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But Different went to SEA. Highlights (WIP)

April 28, 2011

1. Kewpie’s Kitchen in Calcutta. Tiny joint hidden off the Shakespeare street and manager by a journalist (who used to work in Poland). Awesome homemade food, small talks with the owner and fantastic decor. Real gem.

2. Hoi An. Shopping and chilling and cycling around. Probably the best beach in Vietnam. (If there’s sun) and definitely the best tailors. Two suits and two pairs custom made sandals joined me on the trip from there. Oh – and a swimming pool in a hotel and free drinks every evening 6.30, next to it. For 8$ a night…

3. Hue. The tomb of Khải Định.  Harmony of architecture and nature taken to new heights. Brilliant.

4. Ha Long Bay – the „tour” didn’t quite match the expectations, but looking at the endless sea of mountains rising up straight from the ocean … Priceless. And two days of just chilling on the boat in a good company is not to be dismissed either.

5. Singapore before noon. Air heavy with solitude you can almost touch. And Singapore in the evening – superficial and extremely cheesy, but with Simon and Jas compensating for it. Nice to recall familiar faces (in their natural environment – Simon especially :P). Last visit to Indian hairdresser and last head massage in Little India. Will return…once I have more money.

6.  Saxchi evening. A village for tourists, without tourists. A conversation with a German botanists temporarily managing a hostel here, followed by cheap dinner at a local joint with menu consisting of not only list of dishes, but also few useful phrases in Chinese like “no spices” “little oil” “no salt”; this followed by a local dark beer (awesome) and concluded with a 17 year old hostel neighbour knocking at my door with a spliff  in his hand. We had a little chat – led via google.translate. “You will remember this evening, he wrote me” and that’s when I realize I should probably cut it short.

7. Tiger Leaping Gorge trek. 3900m – that’s how deep it is from the peak of the mountain to the riverbed. One of the best sunrise and sunset I’ve ever seen.

8. Mama Naxi. A family guesthouse with head of family clearly not being her husband. Experiencing real Naxi life with family dinners (yum! For 20Y unlimited home made food) and small gifts (bananas, tea, medicines and a necklace for good luck). Family arguments & a small army of cats&dogs included in the price, along with Wi-Fi and unlocked Facebook. To hear “Wait, Mama is cooking for you!” when she noticed I was about to leave the guest house – priceless!

9. A spontaneously organized tour-group. With two (not really) Chinese guides, two Swiss, one Pole (excluding me) and one Brit and a lovely mini-bus driver in Yuan Yang. Fine, rice terraces were cool, but without this here bunch of people it could have been a nightmare to organize it all. And yes – ping pong rules!

10.  Chinese Ice Tea. Starting from Malaysia – my only constant travel buddy. Three to four bottles a day. I probably spent on it more than on hostels!

11. Karaoke in Nha Trang. It was supposed to be a chilled out trip to three offshore islands. I didn’t expect 50 Vietnamese tourists on the boat (and three FAT brits), a tour guide turning a lady-boy-Karaoke band leader in the middle of a trip, a floating bar in the open sea with free wine and few more attractions of this sort. Not necessarily enjoyable I’d say, but memorable – most certainly.

12. Lost in the Supermarket. Well – punk music somehow has been accompanying me on this trip, but that’s not The Clash sort of being lost. It’s more like Lost in Translation. Rows and rows of food, from which I could only figure out bread, ice tea and yoghurt. I learned to appreciate McDonalds.

13.  Runaway bus. Left me on the boarder crossing with Singapore. So I’ve learned Singapore the hard way (and decided to buy a smaller backpack!)

14. Landing in Saigon.  Malaysia has a dead penalty for drugs and a number of other things. How shocked was I when within fifteen minutes after leaving my plane from Kuala Lumpur, I was first approached by a boy who whispered “Marijuana?” “No, thanks” “Cocaine? Opium? Acid?”. When he vanished, a scooty stopped by me, with a boy in the front and girl in the back. “Bum bum?”. “NO, THANKS!”. Later I learned from a rickshaw driver more details “Bum bum? Only 200 000dong” I chose to spend it on a fake North Face backpack.

15. Meetings. You meet a lot of crazy backpackers. By far the best was the American, whom I’ve met in Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a fully loaded big backpack he was doing a 12 day trek to Lugo Lake.  Cupcake. “I just came from Mongolia, we’ve been horse riding there for the past 5 months” – he explained.

16. Love is in the air. Kolkata never heard of fines for PDA it seems. A short stroll in the Victoria’s Memorial gardens and you’re short of fingers to count the couples making out. You’re almost worried you’ll step on one. And it was Monday! On the other hand – I blame Memorial’s beauty for it.

