chair to guide me to my room. I bolted inside to avoid the thought stuck in his head from spilling out and locked the wooden door before any further exchange of words. Then I let out a sigh. A smell of old flowed through the thick, stale air. There stood an antique closet in the corner near the door. I assumed that once it filled a purpose other than to collect dust. As I glanced down at the bed, a rug with purpose of a blanket covered the sheets. The whole room seemed to be from yore. It had not been the old-fashioned that had bugged me. The actual bugs did. I let the backpack slide off my shoulders and thunk down on the floor. Bedraggled as I was, I made myself ready for a wash.

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Parading the hat I said I would not parade.

The rain had continued unabated, nonetheless I absconded for a stroll. I was in a small town that had a shockingly large amount of phone-shops. They were like food stands at a festival. As if one would buy a handy as oft as a loaf of bread. Speaking of bread, I craved a meal and a cold one to wash it down. Oddly, such was not easily found in the centre, however in alleys and markets a tad further. A lovely, little bar, hidden away in an alley. The lady behind the counter poured me a tall glass. And another. Moments after the Chinese had begun their drunk karaoke, I called it a night to lay with the many bugs awaiting my return.


Come dawn, I did not linger long. I noticed that here was already a leap from the tourist-trail as eyes followed me as I went. Malaysians do such in style. A broad, dazzling smile painted on their lovely faces. A welcoming feeling is guaranteed. Contagiously, I marched on carrying a comfortable grin – and a flea-circus on my back – towards a small place named Tasik Raban. The centre existed out of a market with roughly eight restaurants – Malaysians love their food – and occasionally stands with the freshest fish, juices and other Malay treats. A giant lake surrounded the square with houses scattered around. The town must have been a mere few hundred people. A bike rental gave me the opportunity to remain there for the night. I opted for my hammock swinging on his porch. A covered porch with a view of the lake, mind you. For a 20 RM a night, I took the offer of the daffy fisherman with eager.


However, feeling at peace in a place so serene that even the fleas had left to unwind on their own time, a night could not be enough. I sat at the end of the pier, staring out over the calm water, following the movement of tiny ripples encroaching land. Silence, but the sound of a few conversing. There is a beauty within not knowing the language. Not understanding the sentences formed, I remained observant of the ripples without being distracted. Counting the thin lines elongating its circle until it slowly turns into nought. A deep breath of the air. Unpolluted. The man who always laughed, the owner of the fishing supplies/bike and boat rentals/hostel/camping and touristic activities was planning on taking me out on the water in his corroded boat. He had a wrinkly face, the type that had endured time in the sun. With that came a calm smile that seemed permanent, from time to time interrupted by a chuckle or a burst of laughter. The lake wasn’t the duplicate lakes you tend to see. Plain round. No, most certainly not, there was even the slight possibility to get lost, with all the hooks, curves, twists and land involved. At dark. Without sense of direction. Knowing me and Prague, it might as well be me. Either way, the lake was of size. The Malay man wanted to introduce me to his fishes. Tens of thousands to be a tad more precise. Feeding them was like viewing the comment section of that model posting a new photo. Or the moment another tweet goes online from a certain president. Hungry, they all swarm trying to get a bite. With the floods in the area, he had wanted to assure that his precious fish were all still there. After all, for him it meant bread, or well fish, on the table. On our way back, the sun had gone under and stars painted the black canvas that was above. A magnificent portrait. It was that moment, with my mind clear of sound that I decided I would return had I finished my bit of exploring Perak to remain dangling in my hammock.

And so I did. I had seen the sights and towns I desired to view, and thereby had gotten to know the wonderful country a bit more. A few misses however, as the archaeological museum holding the famous ‘Perak man’ had been closed. The ‘Perak man’ is the skeletal remains of what they believe to be a man who lived 11.000 years ago. Being the oldest human skeleton on the peninsular, it was quite the found a few kilometres North of the town Lenggong. Alas, it was not all. The Royal Belum State park had been a slight reach out of my budget at the time. There was no time for moping however. There were waterfalls to chase and bargain meals to be cherished (delicious nasi goreng ayam and fresh juice for 8 RM and Roti Canai with curry for breakfast). Give me a couple more days…

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At Temmengor lake.


 

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Java’s Jungle Jeopardy

Six memorable months pass and at last, I find myself seated on a wooden chair with my fingers caressing over the keyboard. What had been the reason for the long delay of an attempt in a new blog post? Perhaps it was the sin of the sloth that had seized me. Maybe it was the dedication to live the moments as I tried to be part of the places I visited. Or both with a third factor in play. My fingers were locked, without words to jot down as I glared at my paper with a blank mind. A blank canvas before me and an empty palette in my hand. Do I write about the time I was bound to bed by illness? Would the debauched nights I spent in Bali and Malaysia, meeting strangers with every bottle emptied again and again characterise as compelling? I had little to no words. Although Johnny’s taco’s had me in such a euphoria that I came close to expressing my infatuation with the dish. Alas, my words would never be enough.

Truth be told, I lacked creativity and motivation. With a travel differing on every aspect from the previous, my writing needed a different approach and frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. A demanding journey through Europe had me bound in budget, transport and accommodation. Forced to live off little, without the slightest plan but direction and not a booking made, I had experienced a lot. Despite the prominent fact that indulgence in nightly gatherings fuelled by alcohol is relishable, I had grown a love for what now was lacking. More money was spend on testing my liver than participating in adventurous activities. That does not take away all the moments and stories of grand size resting in my brain, including the many encounters with the locals. It simply was not enough.


