lunedì 29 giugno 2009


In Chang Mai I met up with old friends (Lali and Ives) and new friends (Nicoletta, Marco, Jane and Leo). We discovered the town, with its temples and great food stalls, but also an unexpected wide range of excellent bar and clubs: my favorite are the North Gate Jazz and the roof bar. In the first one is nice to listen to good jam session with artist from all over the world, you can also meet interesting people and make some good chat. On the terrace of the latter, you can have a nice and refreshing view of the city gate, waiting for midnight when the atmosphere gets hot and crowd of tipsy tourists dance till sweat alcohol off...
Chang mai is very nice, and beside the terrible pollution, is one of the best place to hang around in thailand (still cheap but developed enough to get everything you could look for) with thousands of little nice spot to read or chill at the shadow of a tree in between one temple and the other. Is also the capital of massaging and cooking schools, two fields who definitely deserve some attention.
Coming up is the SongKran, the south east asian new year, during which this whole part of the world just turns into the greatest water war in the history of human kind, something hardly describable to a settled western intellect.

sabato 27 giugno 2009

29/03 Playing Joseph Conrad: ORIENTAL HOTEL.

Is there one place in Bangkok I cannot miss to visit every time I come to this amazing capital of Thailand, the cypher of anything civilized: the Oriental Hotel.
I could abstain from eating for weeks to have the pleasure of coming everyday here to have my coffe and cake... It is also my favorite place for writing: and that's why by now I feel like home here. Coming
recurrently for my afternoon snack and for writing I became a regular, as waitresses started to know me by name and address me as “the writer”, I play ball as I love to act Joseph Conrad in an elegant environment.... My personal attendant is Ina, every time she comes to take my order or to assure that everything is good she kneels at my side... even if she already knows my favorite cake and cup of tea, she knows also (and even better than me) that I like to choose, so she bring me the whole cakes tray to show me the daily delicatesse...
I know, I know... somebody there would now disagree and say that all this luxury doesn't match the adventurous spirit of my travels... well nothing wronger: time to time even indiana jones needs to restore isn't it? And what is better than having an aperitif on that beautiful terrace on the bangokok river?
What is better than the warm and wealthy atmosphere of the palatial lounge with elephant statues and livery attendants? After all the “artist lodge” isn't my natural place?
I need it time to time... especially as tomorrow I will get a 36 hours train north to changmai...



After the full moon party in Koh pangan, I moved to another beautiful island. Koh tao is the most active diving center in the world, and the island atmosphere is obviously influenced by that: crowds of young people splitting their time between immersions, sunbaths, and crazy parties, beat the island rhythm.
I enrolled in an advanced course and, since I am really loving diving, I will probably go also for the rescue course and maybe even for the divemaster.

My favorite moment is the evening, when I come back home with the sunset on my right hand, barefoot on the sand: all the restaurants and bars on the beach are getting animated and music is enriching the air.

lunedì 22 giugno 2009


Now that taking off the sea is not a priority anymore, I can focus on traveling about Thailand and south-east Asia: Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; I think this region is really a casket of pearls. The culinary richness for sure is one of the more attractive: spicy dishes, colored foodstuffs prepared in big pots radiating all over the lane inviting scents...

South-east Asia is also a region very easy to travel: criminality is almost inexistent, and the biggest annoyance tourists can experience are little scams performed by salesmen and taxi/tuktuk/whatever-drivers; english is largely understood and even spoken, and that's why this is one of the most popular destination for young backpackers (who tend to spend their time getting drunk and party, trying to carefully avoid any place even slightly out of the bitten tracks, that is: if is not on Lonely Planet, it doesn't exist at all.).

Anyhow I couldn't miss what is considered one of the best party in the world, and so I reached Koh Pangan for the traditional FULL MOON PARTY. Used to be a once per month event (namely full moon), it ended up nowadays in being a cash machine, so that you can arrive any moment and you will always find something going on: full moon, half moon, no moon, pre-half moon, quarter moon, 3 quarter moon, i-am-too-drunk-to-see-the-moon, I-don't-give-a-shit-to-the-moon party...

A bit too commercial to my taste, but still something at least worth a few days try... but the island itself should be the real attraction: beautiful and wild, the north part really worths to be visited, enjoying the crazy roads (well, call that mold, rough, wild paths “roads” it is really an euphemism) driving a strong 4wheels.

The spirit of the island can be well sketched by a normal road: gasoline is sold by bottles, alcoholics are sold by buckets.

01/03/09 GAME OVER... (at least on the oceans).

