Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Gambling Blood in Me - Barcelona

Day two in Barcelona was getting lost day. By no intentions I wandered to the beach and looking at the map for the next nearest attraction I spotted on the map the f*cking casino of Barcelona. “Oh Shit” I cursed and I knew there was no avoiding it. I was almost out of cash as well at that time with only 25 euro left so I thought why not have a look. 2 euro texas holdem, 2 euro black jack …. I was really f*ck this time fore there was no avoiding it. I still had four days in Barcelona. Lost 20 euro on that first hours and I had no money left and luckily there was no atm close by or rather atm that does not charge me a hefty commission.

The Fish Casino - Barcelona

I got out later that evening and wandered around the city walking zig zagging everywhere and somehow manage to make a loop and I was close by to the casino again. This is crazy! I did not even intent to go there today and was planning to take it slow but since I am so near the bloody place and already had a restock of money form the atm machine a few hours ago I figured why not. 4 hours later from 5pm to 9pm I walked out of the casino a total of 170 poorer for that day.
Why do I even bother really.  3rd day in Barcelona and the day I am writing this shit …. On my way far far away to the furthest mountain in the city Tibidabo with a stunning view and I am determined to avoid that casino but have a feeling when night falls and I finally got bored I will be there gambling on 2 euro poker.

So I am going to write this down … the limit of loss shall be the money I carry now without withdrawing further from the atm …. ( about 150 euro ) and if I ever hit the winning limit of 500 euro I shall stand down and will also commit to not gamble at Monte Carlo the most famous casino in Monaco. A pledge to myself if my devil guardian will accept the wager.
Fouth day in Barcelona I went walking to the castle top made my way around the winding street, tried to be distracted nicely everwhere and in every little thing I could find but I guess the devil in me won in the end as I find my way zipping across town towards the casino. Even getting off the wrong metro stop did not turn me back from my crusade.

I lost a total of 250 euro in Barcelona. Not something I am proud off really. I feel the control on self for gambling or even any other thing seem to be slipping by slowly and slowly. The justification and reasoning that was my logic for doing something sinful now just seems like an excuse. What happen to the confident guy that could walk into the casino knowing he would be the winner in the end. The gamblers pitfall is when he starts to believe in luck and that he is curse ….. just one big win he will keep telling himself. I guess I am a bit better to realized what is happening but somehow I still can’t stop myself when I need to. I use to be able to do that. Control. I guess I still have it but it’s weakening, I can feel it.



Friday, 25 December 2015

Barcelona La Vie

I can see what the hype is about Barcelona and how attractive it is to tourist. A tinge of everything but that tiny tinge is of spectacular quality. First day and I did not much since I arrive in the early afternoon and it was bad weather raining and cold so I just visited the nearest monument which was Sagrada Famalia a church of the Gaudi design which was still not completed till today.

Sagrada Familia
This church or cathedral was not completed after being constructed for centuries hence at one face you see old gothic style but at another you see cubism’s style and at others I have no idea what the heck is this place. One thing for sure it is the most prominent landmark in Barcelona although incomplete and would probably be still incomplete when we all die. One could say it is a living work of art since it is always under construction. Even post cards from various years always has a construction crane in the picture. 

For an uncompleted work it was still breath-taking and even more shocking is the entrance ticket fee which was nearly 25 euro. Admire the outskirts …. Smoke, gaze, dream, I’ll come back when its finish to get my full moneys worth’s …. Which means maybe never. End of day one with a trip to the supermarket to buy food for three days.

Arch of Triumph - Barcelona
Barcelona was a crappy time for me unfortunately. Partially due to weather being gloomy and rainy and the other knowing that I would have to leave beautiful Spain soon and move on to France. Days were spent walking around the old big town. Up to the furthest hill to the top of the mountain Tibidabo.

Cristo on top of Tibidabo
Tibidabo. I only decided to go there out of a whim due to the Cristo statue that I spotted from way way down at the beach coast. Looking up at the mountain I saw something that look like a cross / Cristo and decided a day trip might be nice and the view looks amazing from up there. Like a Saint watching over the city of Barcelona I had to go pay my respects so a quick ask around and apparently it was not hard to get there at all.
Barcelona Beach
Metro goes all the way to the foot of the hill for the same price around the city and from there a short hike about 15 minutes brings you to the start point of the Tibidabo Fernicular. It cost me 7.70 euro return ticket but it was worth every penny for the view. There was small amusement park up there and one could enjoy seeing the view of Barcelona and appreciate how humongous the city really is instead of just where the tourist loiter around.

