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.