Kuala Lumpur – Big City Lights

13 12 2014

The fact that we caught our flight to Kuala Lumpur was sort of a miracle. I never left a hotel room faster. It went something like this:

Me: “Alex, what day is today?”

Alex: “September 12”

Me: “I think we lost our flight!”

… and we were suddenly in a running mode. Threw everything we could see in our backpacks, did the fastest check out in history, thank god we had the airport ride included, the driver was kind enough to speed for us and we went speeding through check in and passport control, all the time laughing like two crazy girls on the backpacking trip of their lives.

We were super excited. I’ve heard a lot of good things about KL and I was curious and eager to explore it in the very limited time we had available. We landed at 11:45 am and soon we were in the city. We were staying in a guest house,  who lured us with good backpacking prices, a double room with a “shower” and AC. Now when I look back, I feel like laughing, but when we arrived, the only thing we could say to ourselves was “we won’t stay here long anyways so it does not matter how terrible this room is!” I mean, I lived in quite some places, washed myself out of a bucket in my first days in Ghana, I don’t even want to remember how the first flat I lived in India looked like… so its safe to say I am a seasoned traveler, but that “bathroom”!?!…

We were out of there as fast as possible :), ready to meet the city. Food was the first thing on our minds so we stopped in a street corner, with red plastic chairs, cold beer available and yummy smell all around. The food was great, we really enjoyed it. I like eating street food everywhere I travel. I feel intimidated in fancy restaurants and I don’t see the point eating in places full of expats. The more locals I see gathered in a place, eating, the more I want to eat there.

After our meal, I also found Bakkwa. Rach always brought some for me from Singapore, and when I found it in KL, I was very very excited. It was delicious, so I was all set for a day of walking around. We had the right shoes, right sunscreen and the right attitude 🙂 We started in China Town and we made our way walking to the crafts market, the Sultan Abdul Samad building and a few other touristy places. Both Alex and I love walking but I wouldn’t say  KL is the right place for it. It is crowded and I forgot how much I dislike crowded places. The city just didn’t resonate with me. We left the Petronas Twin Towers for the evening, and now I don’t even remember why we wanted to see them. They are an important part of the KL concrete jungle. Lots of lights, lots of people taking pictures and trying to fit the tours in. We left in a hurry, as we wanted to have dinner and we spotted some really nice street corners with satay, fresh fruits and more red plastic chairs.

Next day we went to see the Batu Caves and the Botanical Garden. So much for exploring non touristy paths!

At Batu Caves Alex had a funny encounter with a scheming little fellow. He went really fast for her biscuits but left her the water bottle. I was quite entertained and so was Alex 🙂 We watched him running afterwards from his mates, trying to be selfish. He wasn’t very successful I’m afraid.

My favorite place was the Botanical Garden. Just my kind of place, green, almost empty, the perfect place to take a walk and forget that there is dust and traffic a few meters away. It was a perfect ending to our trip to KL, even if the trip did not end there. But I prefer to remember it this way 🙂

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The KL city sign – the touristy thing to photograph and then go home and edit 🙂

We had our first meal here... duck duck duck!

We had our first meal in this street corner… duck duck duck!

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A spot of green in the concrete jungle 🙂

Dinner Time

Dinner Time

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Our own Satay Corner

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yum

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Big City Lights

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Candles at Batu Caves

Steps to redemption maybe?

Steps to redemption maybe?

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We did not climb…

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Alex being robbed 🙂

I never did this in India... there's a first time for everything!

I never did this in India… there’s a first time for everything!

Women's wagon

Women’s wagon

Perdana Botanical Garden

Perdana Botanical Garden

And my favorite spot in the entire KL :)

And my favorite spot in the entire KL 🙂

One last tea before our departure

One last tea before our departure… in a bookstore of course 🙂





December Wonderland

7 12 2014

This land never ceases to surprise me. I love love love it. The colors are different every day and it’s magic!

I am speaking about the side of Lago Maggiore in Ticino, Switzerland. I am here for another 2 months, before the big move. I am normally in the house, with my computer, at my desk, working, doing research, learning, getting outraged… all the normal stuff somebody working from home is going through. But sometimes… sometimes I go for a run. I am not much of a runner I’m afraid but I am striving to change that, and the landscape in this amazing place is very very convincing.

