Category Archives: Personal

Some thoughts in Bali

It’s a long time since my last post: I was busy in exploring several beaches (Gili Trawangan, Gili Air), chilling out (Ubud), snorkeling/diving (Tulamben), smartphone gaming (Plague Inc: being a virus and destroying humanity has never been so much fun), doing nothing (“il dolce far niente” to keep the real expression, in Italian), but finally I’m inspired again to fulfill my goal to blog something during my sabbatical trip in Southeast Asia…

Here I am, still in Bali and not by coincidence: it’s the island of the Gods! So of course I had to stay longer here.

I didn’t hike any mountain or volcano, but I’ve seen plenty of things (mostly temples, island, beaches and last but not least the treasures hidden in the ocean, underwater) and enjoyed my time, even with simple things.

Snorkeling and diving was the best I could enjoy here and I’m so happy to get rid of my fear of the water, finally!

I remember that in 2011, before saying “yes” to the diving offer I got in Ko Phangan and doing the open water course in Ko Tao, I was not used to go in the water and not even used to stay to the beach. I was the kind of guy “naaa, I prefer mountains than sea”. In reality I was afraid of the water and that way just a lame excuse to stay away from it.

I’m so happy to have begun a journey to fight a fear and transform it into a pleasure. It took 2 years, but the result is amazing. Now, not only I can dive and do snorkeling without a life west (before this trip I could do snorkeling only with a life west): I can even swim in the sea without fins and without mask (having sensitive eyes I still prefer to wear a mask, but also without it’s ok). I’m really proud of it.

Still I’m not a good swimmer (probably it’s a good idea to put in my to-do list to improve my technique and my skills) and I have my respect for the water. But one thing is sure: after beginning to dive a new world opened up to me.

Photo of me diving with my girlfriend

Diving is -for me- like being an astronaut and at the same time living inside of a dream -an aquarium in the space- but it’s real and all laws about physics apply. Typically, scary fishes like sharks become, once you are a diver, trophies you are looking for. Diving let you change perspective and learn new things about the world and about yourself.

And the dive talks. I was thinking it’s just for diving aficionados, but I finally heard the first diving story from a dive master in Tulamben, about an accident. I heard that story just after witnessing a dive accident with my own eyes. It happened in my group, during a night dive: a guy –who already had a bit of flu- lost consciousness for a second. Worried, he ascended. Instead of stopping diving, he descended again. He got some problems equalizing, so he ascended again, to be rescued, all of this after a series of “unlimited dives” for several days. He got a narcosis (too much nitrogen). Nothing too critical, but it was painful and he had to get oxygen and stop diving for a day. Scary, but interesting at the same time.

Still, diving is fun and I’m looking forward for my next 2 dives tomorrow, in Menjangan. And watching the dolphins in the ocean (I’m in Lovina mainly for this purpose).

Langkawi memories

Langkawi -compared to Koh Lanta- is more developed, roads are better, the main difference is marked by the religion: I could see mosques everywhere, as well as kebab places. Note, kebab is not as we know it in Europe…

I booked a place (the cheapest I could find: Kuala Melaka Inn, a twin room) near the airport. I read that Cenang Beach is located South West, as the airport. In my research I didn’t see that Cenang Beach is only 2km long and located much Souther (about 10 minutes driving) than the hotel. So the location we got is quite bad, actually. No problem, I rented a scooter from a hotel 1 km away North, in a village with not many facilities. Interesting -comparing to Thailand- I had to fill no form. The staff at the hotel asked just my international driving license -which they copied- and I paid 40 RM cash. No receed. After a phone call, a guy arrived within 5 minutes on the scooter, followed by a fellow. He gave me the keys, 2 helmets and his visit card. He told me to call him if I needed to extend, he would make a better price than the one from the hotel: 40 RM. I told him that that’s the price I got from the hotel, so we agreed on 30 RM. Always bargain! :)

As we had a room in the middle of nowhere, I was forced to find options in order to have some fun (walking 1 hour to the beach, on car roads without pavement is not fun). We already scouted the entire island by scooter. I have the impression that there is not that much to see, besides a few attractions, but it was quite fun to ride a bike again. I like the metallic noise of the engine. Old but good scooter, 125 cc.