17. Nightlife of Lijiang.  Ethnically dressed women singing what sounded like traditional Chinese songs to a disco beat? A guy in furs running some sort of contests which rules obviously I couldn’t figure out. Indifferent fire fighters in the midst of the crowd raving to Chinese version of “Sexy back”.  Bars for some 1000 seats each. Only in Lijiang!

18.  The most beautiful women I’ve seen in Malaysia: the four stewardesses of the inbound flight with AirAisia. It never gotten even close to it again.

19. Frutti-di-mare dinner in Kuala Selangor ? Perhaps the whole trip to see the fireflies was way overpriced. The main attraction was  quite cool, a bit elusive (especially for the camera), and in a longer while – boring. But the dinner made up for it. Never had so much and so good sea fruits. Had it for lunch the next day as well.

20. A strange trip with Malaysian girls. A minority village that turned out to be relocated to modern, western-style houses. A “scenic-spot” which was a regular stream. A never-found waterfall and an absent local-guru. But a lot of fun just chatting and doing stupid things. And then getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, eating beef-burgers from the street vendor to finally reach Cameron Highlands and discover, there’s nothing to see really. Instead – bumping at a Canadian founder of Backpackers magazine and a brief motorbike visit to tea gardens and hand plucked strawberries.

21. Turbo sightseeing. 3 cities in one day. Get up 6am for pictures in Guangzhou, then rush to Macau. Sightseeing in Macau between 7 and 9.30PM (minus some time for getting lost). Spending all last money for dinner (awesome beef with pineapple) which turns out to cost more as they added extra for rice, tea and taxes.. Then being relieved from paying the outstanding amount. Sightseeing the rest of town with Bus No.3 on the way to ferry terminal and finally – catching a ferry straight to Hong Kong. The end of the story yet to be written. Loco..

22. Hot Pot and China sightseeing at home. I went to Guangzhou as my friend was supposed to be there. But all of the sudden she had to leave (family emergency), leaving me stranded and with a promise of providing me with a contact to someone called “Lukasz”. Ok I said, awesome. So I waited. And waited. And reminded. And again. Finally I got his skype ID but not from her, but in some really weird way she denies to have employed. Anyway- we exchanged couple of mails with Lukasz and set up everything for a meeting. When I arrived it turned out his wife is pregnant with due date.. in a week. I open my laptop and there’s a mail from the friend  who organized the whole thing “Here’s Ela’s e-mail, she’ll host you”. I just heard this name 10 minutes earlier from Lukasz’s wife. She said “Ela has been waiting for you yesterday…” Brilliant communication. Seems like everyone – but me – knew.

Anyway – the visit was brilliant. Instead of really seeing anything in Canton, I’ve spent the afternoon with a couple that’s been living in China for the past 6 years, listening to stories about work, life, watching photographs etc. I’ve learned (and seen) more than if I went out walking around like I usually do.

23. Charming Hong Kong. Re-union after 2 years with Charmaine and after a bit less with Sunny, photography of the city in the move (I lost them…) and a wonderful couchsurfing experience with Belle – being her first CS guest… along with a German who arrived the same night!

24. Songkran. Just a glimpse at the 24h from the few days of this water madness was enough. Thousands of people walking the street in the sole purpose of getting wet and dancing in the mud. Insane.

25. Railey Beach. Climbing up on the  limestone caves rising dramatically up high straight from the blue water and than jumping to dive into the coral reef around.

26. Koh Samet. A strange French roomy, celebrating birthday of randomly met Italian girl and talking life  while after-party swimming at 4am by the full moon.

27. Bangkok shopping. Get super-trendy dressed for summer from head to toes for a price of a t-shirt in Europe. Welcome to Bangkok street shopping. Train your bargaining skills first!

28.  24h in Delhi.  Visiting home, re-packing, a chain of meetings nearly every hour , awesome Punjabi food, last beer in TLR,  buying a suitcase at Sarojini Nagar and closing the day with Imported Go(o)ds party dancing like mad to Dualist Inquiry sick DJ set, and Sha’ir’s– probably the most talented of the hottest girls I’ve ever seen. (or the other way round). Cherry on a pie – a guy (straight) friend telling me, that me disappearing from Delhi is like ending a relationship.

29. I will be back.

30. Will happen when I’m back.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 29, 2011 11:19 am

    Kewpie’s is my favorite place in Calcutta. (Owner is also a friend of mine but the food’s fantastic.) It’s the one great place to experience real authentic Bengali food — fresh fish and prawns! Did you see the Asia Cafe episode?

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