So I went today for a run in the water meadow near by the house, Bolle di Magadino. The air was crisp and big big clouds were covering some parts of the mountain. I am so lucky to be able to go running here. Today it was me and the ducks. I only saw 3 people. I couple with their dog and another lady with her dog. The place is spotless, as everyone cleans after their pets, not like in Brussels where you always have to mind your steps. I do miss Brussels though 🙂

I left the house at 4:15. Normally I run for about 45 minutes to one hour, but today on my way back I kept stopping. I had my very bad phone with me, by no means the picture do justice to this place, but I had to share them. Maybe they will convince you to come visit…

The sky is the limit...

The sky is the limit…

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Boats

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and more boats…

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Stop and stare…

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Green, beautiful forest green.

Somewhere out there ducks are having a blast!

Somewhere out there ducks are having a blast!

Love love love

Love love love

Not quite ready to go back :)

Not quite ready to go back 🙂

Night Lights... just enough to showcase the lake's mysterious beauty

Night Lights… just enough to showcase the lake mysterious beauty

Off to home... how lovely that the streets were empty! Everything felt very personal!

Off to home… how lovely that the streets were empty! For a moment it felt like I was alone in the world.





“A Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures”

2 12 2014

I’ve first heard of Brunei in my 10th grade.  Our Geography professor used to call us in front of the map, tell us names of capitals, ask us to point the country on the map and tell him the name. When he said “Bandar Seri Begawan” my mind went blank. You see, the previous year I had failed geography for one trimester and it was one situation I never wanted to find myself again. I redeemed myself by answering his next two questions and forgot about Brunei until a lovely day this year in June.

I was surfing the Tedoo.ro Facebook page and they shared a super offer for Australia with Royal Air Brunei. I emailed Alex and we decided that day to go to Australia, with a 5 days stop over in Brunei. And the planning began for what transformed in our own very #EpicTrip 🙂

Every time I told friends we are going to Brunei, I got the same chuckle and question: “Why would you go there? Go to Malaysia instead!” Hmmm… I am very glad we went. I am only sorry we didn’t stay the full 5 days and went to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend. We wanted a taste of KL city. Well, it was bitter! Next time I am going to Malaysia, I will skip KL entirely 🙂 I guess I’m not made for city life anymore… huge buildings, noise, dust, pollution, crowds and crowds of people and tourists.

But let me go back to Brunei.

It was lovely, everything was really lovely. I remember thinking that it must be the kindest place on earth. We checked the market, took a boat ride into the sunset, walked the city streets in the evening and for the second time in my life I was impressed by a hotel: The Empire Hotel and Country Club! I learned Sunday while I was doing a bit of research that “it was originally built as the residence of the Sultan’s younger brother, Jefri, who until 1997 was Brunei’s minister of finance.” We did not stay here, we are backpackers after all 🙂 But we spent a few hours walking on the beach and enjoying the sun and the silence. On the day we were supposed to go back, bask in the sun and get a tan it rained and we stayed in.

My favorite part about Bandar Seri Begawan was Kampong Ayer, the water village! 8 kilometers of wood houses built on large pillars along the Brunei river. I’ve read it has around 30 thousands inhabitants and it’s the largest of its kind in the world. Our guide was the boat rider, who showed us around and told us stories about people and his own family. They have two boats and this new house in the water village, where he lives with his wife, two children and his mother-in-law. He showed us the schools and the mosque from afar, the most interesting houses and the best stories about each.

I think these were some of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever had. On this boat, laughing with him and Alex, learning about the river, Brunei’s history, palaces, kingdoms, fishing, the simple life… How random of us to go to Brunei! How random of us to take this specific boat ride and experience this moment of pure perfection. How random and how lucky!

There’s much more to discover about Brunei. And I hope to do it one day 🙂

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Paradise was behind these windows…

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Hello Paradise

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If I’d believe in marriage… this place screams HONEYMOON!

