The Red Lantern

After one night in a sleeping bus I got to my first Chinese destination, Yangshuo.  The town is a trap for local tourist, full of shops and loud Chinese discos. Good thing, touts target mainly locals so didn’t bother me much.

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On the first day I went trekking and I rented a bike for the second one, both very pleasant. Once I got away from the touristy spots I enjoyed the pretty landscape. It looks like the Dragon Ball mountains when Goku was a kid, when the show was good before the one week interplanetary monster fighting crap. Amazing krast formations all around.

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From Guilin I took a 27 hour train to Xian. Sleepers were sold out so I was on a hard aisle seat without anywhere to rest my head or limbs, not the best… Xian city is charming with lots of yummy food around. At this point of my trip, more than any sight I enjoyed playing basketball with locals. I taught them a few things. Yao who?

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Nearby, I climbed Hua Shan, steep walk and entrace fee, overcrowded, cloudy… still a great place. I skipped tough the Terracota Warriors, the ticket was way too expensive. There is a museum in town where I saw a bunch of them and a couple of horses for free, enough for me.

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This guy ate too much rice

As Tibet is nowadays banned for independent travelling I didn’t go there. At least I could get some Tibetan flavor at Labran Monastery in Xiahe, Gansu province. It was awesome, with plenty of monasteries, Tibetan pilgrims and grasslands. The kind of place where Paulo Coelho would have a wank and after get the inspiration to write a magical book to enlighten us mortal and explain the meaning of life. I will only bother you with a few lines.

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It was good to eat momos again and greet people with a taksi delek. But the best was meeting old friends, the friendly workless Tibetan monks and the yaks, those lovely stupid hairy creatures.

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Yaks. Actually this is not from Xiahe but from the Karakorum but it has German cows, which is the point
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2046

Changing Indonesia for Hong Kong was a big shock and had a kind of time travel feeling. The place reminded me a bit of London. There are double deckers, suits, people rushing around, queues everywhere, lots of overpriced shit, posh shops, teenagers with smart phones glued to their hands, lots of rules and Darwinism defiant warnings  (mind the gap!) and even some hipsters. As well citizens are given a card  in order to be tracked by the rulers, here called octopus instead of oyster. There are of course many differences, the most notorious the vertical architecture. Good inexpensive food can still be found in HK. There are plenty of neon colourful lights around town which (usually) are not brothels.

I stayed in a micro-room at the Chunking Mansions. The place have been through a clean up at had lost the decadent atmosphere of Chunking ExpressWell, at least, there are quite a few entertaining Indian touts. I was missing them. They were insisting on selling me suits and hash. I asked them for a tuktuk.

Oh, and I had a hot shower! True story.

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The Wire

No doubt The Wire is the best TV show ever. Anyone who had watched it will agree. When you finish the 5 seasons you feel happy and sad at the same time. You enjoyed an amazing master piece but you realize you probably will find anything near as good in your lifetime. Yes, Breaking Bad or Treme are damn good and you will get addicted to Game of Thrones but it is not the same. The following days you only want to speak about it. You will try to recommend it to anyone that hadn’t watched it. If they had you will get overexcited talking about how great Omar, Stringer Bell, Scoop or McNulty are…

So the point is that travelling Indonesia feels like watching The Wire, fucking awesome, best place big time. This is the best way I found to explain the experience. The main difference here is that I hope there will be more seasons, Papua and the Maluku are top in my list for the future.

I have no words to describe how much I love Indonesia and the friendly people that so much helped me there. Below some of the many good things there and some of the very few bad ones:

I like

  • Indonesians
  • Mentawai
  • Danau Toba mushrooms
  • Togean
  • Volcanoes
  • Flores
  • Siau
  • Tana Toraja
  • East Java…

I don’t like

  • Bali-Gili
  • Beer price
  • Corruption
  • Environmental care

Sweet Home Sulawesi

Sadly I had to leave Siau. In the boat to Manado a local pointed me to a cheap hotel near the port. The room was $4 per night or $10 per hour. The shared toilette was probably the worst I have seen in this trip, and believe, that’s a lot to say. I would like to have an UV light to check that room. The workers tough were very friendly and would bring me tea and snacks while chatting with them, making good the topic that even prostitutes only want me as a friend. I could see a police officer on his uniform getting in. He did the business in only 1/2 hour.