The other thing I did was hike up the hill on the left side of Barcelona to see the old castle. Tibidabo was better I would say for the view for the Castle was nothing spectacular after seeing Toledo and south of Spain. Ola Barcelona …. Somehow it’s just not for me.

Touristy city Barcelona is and full of things for everyone to do. I was alone …. And Barcelona alone is not as fun as I thought it would be so it was time to move on.
City of Barcelona - Tibidabo

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Valencia My Love

Bus ride to Valencia at night was not that bad but tired as hell. South America bus really spoil me like crazy I guess and doing overnight bus everywhere else just does not get any sleep at all other than the pre-dawn sleep of 2 hours and then off the bus at 7 am.

Valencia was beautiful surprisingly. My first impression was that this is a good slacking place to be. Great Hostel at Euro 7.50 a night, good supermarket nearby, a good kitchen, lovely semi old streets, a nearby semi-nude beach, cheap paella lunch at 5 euro I was so tempted to slack away and stay here for a month but that would have taken away time from somewhere else.
Best thing to do in Valencia is of course is go biking around the city. A really flat city making it splendid to cycle around all the nooks and explore the maze like city yet large enough that exploring for a whole day or two is possible. I took the bike from the hostel and went around just zig zagging my way around till I finally decided to find lunch.

Lunch in Valencia
The cafĂ© was somewhere I did not even know where I was but when the waiter came out I was stunned. So pretty she was, Asian face, small size plain, not sexy or hot nor cute but simple with glasses and a pony tail with white shirt and mini shorts. Too bad she could not speak English only Spanish and I was sputtering to order. Ah my Valencia love …  
Valencia was not as popular a destination in Spain for some reason. Most tourist I meet just somehow skip by this town on a fast train to south Spain visiting the coast and the culture of the gypsies. Barcelona was close enough that most would rather skip Valencia to see Barcelona. I found Valencia full of charming character.
Downtown Valencia

They had a horny Merchant that somehow bribe the construction crew of the church to install a masturbating gargoyle on the top of the church …. Not one but two of em .. at both corners … a pair of male and female …. My camera was unfortunately not good enough to capture a good picture but it is the pride and joy of the free walking tour guide that they have something no other cities in the world had.

Valencia also has some of the most crazy modern architecture smack in what used to be a river bed. The city of art and science they call it which before I arrived thought it would be a boring modern art crap that I am so used to seeing everywhere in the world. Valencia got it right … the right balance I would say.
City of Art and Science - Valencia

How many nude beach do you know in Europe ??? Up north is to cold and that leaves Portugal and Spain. France is too uptight and the Baltics are crazy. Barcelona is too crowded and Valencia is just 3 hours away and quiet lovely long long long very long white sandy beach that has plenty of room to spare. I was sure I was not in the nudist beach section while cycling along the sidewalk but it was so damn spaced out that people went bare anyway.
Valencia Beach
Like I said … My Valencia Love  

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Granada with a BRAT - Spain

Aisyv looked just the same back in the B.R.A.T’s days …. No changes and no increase in height as well. Long lost friend of 14 years. I now had a travel buddy for the next two days and I finally meet another Malaysian in my 7 months of travels. 

My worry of the travel together for the next two days being awkward was quickly forgotten. Catch up catch up … all the memories, the questions, the Malaysian slang slowly creeping back, a word or two in Malay a snicker and good old reminiscence of home. 
Granada was fast track as well. All the self-imposed restriction went out the window when travelling with someone else. Try to cook a meal a day ….. f*ck that - just venture out and look for restaurant and order the good stuff. Partially because I know Aisyv mind-set was a holiday mind-set not a backpackers so a certain luxury is a given. I only almost cry when she suggested the 160 euro a night hotel …. Luckily she agreed to downgrade (a lot in her perspective) and I had to upgrade (a lot in my perspective) …. Cost me 35 euro a night which I could afford. Not every day but let’s take this as one of the emergency case where I get stranded and have no choice but to check into a Hotel

I ended up spending 300 euro in 2 days …. 3 times the daily budget of 50 euro a day.
All the things that I see during travels but never did them for there was a cheaper alternative I did them now with Aisyv. Partially because we were on a fast track holiday and had to cover as much grounds in the shortest period of time.