“Ready?”, he asked before spurting off. This time I was astride of another scooter, in lieu of my hostess’s. A safer bet, as she takes off from 0 to 80 in a whiff. The reason however, for me pressing my cheeks on a different scooter, was the family fearing comments from neighbours. In this part of Java, in the far East, two people from the opposite sex customarily do not spend time together. One time, a man I had just met spoke of weddings and careers a moment after he opened his mouth to me. Disregarding my disinterest. Thus, in an attempt to blow out the fire of rumours as I had merely interest in the town and she in in showing it, her cousin who works for Grab drove me instead. With little rivals, being the only courier on the application, all – with that being said, little – Grab-travellers go through him. The roads in the small village, if one would call them that at all, had an erratic path of mud and stones. Thus the ride made for a wobbly one. Our tour-guide and Grab driver, without extra expense, had brought us to see several cascades hidden away. Initially it did not seem to be a challenging activity. On my flip-flops I sauntered through the rice fields and descended down the slippery – I know, I used this pun last year – path. With mud dug in between my tiny toes, I stood atop a large boulder, observing the water rush through the rocks and pebbles, gravitating down. The flowing and splashing of  the water had been a soothing sound. But there was little soothing about the hours that followed. Our tour guide had decided that where the path stopped, we carried on, creating passages as we went. 

A sunset was missed a near hour ago. Cautiously I had been shuffling along the wall of dirt, holding on to clumps of soil, roots and branches. We had gone under a tiny, earth made tunnel, waddling through a stream and then slid down a slide with trees poking our sides. Grunts and sighs here and there. Stubborn, all marched on. We shall not retreat! A single shy kindled light was shared amongst the three of us. Guiding us through a pitch black night. Bit by bit we encroached further towards the edge of this jungle. Although, indubitably, none of us knew how far it was. It was after a gruelling climb up, giving all trust in a tree, that I had grown clairvoyant, sensing what came next. Mr Grab reached his hand out to assist me on advancing. Dubious, I did. Upon touch, at one fell swoop we shifted jointly. Then he began to pull his hand back, loosening the grip of my palm in his. Aware of the possible outcomes, I let go. With nothing but a handful of soil under my feet to hold me up, I knew that I was in for a tumble down.

Harrowed I lay in a bed of branches and leaves. Succumb by shock, I sat quietly for a minute before the realisation hit that my exhausted body had to climb back the distance I fell. It must have been a few metres. Praying to be elsewhere, anywhere, I endured. Together, we climbed for another several hours, which I did in a frantic manner. The two began chanting prayers of joy upon reaching the top. “Allah uh Akbar”, they repeated. Gladly, I marched with slippers in one and the torch in the other hand through the rice field and out. Bedraggled we returned where the village awaited us, carrying worry in their eyes. Minds leaning on the story of a girl who passed away in the same jungle. Relief filled them as they saw us. We had been gifted with food and a cold, refreshing shower. Simple as they lived, they were filled with kind hearts. Laughter felt the dark sky as we relived our jungle jeopardy through stories and aches the hours before taking on the steep and cold – I do realise I had not dressed properly for that day –  Mount Ijen.   


It seems forever since I sat down and took the time to write something. A pity, really. Writing is something I love. It gives me a calm feeling as does it make me happy having a story of my own travels in my style. An explanation, or an attempt of it is difficult. Most often, I do not understand my own brain, or how it works. I see it as a good thing. Making my way through life trying to figure out what that gooey clump wants is the biggest and most exciting puzzle out there. It is exciting, as I never know what it will lead me to. Throughout the past years, I have learned quite a bit however. Such is, that travelling is a key piece. With this come the many ways of travel, as I noticed that, without intend, all of my main travels have been different on multiple fronts. Within the Philippines, I have found another. It taught me, that finding these pieces is much more fun than having a complete puzzle from the start. If you’re interested, follow along with my puzzle. You might figure it out before I do. My gratitude goes to those who still follow along with my stories, even after an eight-month disappearance.


A short caption on Bali:

Although a week spend blissfully enjoying the warmth by caressing the soft sand on the beach, amongst all the Instagram posts that bring forth envy from all over the globe, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of acknowledgement towards the persisting purveyors. Whether it was a massage, a ‘massage’, souvenirs, Viagra or other substances, swarms appeared from every corner to bug you with their presence. When asking the same person relaxing on the beach a third time was not enough, one would linger and eclipse you from the sun while glaring at you. It was on the touristic streets of Denpasar where I learned that a friendly nod means to be interested in illegal substances or a cure for that sore “back”. When showing disinterest to participate in such, a lady dragged my arm with force and a man had neared an introduction of my fist in his face when his reply to my “Do not touch me”, was “Why not?”.

It is when you view the sunset for the fourth time and again you find yourself at five in the morning chewing away one of Johnny’s orgasmic delicious tacos that you wonder.. Does all of that even matter? No, it does not, for you are in a place where life exists out of sun, beach, sea and relaxation. Nothing matters but the beer that is cold, the weather that is fantastic and another enticing march towards the alley of tacos. So, feet dig into the sand and a picture of the sunset goes online.