Before leaving the country I spent a last night in Makassar. I stayed at a restaurant owner’s I met on my previous visit so great free food 🙂 He was sad as karaokes were not open during Ramadan. Seriously guys, what kind of God would want brothels to be closed?

I “had forgotten” to pay for my check-in luggage and at the airport it was to expensive so I tried to go to the boarding gate with 2 bags and almost 20kg, when the allowance is one bag and 7kg. And they had a scale there… So I started putting on as many clothes as I could with books and heavy stuff in my pockets. Luckily the Air Asia guys and police officers were Indonesians and all were helping me with the task till I had near only 7kg in each bag and they pretended one of them was form another passenger. Unfortunately I had to leave behind my arak, no!!! I wanted to drink some on the spot but they didn’t like the idea.

For the 3rd time I spent a night at KL airport. I was very sad as for leaving my beloved Jew-free Indonesia. Despite of children pointing at me I never felt as a bule (foreigner). I was feeling the kind of farewell sadness as from other places I lived and left a part of me behind: A Corunha, Vigo, Kavala, Helsinki (Ok, not this one) or London.

This is Indonesia

I wanted to spend my last days in a completely untouristy place. I was looking for an island in the remote Talaud-Sangir archipelago. Siau is only named in an old Lonely Planet and there is almost no info online. On google maps I saw it has the highest volcano in the area and a walkable size. A decission was made, let’s see what people are up to there.

First surprise, the volcano was active and I could see a smoke stream during day time and the red top at night time, lava!

Pretty soon I realized how things would work there. I was the hot chick in the bar. When having breakfast a doctor tried to pay for me and he draw me a map with some places I could visit. He apologized we was busy and couldn’t take me around that day.

Sunset in Siau
Sunset at “my village”

At hte market I got the biggest surprised faces and smiles and I was treated as a rock star. Many people offering to help. I decided to go walking to another village. Policimen stopped me and took me to their office… to give me some coffee and biscuits and tell me they could stop official cars to give me a lift. I preferred walking. Two minutes later a guy on a motorbike offered me a ride. On the way he told me I could stay at his place in a small village. He seemed a nice dude with long hair and huge smile so I accepted and ended up staying with his family 3 days. His wife would feed me like a mum, with 3 aboundant meals a day and lots of snacks in between. Lots of fish, rice, cassava, nuts, fruits…

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At the village I spent some time with the fishermen and went on their tiny boats. We cooked and ate the fish they catched by the sea. I borrowed their home-made wooden goggles for some nice snorkelling… good times.

With the fishermen
With the fishermen

The place was very beautiful. The houses were scattered at the volcano slope on the way down to the sea. A lot of fruits and nuts growing around, especially nutmeg, the main village export. Btw, there was a ladyboy around, big wtf?.

Sunset by the sea
Sunset by the sea

They invited me to another religious ceremony. Don’t know what it was about but I had to sign in Indonesian. It was only for men and at ended with lots of food, prepared by the women. I like.

The way people were treating me there was unbelivable, extreme hospitality. Everyone trying to please me and wanting to host me. An example, here what happened when I mentioned I like coconuts.

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My host was driving me around the island step roads on his bike, felt like a roller-coaster. For my farewell they slaughtere a chicken and prepared me lots of fried nuts for my trip. The family got an extra motorbike so all of them could come to the ferry to say goodbye. Btw, the doctor from the first day was texting me to take me around as well but no signal at the village.

I went to the island looking for the real Indonesia and I was overwhelmed, much better than I expected.