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Alex and the sea

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Have I mentioned how much I love trees?…

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The  Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

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Boats on the Brunei River

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Evening walk…

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This place must have a history… maybe it was someone’s home long time ago, perhaps it will be again one day.

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The mosque again… and malls on each side 🙂 Ahh, the modern world.

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So we went back to the river to search for a boat

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We took our time walking, mesmerized by the sunset

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The scenery becoming more and more alluring

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We watched fishermen, wondered about their stories…

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And then, the next day, created a story of our own 🙂

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Glimpsed pieces of paradise and wondered what’s inside…

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Daydreamed about a river-home of our own, a place to write stories about lovers and fish 😛

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Talked with the river and laughed at its spunk…

Said thank you at the end... it was time to go back :(

Said thank you at the end!… it was time to go back 😦





The City of Life (?)

30 11 2014

City of Life, City of Lights, just not my kind of city.

The first stop on our way to Australia was Dubai. We were planning to go around and see as much as possible in the limited  time we had available but then we discovered the pool in the apartment complex Darius, our host, was living in and nothing else mattered. The weather was perfect to laze around in the pool, but too hot to actually enjoy any sight seeing.

It’s good we booked the tickets to go to Burj Khalifa in advance otherwise  we would have never left that pool. As we didn’t see much of the city, it would be unfair to make any judgements.

I’ll leave it to that and a few pictures I took on the trip.

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The pool and the city view, the choice was clear 🙂

Tourists in Burj Khalifa

Tourists in Burj Khalifa

Foggy view from the top

Foggy view from the top. Buildings and more buildings…

Not my best photo moments :)

Not my best photo moments 🙂





Croatia

29 11 2014

We spent a few days in July in Pula and Rovinj, too little time to really appreciate the place, so I am hoping to go back soon. I can’t believe I haven’t been to Croatia until this year. What was I thinking? I don’t think it’s Europe’s “best kept secret”… or maybe it is.

The sun, the Adriatic sea, the food, people, colors, architecture, flowers everywhere, and I can go on! It was lovely walking around in Rovinj, without a definite purpose, just enjoying the city and all the artsy places that make it so charming. It’s the heaven of handmade objects, naive art and clothes simply hung to dry in the sun. Carefree!

If I would live here I would be perfectly content. Just going to the market for fresh fruits in the morning and lying on big rocks with a good book and the sun in my hair in the afternoon. Obviously, eating ice cream three times a day at Chocolat on Carera 65 street.

What a perfect fantasy!

The sun kissed Rovinj

The sun kissed Rovinj

No 46 Blue - could be "home"...

No 46 Blue – could you be “home”?…

Let's leave it all to dry in the "open"

Let’s leave it all to dry in the “open”

Go out for coffee,

Go out for coffee,

Shopping,

Shopping,

and art!

and art!

Discover new places in this old city...

Discover new places in this old city…

Not think about the future...

and make friends with dreamers, they are the best kind!

Le’s not look for pirates 🙂

Could this be the place?

This can’t be their place!

They ran in the sunset, the old man used to say!

🙂





Dreaming of Lisbon

15 06 2014

I felt in love with Lisbon on May 11th. The atmosphere, the architecture, the narrow streets and large squares, the historical trams, the food, the people… Lisbon is a mix of breathing history, breathtaking views points, long walks, ice cream and “death by pasteis de nata”! Mmmm… I should start my every Sunday with a visit to Pastelaria Garcia!

We went for a long weekend, without any plans. We just wanted pasteis de nata from Belem and to walk around the city, enjoying the weather, the colors and being carefree.

From live music to graffiti, rides with Trams 15 and 28, the São Jorge Castle, small souvenirs shops, Café A Brasileira (disappointing service), the Pharmacia Restaurante (a must!) and the Santini’s Gelato (I never had to queue so long for ice-cream:) ), everything was perfection. I kept thinking how lovely it would be to actually live there.