Granada - Spain
Granada - Spain
When alone I would normally walk everywhere, scout, lounge and never do more than a few hours of tours event unless it’s free. That’s why even in all the other places, only because I had company that I went on a rafting trip in Arequipa-Peru which I would never have done if I was alone. Same goes to the bike ride to Laguna Cejar - Chile and Sugar Loaf Mountain - Rio. Alone I would just admire quietly unless it is a must do such as Manchu Pichu and Salt Flats of Bolivia or to see at least one penguin.
Flamenco Show - Granada
Back to Granada …. We did …. Hamman a Turkish Bath House relaxation spa and massage, Segway tour around the city of Granada. The Segway I was glad I did it for Granada was not a friendly town to walk. Steep hills and cobbled stone flooring, as rustic and love gypsy feel that Granada had the terrain was not so friendly. The view like any other places when you get high enough is amazing.

Flamenco Band
Flamenco dance show was a given and in a way I was also glad I catch it with Aisyv for alone I would have contemplated it deeply but not forked out the money. The traditional dance of Flamenco was powerful, deep and felt like a trance story told without words but only with the passion and clacks of the fast paced shuffling feet and facial expression of a bull. How the dancers survived 2 hours without leg cramps is a wonder.
We did try to enter Alhambra the famous fort but did not go in for tickets was sold out … Part of the outer grounds were free and it was still an amazing visit. If I was alone I would never have spent that money for a Turkish bath, Segway or flamenco but I enjoyed every one of it. Guess a company is a reason or excuse to open that wallet. Things that I want to do but never had the excuse to do it.

Now that I had a taste of the Turkish bath I’ll probably seek it out in Turkey even if I am alone ….. Thanks to Aisyv for recommending me another vice.
Last Morning I send her to the train station and took a walk to the bus station to get an overnight bus to Valencia. A whole day in Granada to burn with nothing to do but contemplate the last few days journey.

May we meet again someday

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Forgive me Seville – I will come back !

Lo siento Seville

I finally got out of Lisbon and headed to the long awaited Seville but had to do the mad run rush in half a day for by some coincidence Aisyv was also in Seville for work and after a mad facebook discussion for 5 minutes we settle to head to Granada together for 2 days of travel sightseeing. That left me with only half a day in Seville to see as much as I can.
I knew partially in my head I would need to up my expectation on expenditure when travelling with Aisyv. If it’s not a backpacker on the road likely chance you’ll travel more costly than normal. Still I thought 2 days was ok, how bad could it be and the company of old friends is worth spending more money sometime.

Streets of Seville - Spain
Seville in half a day …. Got in at night around 9pm checked in the hostel and luckily they allowed me to cancel my second night and dump my backpack and was out the door in a heartbeat.

Tapas in Seville
Walk around at night, scour a tapas bar, see what I could of the mazely city and head back for sleep only to wake up early in the morning 830 am to check out, left my bag in the hostel and out again to see all the sights I could muster in 5 hours.
The palace grounds were lovely and so was the cathedral but the best was Castle Real and its gardens where the intricate architecture meshing designs from Muslim, Jewish and Christianity culture. The Muslim culture was beautiful, and we don’t see much of it these days.
Palace Grounds Seville

The old Morrish Muslim knew how crate art unlike the bland erratic Islamic culture we have today. In a way it could be look at such that the intricate detail beauty of the Castle Real would have borderline blasphemy in today’s Muslim culture.  Such a shame …. And it is also use as the filming ground of Game of Thrones city of Dawn …. Another blasphemy I think in that sense ….

Castle Real - Seville

Castle Real - Seville

My last minute arrangement to meet Combo a travel buddy I met in Lisbon did not fell through. I got stood up, well he did send a message but no wifi = stood up. Lucky thing I only spend 15 minutes waiting before ditching myself.
Back to the hostel through as many windy road I could detour without being late to meet Aisyv. I stayed in the cheapest hostel in Seville 12 euro a night across the city of Seville. Aisyv was staying smack in the middle next to all the heritage Castle and cathedral, in fact the hotel itself was a heritage and also the most expensive 5 star hotel in Seville. It was no wonder I would break my budget for the next two day.