Delicatessen

Your mother ate my dog

How nice is to walk around Harrods food courts in London and see all the sparkling aliments perfectly arranged. Indonesia has an answer to that: Tomohon meat market.
The area inhabitants, hedonistic minahasans, would eat anything that moves. This time “meat market” and “eating anything that moves” have no second meanings. Rats, pigs, dogs, bats, snakes can be found, same as in McDonalds burguers, but here the product is not yet processed and often still alive.

Visiting the macabre market is a slaughter house experience, a blood orgy where Tarantino would get a big erection.

I was “lucky” and arrived just at the moment a man was pulling a dog with a metal tool from the many that filled up a cage. As the dog yelping was quite annoying the man beated his head with a wooden stick till it shut up with a blood coming out from the snout. Then I walked around to enjoy the views and smells. It was a nice stroll among blood, dirt and offals, not recommended on flipflops. OK, enough talk, better see the pics at the bottom.

I decided to have my lunch at the market fruit section. Locals gave me some arak which helped to forget what I saw. What scared me the most is how easy I addapted. I was horrified on arrival at the sight of the dogs piling up in the cages and seeing the
first one getting killed. Soon I was walking around and finding the market scenary quite normal.

Next day I went to the same town for a kind of thanksgiving. You can guess what was on the menu. I just took the fish and veggetables.

Now you may regard minahassans as heartless wild people. I don’t think the animals consumed in the West have a better life than the ones there and the way they are killed is not much better, only that we usually just see the processed meat on the plate or clean pieces at the supermarket or butchers. True that dogs are not eaten and the hygiene conditions are different. I am not saying that meat consumption should be avoided but reducing it wouldn’t hurt that much. And more strict rules should be applied to ensure animals have decent live conditions and painless deaths.

Here a nice tune to get in the mood for the pics.

And the pics…

Who is a good boy?... not you... die... hahaha
Who is a good boy?… not you… die… hahaha
Hair removal because it's not nice when a hair gets in your mouth...
Hair removal because it’s not nice when a hair gets in your mouth…
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Yummy dogs
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Who’s next?
Batman defeated
Batman defeated
I think I smell a rat
I think I smell a rat
$5 per kg
$5 per kg
Free home delivery, teleporco
Free home delivery, teleporco
Por fucinhos, por cacheiras
Por fucinhos, por cacheiras

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Sea Gypsies

It’s said that it is difficult to get to the Togean islands but much more difficult to leave. True that. I thought after 8 months I wouldn’t find better tropical paradises that the ones I’ve already seen. Wrong. The islands are gorgeous and they are going straight to the “places I
want to go back” list.

They are home to the Bajau people, often called sea gypsies, not because of their likes for sea scraps or other people properties, but because of their semi nomadic lifestyle. They are hunter gatherers who spend much of their lives on boats. They are great divers and nowadays use handmade spearguns and goggles they made from wood and glass. The Bajau are nice dudes, able to “hello mister” a bule from their boats at surprisingly big distances.

Bajau hipster
Bajau hipster

There I stayed in a cozy hut in a pretty secluded beach  for $10 days a day, all meals included. The place is owned by a friendly Bajau family. The father has a permanent smile and he would be happy to take you on his boat when going fishing for your dinner and would love to share some arak (strong booze) with the bule in the evening.

My home. Look at my "guardian" behind the plant, he was even lazier than me.
My home. Look at my “guardian” behind the plant, he was even lazier than me.
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Views from my home
Bajau settlement
Bajau settlement

There are many islands with perfect beaches only accessible by boat and Bajau settlement scattered around, a volcano, a lagoon where to swim with the non-stingy jellyfish… For the snorkeling, there is plenty of coral around and it  is possible to go diving as well, didn’t try this time. Just snorkeling I saw lots of things and it was as good as the dives I did in other places. Awesome.

The jetty
The jetty
Blue starfish, just by the jetty
Blue starfish, just by the jetty

It is difficult to think of a better tropical paradise and whatever I write or you see in the pics will not be enough to describe the place beauty.

More pics