Category Archives: Asia

Melaka, Malaysia: Heat Struck

Melaka is the place where I admitted defeat and succumbed to the heat. Those first days in Singapore were hard, undoubtedly. Sticky, yes. But tolerable. I spent the whole day outside, did a fare share of walking and still managed to keep my back straight and my eyes open. On my second day in Melaka, however, I felt so bad that I had to spend the afternoon in café shade under a fan, drinking colourful drinks and fueling on spicy food.

But let’s start where it all began.
I said goodbyes to Ayako at one of Singapore’s bus stations.

It took me surprisingly long to find the right corner on the right street and that annoyed me tremendously, not just because it meant more minutes in the scorching sun but mostly because Ayako was trotting at my side and I felt like doing a really lousy job at travelling.

The bus station was more of a rundown parking lot and I didn’t even need to enter it because apparently my bus would stop right on the street. When the vehicle arrived it didn’t look as advertised at all. The advertisement showed the same bus alright, when it had rolled out the factory 20 years ago. The seats were so worn some of the padding was falling off and all colours and paint were fainted, however the ride turned out to be comfortable none the less. Immigration at the Malaysian border went much smoother than I could have ever imagined; even though the guys in front of me were asked plenty of questions, I got a mere smile and a swift stamp in my passport. Jackpot. Continue reading Melaka, Malaysia: Heat Struck

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Fancy Singapore: You cannot fall out of the pose!

I told myself I was ridiculous for feeling so effing nervous but I couldn’t help it. There I was. Sloppy H&M clothes around my waste, dusty old back-pack strapped tight, sweating like people do when they walk instead of emerging glamorously from a taxi.

The Marina Bay Sands rose high above my head and even though it looked iconic in pictures and impressive from a distance, now it was nothing but a gloomy gray shadow casted over me. If I have ever felt more out of place somewhere in my life, my mind must have banned the memory.
Shops selling things I cannot afford. People wearing flip-flops worth more than my entire outfit. Suitcases and purses only. No backpacks and hiking shoes.
Keeping up appearances, I demanded myself to not fall out of my role and keep looking confident.

It’s rich Kim now, I pretended: the one with a Mercedes, swimming pool, sauna and room for a pony.

(A solid high five to anyone getting that reference :))

Then Ayako walked in the room and instantly my stress faded. It had been two years since we met in Japan and to have her come and meet me here, I already realized, would be one of the highlights of this trip. A highlight that could not be matched even by that majestic infinity pool hovering above us: the pool every tourist comes for, the reason we, too, booked at the Marina Bay Sands. Continue reading Fancy Singapore: You cannot fall out of the pose!

Arrival in Singapore: Sky scrapers and storage rooms

Brussels airport felt very strange: full of heavy armed soldiers and long, dysfunctional queues of people waiting to be let through for check-in. The line for Turkish Airlines was by far the longest in the improvised departure hall. It seemed that most other big airlines had moved back to the main building, but TA hag to stay amongst lots of smaller airlines, many of which I had never heard before. In the end, everything went smooth though. After an agonizing flight (I never seem to get used to 14 hours on planes), a surprisingly smooth immigration check and a convenient MRT ride, I soon found myself exploring the streets of Singapore’s China Town.

The first place of worship I walked past was a bright green Mosque that had already closed for the night. The second was a Hindu temple that was full of light and life. Although the building wasn’t that impressive, inside a man was playing loudly on a long, gold coloured flute. The noise (because it didn’t sound much like music to me) carried far beyond the mosque and I imagined it could have easily charmed a 100 snakes all at once, yet there weren’t any. I took of my shoes and wandered inside, where people stood in rows to watch the main shrine.

Not much seemed to happen, but none the less the spectators stayed and stared. I wondered for a second if it was the people who got hypnotized by the flute?

Continue reading Arrival in Singapore: Sky scrapers and storage rooms

How about a free tattoo with that beer?

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

Yes I’ve heard those places exist: bars where you can get free tattoo’s when you spend enough on Heineken. What a way to support thought through decisions and proper hygiene! My stomach cringes a little when I imagine these venues and the crowds they draw. Seems like Bali is either that, or the glitzy opposite: bony models drinking fancy cocktails in expensive bathing suits, splurging on high end resorts that have swimming pools in walking distance of the ocean. Private beaches and banana boats in the sea. My stomach cringes a little when I imagine that, too. In fact I can’t decide which crowd I hate more.

So back in the days when I thought I had principles and steady willpower, I have sworn I would NOT go to Bali. I would not go to the land of wanna-be yoga teachers, regretful tattoos, cheap alcohol and high school graduates on a “spiritual journey”. I would have skipped it, as not to be confused with one of those “love, eat, pray” fangirls. Is that what it’s called? “Eat, love, pray? Eat, pray, love?” You know what I mean.

I’m not actually a beach person you see. I feel uncomfortable when wading around in a bikini. I feel uncomfortable in the fancy resorts. I find the atmosphere in beach towns inferior to that of the inland – in any country I go. I get sunburned after 10 minutes. But I like to go snorkelling for a day and toddler-like wave at the fishes. I like the idea of doing yoga while watching a sunrise on the beach. Maybe I secretly am a bit of a wanna be teacher. And I do like the idea of rice terraces and lush green hills a lot! So when I found out the weather on Sulawesi wasn’t going to be that good at my time of travelling, and the accommodation on the Gili’s isn’t as much value for money as those on, say, Lembongan… I have let go of my principles and become Bali trash.

I’m going to the island for a couple of days on Lembongan. I guess it might be nice to do a bit of nothing. Maybe take a boat ride through the mangroves. Sign up for some yoga classes. Cycle around, drink too much coconut water, enjoy the occasional dip in the sea.

I’m also going to Bali for Ubud. I guess I’m going to fit in there – with my baggy, cheap clothes and that travel yoga mat I carry around all the time. I guess I’ll like the fact that night life is on a low there and organic tea bars are on the rise. I hate to admit that maybe, it will be a place just for me: a solo female traveller with a love for the spiritual.

Damn.
Should I… like… Should I read that “Love, Pray, Eat” book after all?

Bromo & Ijen

(This entry is part of the Coming 2016 side blog)

Does anyone visit Indonesia and not go to Bromo? It seems like an even greater tourist trap than Borobudur will ever be. However, Google it: it looks really nice.

Also… When I was in Japan a couple years back the monsoon season hit Kansai two days before my trip to Fuji San. Visibility was washed away by endless and endless downpours. Long story short: I’ve never seen a volcano in my life.

Guess what? Bromo is a f***ing volcano! How cool. Bromo is also on the way to Bali – another long, overland journey that I’ll have to make. At first I planned on travelling it myself but recently I’ve decided to just book one of those rushed tours once I get to Malang. Thing is, it’s going to be a long rushed ride, whether I do it on a self-booked night bus or on a touristy pre-arranged tour. The nice thing about the tour is, I can at least make some interesting stops along the way. Short, rushed stops. But stops none the less.

So I’ll be going to Bromo for sunrise – just like everyone else does. I’ll have lunch in these heartless shags where literally every tour bus drops of its hungry crowd. Where the food is bland and the prices steep. I’ll hike around the Ijen crater – just like everyone else does. Be dropped off at the coast. Catch a ferry. Feel worse than after those long haul flights. Thank god I don’t get car-sick easily. I’ll say goodbye to Java and set foot in a land I swore I’d avoid at all costs: Bali.