She looked just the same back in the BRAT’s days …. No changes and no increase in height as well. Long lost friend of 14 years. I now had a travel buddy for the next two days and I finally meet another Malaysian in my 7 months of travels. 
My worry of the travel together for the next two days being awkward was quickly forgotten. Catch up catch up … all the memories, the questions, the Malaysian slang slowly creeping back, a word or two in malay, a snicker and good old reminiscence of home. 

I am sorry Seville …. First glimpse and I was torn apart between an old friend’s promise and a city that seems to call to my soul.
I’ll come back I promise ……..

Saturday, 21 November 2015

What do you miss when Travelling ?

I know what I miss when I am back home and chain down working. I miss travelling!! However when we are on the big open road the things we miss are not so easily defined.

The things that I miss out when travelling long term are the things that makes me homesick. Not the food nor the normality of life working day in day out, having a beer at the end of the day, lazing around singing while your friends imagine they are rock stars on the karaoke bar. No. It’s the special moments that makes me homesick.
Facebook and watsapp nowadays makes it so much easier for people to follow your travels and envy your amazing life. You lucky bastard you. But Facebook goes both ways so when I see a new born baby into the family circle, a close friend getting married, colleagues celebrating the annual D&D, festival gatherings, those are the things that make me homesick.

Today my parents took the keys to my new studio that I bought on impulse 3 years ago. They send me pictures through watsapp, with so much ideas and suggestion on what I could do with the place. I am sure at one point they forgot that it was my place and thought of it as their own. I am a bit sad that I am not there to play with the new toy. So many new surprises that came with the new studio.
What ?? the Condo is totally high tech ??? …
Huh I got a cooker built into the place ???
Wahahaha the studio came with a free mirror in the bath room …
Wow … heating is built into the shower ….

How I miss not being there myself to enjoy the thrill of adventure. Like a kid exploring his new playground my parents are doing that for me now, enjoying on my behalf. While I sit here in McDonald in Faro Portugal waiting for the next bus to Seville Spain I wish I was back home playing with my new studio.
Do whatever you like with the place I told them. It is your holiday home I guess. J

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The things I did in Lisbon

It was a city with an Indianmission and I fulfilled it wonderfully only to get stuck many numbers of days in Lisbon. That said I did lots of mundane things in Lisbon which I almost forgotten but while I recall good friendship that I made in Lisbon and some even rekindled it reminds me of what I partake in and a smile creep across when I think about it.

City of Lisbon - Portugal
The Home for a while – We Love Hostel

I stayed at a petite hostel named – “We Love Hostel” of 3 rooms which squeezed at most 14 bed max with a tiny weeny cosy kitchen (but still manage to cook a full meal) and a common area one must gently butt someone else to nip ones way around. That said the hostel was awesome. At 12 euro a night it was not the cheapest in town but it was the cosiest there was. People come and go but with a hostel that small you can’t really run/hide away from conversation. Even the most shy and introvert will open up for a chatter. That said I found two new friend to explore the town together …. Jay and Combo.

The standard touristy stuff
Walking around Lisbon
Coach Museum Balem - Lisbon
Walking around the old city of Lisbon is a given and if you happen to be in town during the first Sunday of the month like I was; museums are free that one day a month.

A trip down to Balem in Lisbon where most of the museum congregate themselves together, monuments of historic landmarks, and a very eye catching Jeronimos Monastery. Most of the museums barely cost 7 euros but chalking them up together could be painful. A free Sunday and museum hopping saved me nearly 30 euro, while some is really dependent on one’s personal taste the Monastery was a must catch.

Extra bonus if you get yourself one of the oldest still surviving and famous Portuguese egg tart

Lisbon is a great city to explore on foot. Each district has its individual flavour and best explored at different times. The nightlife district of course is best explored at night and the monuments in the early morning but letting the wind carry my feet was the best thing in Lisbon for one can end up in a completely quint neighbourhood but with amazing views with almost no soul nearby.
A Park in Lisbon

Tram 28 - Lisbon
Small enough to explore on foot but large enough that it would take you a few days on foot+tram to cover it toughly
The famous elusive tram 28 which goes around the old city at local price ( some trams goes the same tracks but are 10 euro a ride while this cost about 3 ).

