On returning

It’s been 10 days since I came back home. 10 days since I stepped out of the train into the big, always busy railway station of Hamburg into the arms of my best friend. 10 days since I got underground to the metro and recognized the familiar smell and sounds of an arriving train. 10 days since I got up to the street on my home station, walked along my streets, through my neighbourhood where I’ve lived the past 10 years, into the green house, up three flights of stairs. Through the door that has my name on it together with another one, into the home we share. I had not been in this home for 9 months and thought it would be emotionally overwhelming – had gone through this moment in my head so many times in different parts of the world, in other people’s homes and random hostel beds. I was prepared for feeling a hundred different things and feeling lost, even.

But what actually happened was the complete opposite, and now that I think of it, the quite logical: it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Walking back home from the metro station, stopping by my regular supermarket where every item is still in it’s place, being at home (where not everything was in it’s place after someone had been living there alone for the past months, but I’m working on that ;-)). I stepped around for a little while, feeling every room, checking out all the unread books in the book shelf, lying on the sofa and staring at my favourite view through the room and the big window.

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The following days I couldn’t sit still, I was excited and wanted to do everything at once. I did all kinds of small things that I had missed while away: got bread from the bakery and cheese to go with it, visited my grandmother for lunch and afternoon coffee, biked through the streets of my hoods, put on my woolen socks and made myself at home, made plans with friends for meeting up.

As on cue, the sun came out on Friday afternoon, brining the best weekend vibes and a few friends out for an after work beer at the local bar. The plan was to cook something easy at our place later, have a glass of wine. And then the doorbell started ringing and didn’t stop for a while: friends coming in, brining small presents reminding either of the spring or my beautiful city, a surprise welcome back party! If the emotions didn’t come as awaited before, they did now.

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It still feels so normal and natural to be back. I’m feeling more energetic than before, I’m excited about things to come and new opportunities I can seize now that I’m back, for the first time in a while I’m free to decide what’s going to determine my life long term, how I will form my everyday life and what I will do with my career. I’m collecting ideas, inspirations, free positions on moodboards with a will to create a combination that makes me feel good and stay as energetic as I am at the moment. I have started volonteering at an organization that works with issues close to my heart, bringing locals and refugees together and building friendships. But I also try to keep in mind that still, it’s been only 10 days since I’ve come back and I can’t do it all at once. Take my time, slow down.

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Maybe I need more time to really come back, I’m thinking can it be this easy? On the other hand this has been my life for so many years, 9 months away are not enough to take the familiar feeling of home. And that’s the most important realization for me personally, that I wouldn’t have gotten in the same way had I not gone on my journey: I have the best home in the world, including everything that comes with the idea of home, my city, friends and family. Sometimes you need a break from it all and some perspective to gain a true picture of the life you have. I didn’t actively start thinking about this on my travels, but naturally my thoughts led to home while being that far away. And I became so happy when I realized how positive my thoughts were, how in the beginning of the journey home was still so far away but shiny and welcoming somewhere in the horizon.

I loved every single minute and moment of my journey, I loved being away and living out of my backpack. It was great to go on spontaniously without always knowing where I’d be next week or next month, being (mostly) positively surprised by all the amazing places that awaited me behind the next corner. I even loved the continuous organisation, planning and calculating – that sometimes took up more time that I thought and hoped – because I know that only because of this, my constant „work“ on getting where I wanted, took me to a journey that I will never forget. It was all 100 % worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing. And coming back home is an important part of this journey, the moment when you decide you’re ready to return to the familiar. This moment was right up there on the list of the most memorable ones.

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It’s all about the company

For the most part all the stories I told through this blog included a we, my dad and myself. A very important detail, actually, because when I think back to my travels I think of my dad – he was right there with me even a bit longer than we’d originally planned and played an important role on making the journey so memorable. A backpacking father-daughter-duo is also not a very common phenomenon and that’s why I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic.