Attractions:

  • Oriental Village, cable car to the panorama view
  • Seven Wells (water falls and to the top, after the so called 600 steps, where the water falls are generated. Nice to have a bath there)
  • Night markets to enjoy some street and food

Cenang Beach:

  • good for shopping
  • good food, in particular we found an Indian hawker stall/restaurant at the beginning, North Cenang Beach. I love roti canai and tandoori chicken!

Phuket memories

Bus in Patong with some scooters escorting it. Instagram @firepol

Arrival in Phuket: everything fine till we had to organize the transport. The minivan we got was a typical tourist “trap”. It stopped before the destination, to a travel agent. We were about 9 people and 2 were interested in a tour or in a booking. We all had to wait before going on to Phuket. This resulted in arriving late at the guesthouse, the owner was not there and I had to call, with roaming costs (that’s why, buy a local sim card when you arrive in a new country).

I was impressed by the traffic just before and while in Patong. Many vehicles. Too many. I was also impressed by the disgusting smell of sewer in different occasions when walking the main road.

Anyway, some positive things about Patong:

  • many places to find street food / hawker stalls
  • good shopping places (cheaper than anywhere else in Thailand, e.g. some Billabong shorts for 150 baht, elsewhere -Khao Lak, Koh Tao etc.- I saw the same for 450 baht and could not bargain down to 150)
  • many dive centers (but they are more expensive than in Koh Tao)
  • interesting night life: if you like to party, this is the place to be
  • many motorbike rentals (a must to explore the island at a cheap price): be careful and take photos of the vehicle before renting it, some cheasters try to charge tourists for scratches that were already there

Negative points (for me):

  • if you don’t like to party, this place will get on your nerves soon
  • the traffic sucks in general in Phuket, not only in Patong
  • noisy party animals in the hostels / guesthouses. If you are looking for sleep quality, try a hotel!

We stayed in Patong for 6 nights. We escaped from Phuket after (highlight) doing some diving.

Phuket temples. Flickr set @firepol

 

Phuket views. Flickr set @firepol

Good memories:

  • Open Water Diver certification for Nastya (congratulations!)
  • 2 diving daytrips for me
  • Good and cheap street food
  • Nice island tour with a private driver (very expensive -1800 baht- compared to renting a motorbike for about 250 baht/day…)

Escaping Bangkok, heading to Phuket

Bangkok, police block (seen during shuttle transfer to Don Muang airport). Instagram @firepol

During Christmas Eve I saw some news about the protests in Bangkok and thought “oh shit”. Yes, because I initially planned to stay 5 nights in the big city, as the flight I booked was for Bangkok. Luckily, the hotel booking I did was via hrs.de, which often offers a cancelation of the booking with full refund. The deadline to cancel was the end of the year (3 days before arrival). I canceled a few days before, and booked a flight to Phuket. I thought, let’s go to the beaches and nice water instead of staying in the smog and risk some slowdowns because of protests…

…of course, reading the news after my decision, I saw that I missed something. I missed Bangkok. Well, I was there already, with one of my best friends. It was fun. I think I’ll head to Bangkok in the future, if the situation will become stable. For now I keep my itinerary quite flexible.

What to say about Bangkok, not that much besides the fact I did a mistake by not buying a sim card directly at the airport (it would have saved me time and money later during the same day when I arrived at the guest house in Patong and nobody was there for the checkin…).

Besides that, everything worked smoothly, the free shuttle transfer from the main airport to Don Muang was punctual and worked perfectly.

Paolo and Nastya’s adventure in Southeast Asia

I started this blog thinking that I would post some news about my journey with my lovely girlfriend Anastasija (Nastya).

I was partially wrong… the trip started on January 2nd (and will finish on March 26th, 2014) and the only news I posted so far are the “serious” ones. With serious I mean the post about withdrawing money without banking fees abroad, and the post about getting a prepaid sim card with plenty of Internet data in Thailand.

It’s never too late to post some news. So here I am. I will try not to write too much, first because I think that nobody cares to read long posts, second because I have no time to write long essays ;)

So here I am, sitting on a couch in the lobby of Kuala Melaka Inn, Langkawi island, Malaysia, writing my first personal post.

I will write the past news about our trip in Thailand later on.

Mood: relaxed (there is not that much to do, that’s why I am motivated to blog a bit).