It was a splendid way to explore Lisbon and after eluding me for nearly a week I decided it was time to hunt it down with Jay. Best to find the starting line where one could get a seat and just enjoy the view out the window and watch how the tram narrowly avoid parked cards in incredibly tight corners.

Daytrips – Sintra & Cascais
Tile  Painting
When in Lisbon visit Sintra. Sintra was a short train ride away about 20 minutes and is set at the south western tip of Portugal which had a Castle at the top of the hill which watch out for ships entering the straits.

Mouros Castle was a challenging hike for the unfit. There was a few ways the get there but the cheapest and best way was walking along the back alley / forested footpath that leads to the castle. Walking along the main road is even more longer and treacherous with hazard of being knock down by bicycles, daily rented buggy’s, scooters, cars and huge ass tourist bus.
Mourns Castle - Sintra Portugal
Mourns Castle - Sintra Portugal

The view is worth my lungs torture I must say.

Other than the castle, Sintra is also filled with other monuments, palaces, building that seems to compete for the title “look at me”. A UNESCO heritage site, Sintra can be a costly affair for a budget backpacker if you want to visit the insides of everything. That said the outside is pretty amazing too.

The second daytrip was Cascais the beach. It is a beach town ….. good for swimming and tanning and just lazing. Being from Malaysia I must say I have seen better beaches …. Overcrowded beaches are not really an appeal compared to a desolated lonely beach but then again a huge crowd in an Ang-Moh setting is best for eye candy watching.
Cascais Beach
Graffiti Art in Cascais Beach - Portugal
Things I did not expect to do in Lisbon
I attended of all things a meditation group in the middle of a noisy city. Everything was explained in Portuguese so and so on but I could never be comfortable with people who have the Zen eyes. The pity eyes and the look that says all is well as the cosmic energy surround you and free you of burden. I just don’t get that shit. Meditation is something that I do with a glass of beer watching the sunset pondering life. Don’t quite get the sitting and closing eyes thing.

I had too much time in Lisbon …. Carpe Diem ….

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Evora in Portugal

Evora sounded like a video game when I saw the name. Like a mythical blue planet MMORPG but it was really just a small historic town with a castle wall around it. I was stuck in Portugal, held hostage by the Indian Mission while my passport was being processed for an Indian Visa. I decided to visit nearby places around Lisbon and Evora seemed like a nice quiet place to getaway even from the backpackers.

Evora itself was so small one could see it in 3 hours but I stayed there for 3 days to renew my burnout backpacker soul. If you have travelled long enough you’ll understand the feeling and Evora was the perfect place to do just that. Cheap hostels, quiet and peaceful yet with a tinge of old flavour and a good kitchen and cheap grocery hypermart to fill any cravings for 3 days. Not to mention the lack of tourist and backpacker party scene helps me just sit back and unwind to a good bottle of Porto.

Roman Ruins in Evora
The buildings of Evora was mostly white with red roof tiles. A small hill on the centre of town where some old roman ruins still reside and a little park along the side. It cost about 13 euro one way from Lisbon to Evora and the same back.

Town of Evora - Portugal

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

An Indian Mission in Lisbon

To tell the story right I have to start from the beginning. All the way back to when I started the trip planning the waypoint route of travelling the world. Where should I go and when would I reach there. India was a possibility but there was hurdles.

I considered very hard how to get to India. With my work being in construction especially in Singapore, I work with loads of Indian community of various status. Heck my boss is an Indian from India. 2nd round travelling and this time friends and family knew that I was serious when I said I was taking a year off. From all my Indian colleague in work the saying was unanimous ….

India was one of the few countries that I had to apply for Visa. India visa expires six months after approval so I was stuck. Plan to visit India was at the end of my 1 year trip where I could cruise along on a low budget if I somehow burn it all along the way. I decided to fly to Kathmandu instead where they give Visa on arrival for a fee.
Midway of my journey and I was now within that six months window and I decided to try and get that Indian visa since the idea has been bugging me for a while now. Lisbon had an Indian Mission, or consulate where I could get a Visa and the next nearest place would be London. No harm trying I thought since I was going to Lisbon anyway.