Where have everybody gone?
Sit on the sand I stare at the ocean, making little stones jumping on its Indian face... actually I am furiously lapidating it, because I know very well the answer to that question: boats are gone, the train of sailing globetrotters is already passed and it will not pass again till the next season.
I feel that unpleasant sensation you can experience when you know that everybody are to a beautiful party out of town, and you are here without a car.
Is there little to do by now: flying to Maldives (a mandatory stop for all the sailing boats crossing the indian ocean) is excluded. Expensive flights, no budget accommodation on land, and all the problems in meeting the owners of the boats (spread around the atolls and focused on enjoying the privacy of their yachts) make looking for a boat ride in Maldives an option not advisable. Moreover, even when I found a boat I would have jumped a peace of World big and inviting as the whole leg of a tasty roasted chicken: the Asia.
No way, instead I decided to turn this casuality into the realization of another trip that I had in mind: run along the silk and spicy routes throughout Asia, passing Nepal, India, Pakistan and Iran, to eventually reach the Mediterranean through Turkey. I will travel that places that recall oriental tales and dreams, lands which I expect as beautiful as the one thousands and one nights.
The first part of this trip will be especially a complete and unique discover: in between Thailand and India lay lands of which we don't even know the names: Myanmar, Bhutan, and all those territories broaden in the Gulf of Bengal. Many of these countries are not even officially recognized by the Line of Control, the international institution assigning the setting of national borders, and even the Cia World Factbook cannot deliver exact information about them. That are countries with pseudo independent governments linked somehow to India, forming that north-oriental peace of land sneaking from Bhutan to Bangladesh, Tibet, China and Myanmar: Mizoram, Tripura, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Meghalaya, are only some of the strange names echoing in that valleys.
If you feel like browsing around this peace of World still undefined and of which we do not have an univocal name I suggest to overfly the Gulf of Bengal with GoogleEarth, keeping along the Brahmaputra River: follow its costs from the Tibetan source all the way to the outlet in the indian ocean, and maybe you will feel one more time that warm sensation, followed by an excited shiver, acknowledging that there are still some places in the World where the borders are all to be set...


23 February
Even if very late on schedule, I decided to give it a try in any case and go to Phuket to look for a boat. The trip there has been terrible: late and with no train leaving from bangkok, I had to buy a bus-package from a khao-san road tourist agency (never do it!). I had to wait 3 hours in the middle of a noisy and polluted street for a bus that was not the class it was supposed to be, once in Phuket I also had to change other 3 various minivans before getting to destination.

Anyhow, once arrived I found out a lot of things: first Phuket is not the ugly place people may say you. Shocked by the bad Patong's fame as a sex-tourism destination, most of the people forget that Patong is only one little beach in a beautiful and diverse island: Phuket town is nice and charming itself, with its chino-portuguise colonial architecture that makes enjoyable to wander around the shadowed lanes; Chalong is a nice harbor, and the all north part of the island is less touristic and more agreeable.

I took a nice room at the “On-On hotel”, a stylish colonial building right in the heart of town. All around there are arts gallery and good little cheap restaurants.
Tomorrow I will start the harbors round, advertising all over the places and trying to talk with everybody can leads me to a good sailing boats to cross the indian ocean with.


It's gonna be quite hard to say that bangkok is beautiful from an european point of view: streets are dirty and pollution and traffic are almost overwhelming, the whole town is wrapped in overhead sealed roads and, during the day, life is spent at the fresh, air-conditioned, closed environment of big buildings.
After a while though you can appreciate the qualities of this amazing city. The marvelous ancient thai palaces and temples are only the pick of a mountain to be discovered. The nightlife is fast and various, offering almost any kind of show (with particular attention on all is considered “on the edge”), but is the whole “underground” part of the city that is the most beautiful: walk along the little canals sneaking from the main river throughout the city is my favorite way to get in touch with the real bangkok. You can see wood and steal sheet huts just sheer on the water, with thai people cooking in big pots, playing cards, bathing, playing music. Over there cars cannot get and the atmosphere is more peaceful and away from the trumpeting traffic, is also tourist free as most of the people prefer to take the boat tour in the floating market with their own peace.
Under the overhead roads (namely in places where we would never seek the “beauty” back in Europe) are other authentic spots to taste the charm of Bangkok: shabby food stalls serving delicious traditional food (for less then 1 euro you can have a great, tasty meal), romantic old-fashion stands markets selling almost everything you wanna buy in Asia and ambulant vendors of refreshing pineapples and melons ready-to-eat.

I have also been to a real, traditional Thai wedding. A dutch friend of my cousin Andrea in fact married a beautiful Thai girl, and we all celebrated together (I had the pleasure and honor to attend at the ceremony). Everything started very early in the morning, when the whole company moved to the bride's parents house. Over there a dozen of monks have long blessed the house, the couple, and all the presents, then they preyed a lot. After that they ate a good meal and they went. So the ceremony itself started: all the relatives and friends of the groom had to walk on line bringing gifts for the bride's family, and on our way to their house we had to be as loud as possible, to show everybody around that we were coming plenty and full of gifts. The groom at the head of the line was carrying a good amount of money, as he has to buy from the parents his way to the bride. After the bargain, the couple kneel in the house, with their heads linked by a white line, and in turn all the relatives and friends have to bless their hands with water, make a wish, and tie up a little white string to their wrists.

An important part of the wedding is also the following buffet, rigorously each table needs to have a bottle of whiskey as it is considered nowadays a status symbol (no matter it was 11 o clock in the morning)....................................................................