As a child, I wanted to go and live 6 months in all the big cities in Romania. I think everything feels different when you are “become a local”. I imagined how I would go, rent a house and go exploring the neighborhoods one by one, at my own pace, walking… I am very fond of walking 😀

As an adult, I am often thinking how it would be like to just go, take a leap of faith, say … OK, I’m moving to Lisbon, Stockholm, Ko Samui, etc… If my 20s are all about traveling, maybe my 30s should be all about temporary “settling” in different parts of the world and explore the culture as a local.

I am only sorry I didn’t take better pictures, as mine don’t do justice to beautiful Lisbon 🙂

My postcards collection

My postcards collection

Can I have one? Lady, you have to learn how to swim properly first!

Can I have one? Lady, you have to learn how to swim properly first!

“death by pasteis de nata” at Belem

“death by pasteis de nata” at Belem

Lisbon art

Lisbon art

View from the top

View from the top

Care to dance?

Care to dance?

This is how a balcony should look like!

This is how every balcony should look like!

Shortest tram ride ever :)

Shortest tram ride ever 🙂

If you would like to hug a tree, this is the place :)

If you would like to hug a tree, this is the place 🙂

This is not goodbye!

This is not goodbye!





“I’m Going on an Adventure!”

9 06 2014

Again 🙂

This year has been all about traveling. 10 brand new countries to add to my growing list as I’ve been inspired by a friend to have a traveling objective before turning 30… yup, 30 countries before turning 30 in October… and it’s totally happening! And I am not counting Romania, as I was born there and lived in Iasi for a huge chunk of my life 🙂 But you… you must GO and visit Romania, it is absolutely beautiful and you will fall in love forever!

So about this big trip I am talking about… It will be epic: Brussels -> London -> Dubai -> Brunei -> Kuala Lumpur -> Melbourne -> Tasmania -> Sydney -> Great Reef Barrier -> New Zealand -> Melbourne -> Brunei -> London -> Brussels/Amsterdam (I haven’t decided yet).

The tickets are bought except for London -> Brussels/Amsterdam and it’s happening a couple of months from now, before I am moving back home in Romania for a short while, with the noble purpose of writing my master thesis, finishing my secret project and taking my driver’s license!!! Lots to accomplish by the end of January 2015 :), and EVERYTHING just makes me so happy.

My sister told me something on the phone the other day, after I told her about my epic adventure. She is worried because it feels like I am racing to do everything and see everything before I run out of time somehow. What she said made me think; realize most of my life I just felt sort of immortal. Yes, I know I am not. I don’t want to live forever, I also don’t hope to die young. But for sure, I do want to see everything!!! And I am a careful traveler and my partner in “crime” is smart and as careful and just great!

I started traveling around Romania in 2005 and in the summer of 2006 I left the country for my first trip outside. I felt in love with Vienna and Paris and Monaco and Cannes. Hated the smell in Venice and was too tired to like Amsterdam. I don’t remember anything about The Hague or Brussels. It was one of those super lousy bus trips. We were traveling by night and visiting cities by day… And then I entered Louvre for the first time… ❤

I swore off organized bus trips in those 3 weeks but my passion for traveling grew to be one of the few exclusive things that make me incredibly happy. I read travel blogs and write down lists with things I want to experience, places I want to see and food I just have to eat. And then I go! I am not talking about fancy traveling. I am talking about taking my backpack and exploring. And yes, sometimes taking the bus 🙂 I did it in India, in Brazil and in Thailand and in lots of other places… of course, not for 3 weeks in a row… We fly low-cost and use youth hostels and backpackers heavens… We eat delicious street food while we walk around with starry eyes.

I grew a lot as a traveler since spending 6 months in Ghana in 2009 without even having my own photo camera. I believe traveling changed me for the better and I cherish my photographs more than any other of my possessions. I don’t always have time to blog about my adventures and some moments are so precious that I don’t want to share them with anyone else… But if I were to give one piece of advice to a large group of people… I would say: Travel and see the world! And do it with respect for the people and the country you are visiting.

I hope you all found the things in your life that make you incredibly happy and I hope you enjoy these things as much as possible!

Me happy 😛

Ghana 2009, picture taken by Emma with Klepo's camera :)

Ghana 2009, picture taken by Emma with Klepo’s camera. Can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years!








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