Prior to arriving in Lisbon a few days earlier I had send in some enquiry through the email provided online. They told me to just apply and fill in someone’s name for reference in India and a sponsor in Portugal. They also told me to print out proof of money that I have to travel India. I filled out the online application form and actually put NA for the reference people in India and Portugal and it went in online.
In Lisbon I went to the embassy but have no idea if they would turn me down for I had no reference in India and definitely no sponsor in Portugal. Took my queue number and went in for the wait. I was there early, 9 am and numbered within the single digits. Waiting about I saw other attachment that was held by people around waiting to apply their visa … the application form specified 2 inch by 2 inch photograph but I only had the 2 inch by 1 inch photograph …. Paranoia ran through my mind the whole 2 hours that I waited in line.

Interview for an Indian Visa
Joana the officer did not ask much of proof. I just passed her the application form and viola it was being processed quietly. Two question was asked which was expected.

Are you a resident of Portugal?
No ….. and I explained that I was backpacking and hence could not apply from my home country

When are you going in India
I fly into Kathmandu on 25 July I explained and would take either a bus or train to India from there

That was all Joana asked of me. The carefully prepared and printed out proof of finance was held in my hand and never shown to her. Proof of flight ticket was not shown either. In fact she did not even asked if I have a plane ticket in and out of India nor did she ask where I would be staying in India. I guess a backpacker charm was understood that we poor backpackers can never make up our minds
67 Euro I paid for the Visa and she told me to return 2 weeks later. Shit. ….. after a slight begging I got her to agree to a week later. Now I am stuck in Lisbon …. Having 8 days to burn before retrieving my passport and able to leave Portugal. I am in a dilemma to figure out which country do I skip in Europe while I wait for my passport to be returned.

A week later I got my passport back without any troubles with the beautiful sticker of an Indian Visa.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Stop in Coimbra - Portugal

Coimbra was the halfway break between Aveiro and Lisbon for me. I heard it was a nice charming old town full of history. What I did not hear was that the hostel was a long hike uphill from the train station. The terrain of the city was a bit ridicules to me, like a city cutting though a valley yet as a tourist other than the winded lungs and strain legs plus physiological effect that keeps making me go downhill further away from any destination I want to go just so I can avoid going uphill; it made a wonderful place for exploration.

One of the oldest University in the world is in Coimbra and in a way it is like a university town. I was there during either the enrolment period or graduation but either way as I stroll into the old university compound students with fliers were approaching me to take up courses. One of them told me a blatant lie …. “It’s the oldest University in the World” …. Even without google …. I sensed something wrong …. But I could see the pride and confident she had of her university.

Viewing Tower in University of Coimbra
The university sits on the top peak of Coimbra and has a viewing tower that is absolutely breath-taking. It literary takes your breath away as you climb the narrow spiral staircase up all the way to the top. Best view of the city is from this tower.

View of Coimbra from University Tower

Monday, 19 October 2015

Small Town Aveiro, Portugal– Bad things happens in threes

I got on the bus easily from Toledo to Madrid and took the local train to the long distance bus station. I had not book any hostel in Aveiro nor a bus ticket nor a train ticket. Getting to the bus station I used the self-service machine and bought myself a ticket to Aveiro which was easy enough for 54 euro. Playing around with the machine later on to get more information for future reference and I realized something. There was a promotion button which if click will list discounted rate if available. The Aveiro route had one and a discount of 21 euro. I just wasted 21 euro for nothing.

Night bus and quite comfortable I slept all the way to Aveiro reaching there at 530 am in the morning. Woke up groggy and hurried down the bus only to forget my water bottle in the bus. Fuck. That was a good water bottle which I liked and cost a bit of money. Guess I was bound to lose it sooner or later during the travels. Then I lit a cig and forgot my lighter on the bus stop. I was sitting and went looking for the hostel in the wee early in the morning which was a bad idea.

I did not realized that there was a time difference between Spain and Portugal. 530 am was actually 430 am so I was super duper early. Buzzer the hostel and the reception refuse to open the door for me for they thought I was some crazy guy lurking around 430 am trying to cause trouble. No bed they said and shoo me away. I walk around and found City Lodge …. The lady was also weary of me keeping the glassed door locked while attempting to understand me who do not speak a word of Portuguese. In the end she determined that I was harmless and let me in to check in.

35 euro a night …. What ??? I think I was not in a hostel but a motel really. So I got two night for 70 euro the best accommodation I have had in this entire trip. A double bed in a room all to myself with a TV and a private bathroom. Can’t complain I guess since I am relaxing like crazy in Aveiro
Aveiro is pretty small and I guess I could have done it in half a day. Lovely place, some colourful boats and tiled old buildings and a slow life. I had a lovely room so I guess I spend most of my time lazing away …. Its really really small … 2 hours would have been enough to see it but when on a long holiday 2 days of pure boredom can be blissful joy

On to Coimbra next .
Traditional Boat in Aveiro - Portugal

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Falling in Love with Toledo

Toledo was a lovely medieval town and was super touristy. I got down and looking upwards where the old fortress was and I gave up walking and started looking to the local bus to get me up there. 1.40 euro by local bus about 5 minute ride I was in the main plaza right in the middle of Toledo.

Toledo was a walk around cobbled stone streets everyday, winding and twisting everywhere with shops of all manner in every corner. Souvenir shops, tourist shops, cafes mostly for it was a touristy place. Sometimes even if it’s touristy it is worth visiting and Toledo was just that kind of place. The souvenir was also top notch quality and diverse, not like any of those key chain, magnet crap but hand crafted plate of stainless steel with 24 carat plated etchings mostly of Jewish nature and medieval armoury.
Souvenir inToledo
The knifes of knifes …. If Switzerland has lots of Swiss army knife, Toledo has all the fanciful knife that you see on GoT or Vikings and even intricate curved knife that could be from Ali Baba and the forty thief fairy-tale. Also not to forget crazy ninja vintage Japanese sword. I did not feel guilty window shopping when the souvenir shop looks like those.

The next day Kt and family came to Toledo and he message me to meet up later that day. We went walking for a viewpoint outside the city …. A walk along the river to outside the city which overlook Toledo itself. Beautiful place which had just one restaurant which served the best frosted beer we ever had. Sat there and just watch the sun set and the city night light glimmer.

Kt declare Toledo the second best place he have ever been on earth, first being Sikim in India.

The next day I left for Aveiro
Toledo - Spain

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Hola Madrid !!

Note : This is more like an Entry Log than a post ....

Madrid ! in-between everything of one’s expectation but truly a city worth visiting. Madrid is a big city but then again like any other city suburbs the same residential/industrial and so on repeats outside. Most travellers stay within the city walking zone to see the sights and museum.
First day and I could not check in till 2pm naturally so I just stroll around wandering and stumble upon a building that has some exhibition for free. “Palacio en Comunicacion” = The Palace of Communication. The building was a beauty by
Palacio en Communicacion
itself and they also had a very cheap observation deck to view the city of Madrid from above at the top for just 2 euro. View was not the best for the building is not really that high up but still a pretty decent and nice view for 2 euro.


When in Spain = Siesta like a Local ….
Siesta …. I fall into the siesta pace on the first day itself and went to sleep after lunch only to wake up at 6pm and headed for the museum. In fact I love Spain if only for the Siesta ….. Beauty culture, language, food …. But nothing beats the siesta.

Museum Hack
Museum de Prado which was the 3rd largest museum portraying old art and sculpture (1st is the lurve in Paris) was free after 6pm. So most tourist just spend the time from 6pm to 8pm in the museum instead of paying to enter. I don’t blame them and I guess I also became one of them.

3rd place is a hard place to be for although they had quite a number of masterpiece in the museum it was not a famous as the Sistine chapel or the Mona Lisa. Still it was pretty impressive and the first day I could only see maybe 20% of the whole museum.
Walking Tours

Next day I joined the free walking tour of Madrid at 11am which gave a great brief history lesson of Spain as it is. The city gems and wonder opening up little by little from the tour which was 3 hours yet one could tell it was barely the scratch of Madrid. I also found out then during the tour that Cuecha the neighbourhood the hostel I was staying at was located at was a gay neighbourhood. It was labels as a fun neighbourhood J
Making Friends

Back in the hostel and the second siesta but this time I did not get to sleep as I met PJ and KT which was from India. They and their very young cousin of 19 years old was travelling around for a bit before eventually heading for Portugal to attend KT sister destination wedding. A destination wedding where one hold the wedding other than the place of the bride or groom. Portugal was just a destination for all their family around the world to gather for the wedding. Interesting I thought.
3 of us ended up going together (for me again) to the Museum de Prado to soak in more old classic art goodness. Then we headed back to the hostel while they prep up to go for a pub crawl. I cooked my cheap dinner and decline the pub crawl. They did not make it to the starting point at 10 pm and I saw them again at 1030pm. I introduced KT to the all great goodness of Europe which was the 1 euro packet wine.

I became good friends with KT and PJ …. Only to later visit them and crash at their home for a week in India a few months later …

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Next Continent …. Fresh Start ….. Madrid

There is something about travelling that even after a few months of adventures to places that one could only dream about, hopping onto that plane flying from one continent to another always seems to excite me. It was as if my soul knows that things are going to change for sure and all the semi security that I had accustom to while travelling, getting comfort on the road will be thrown out the window for the few days when I touch down a new continent.

I was flying from New York to Madrid. All the while I am thinking it’s great to get out of the states for it was sucking my money faster than ever. Did I ever mention how hard it is to travel the states? It is definitely not backpacker friendly. In a way South America was more backpacker friendly then the USA. Furthermore I was looking forward to Spain and excited to make use of my little Spanish vocabulary that I learned in South America.
Touch down and I headed for the hostel. I had three nights booked in Madrid but on Friday night I would be forced to leave …. Shit shit shit … while I never had a problem in South America or USA on being force to move on due to fully booked hostels in the whole city, Europe was such that it can happen. Where to go next after Madrid …. How to get there …. Is the hostel in the next place fully booked too? Paranoia sets in as I enter a new continent unsure if what I have been doing for the last 6 months will work in Europe or even what I knew travelling Europe 4 years ago will apply at all today in different countries.

Day one …. Check in and 1st world order to the rescue …. Maps of Madrid city, information board, fully trained tourist information centre and precision network of public transportation that is reliable to its timetable. Within hours I feel more relax and calm for it seems Europe will be much much easier than USA or South America ….

Hola Madrid … It’s a whole new playground …

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

MET Museum New York City

The MET Museum New York City which I did not manage to see the first time round in 2012 was still not on my high priority list in 2015. I have seen many museums travelling but only few museums are truly worth mentioning. I don’t claim to be an expert in museums and usually just stroll by walking around looking without really LOOKing.

Van Gogh Painting in MET Museum New York
Like they say it takes a masterpiece to truly capture a wandering soul. If you study it, or knew about it or was recommended to see it then most likely a set of perception has been form in the head such as how amazing the Mona Lisa is and then get overwhelmed by how many idiotic tourist is clustering the floor with cameras held high flashing away.
Price of admission is recommended, RECOMMENDED at USD 25 for adults, USD 17 for student and elderly or veteran and free for children. I took note on that recommended part and got my admission for USD 2. It was a matter of how you are willing to take the shame. Most people would pay a part of it but at USD 2 I guess was pushing it for I got the solemn treatment. Large museums in the states are like a respectable thing. Even the homeless would not enter a free grand Smithsonian museum to loiter around even in the winter. When I see a free museum especially in New York, I also see …. a free toilet …

Silverware In MET Museum New York
I can’t really tell you which masterpiece to expect in the MET museum. I have a habit of just walking around and just looking but the place was a surprise for not only was it huge, tremendously huge such that looking at art for prolonged time will make one sleepy. They had loads of painting of course but also arts of different kind. Anything that could capture ones attention more than a minute was considered art and collected in the MET Museum.
Piano with a Harp
I only saw a small section of MET without really thinking letting my feet decide while my headphone blast away. Egyptian section is always captivating with its pristine preserved mummies and numerous carvings and glyphs inscriptions. Then there was the musical instrumentation section where every kind of old to new instrument that was made with deep artistic manor was collected, preserved and proudly displayed.

Porcelain was another amazing section that I could not get my eyes off. I had no idea that American porcelain artist was as intricate as the ancient Chinese group. Carpentry works on furniture was also collected to my surprise but mostly ignored by the visitors. Silverware was also greatly collected from simple dining ware to intricate honour medals. Then there was the armoury section with its painted breastplate.
Armoury Section of MET Museum New York
The usher of the museum said it would take at least 3 hours to walk through the museum. If one can endure 3 hours of walk through then he would probably be in the museum for more than just 3 hours. Most would give up in 2 hours for the shear tiredness of their eyes. Walking around groups of students in study groups could also be seen walking around with their teacher or tutor explaining or being question on the interpretation of an art piece.

Maybe I should have paid USD 5 instead ….