When I first told my friends that I’m going on this trip with my dad, the reactions were almost the same from everyone, amazement, mainly because nobody I talked with could imagine doing such a thing with their father. When the idea of this trip formed, which in the beginning was only the Trans-Siberian trainride, my dad was the first person I thought about. Of course it had to do with his frequent visits to Russia and good feelings for the country, his love for nature and unconventional travel destinations. Actually, I was surprised when his initial reaction to my idea was „No way“. I was so sure he’d be as excited about it as I was! But I wasn’t surprised either when, just a few days later, he was sitting in front of Google Maps, checking out possible travel routes trough Russia and all the way to the island Sakhalin.

Before our departure we got to practice living together as I spent two months at home in Finland, living with dad in his house. Maybe this was a sort of test for how we get along – after all it’s been around 15 years since we last lived together. As you can see, we passed the test and decided that traveling together would be doable 🙂 So how was it, now in reflection? It was great and I’m so happy that my dad and I shared this experience together. It’s not like anything we have done before, spending time 24/7, making plans, compromizing, exploring countires and cultures completely new to both of us. It was surprisingly easy to find a common game plan, often even without talking about it really, we just had the same ideas and goals for the trip. We were a really good team, both having our own little tasks when it came to organizing. I don’t think we had a single setback when it came to bookings and plans. Being on the same level with your travel buddy, sharing the same kind of humour and having fun are all essential for making great memories.

Of course our journey was not only filled with pink clouds and butterflies, after all we were together for months and also have different interests. So yes, we got on each other nerves as well, naturally. We are both strong minded and very alike, which makes situations and compromizing difficult sometimes. But the similarities in our nature and the comfort of each others company were also the things that made small fights be forgotten again. In the end, we were one hell of a travel team.

I turned the whole initial thought of my friends around from I would never go backpacking with my dad to How many dads would actually say yes to such an idea? My guess is not so many and I’m one lucky girl to have such and adventurer as my dad. Talking about adventurer: as I am already sitting comfortably at home, he is still out there! When I left for Asia, dad headed to Sydney and ended up staying in Australia for almost 2 months. His final steps will lead him to Kuala Lumpur, Sri Lanka and Oman before returning to Hamburg. I am looking forward to our reunion and reminiscing on home ground!

Last stop: Bangkok

I have been to Bangkok once before, about 3 years ago when I was returning home from Cambodia. My memories of this city were hazy, but I remember it being very hot, full, loud and uncomfortable. Lots of malls, cars and people. For this reason I had planned to only pass through this time on my way to the airport to catch my flight. But, as so many times before on this trip, my plans changed – I decided to spend some time in Bangkok after all, mainly because I had some friends to go there with.

Vick and I checked in at the Fun Hostel and went straight for the Chatuchak market – with nearly 15 000 stalls it’s the biggest in Thailand. It was so overwhelming, just shops after shops after shops. Clothes, souvenirs, fake items, vintage, food, drinks, we even heard they’re selling baby squirrels somewhere. Didn’t find them though. We did some shopping and met up with Sev at a night market for some beers, food and card games (Monopoly Deal, we had become experts at this point after many heated games).

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My aim was to find something nice in Bangkok, something that doesn’t involve malls or walking up and down the streets in the heat. I’d heard about Bang Kachao, a village inside the city, that was well suitable for biking. So that’s where I went. Had to take a longtail boat over to the other side of the river and on my way to the pier I ended up in a maze of small alleys, which already seemed like a pleasant escape from the big city buzz.

On the other side I rented a bike straight at the pier and started off. And I found my nice! I felt like I was somewhere in the countryside, it was so green and filled with small channels, wooden houses, fishermen, little roads through fields. I just started going criss cross around the streets and little walkways that led through plam tree forests and wet areas. I must have biked around 10 km at least in the end, had a lemonade break in between and visited the botanical garden. Fled from a few aggressive dogs and got invited for the boat ride back by a thai gentleman (he insisted on paying for me). In the evening another night market, food and beers with my friends, I’m so happy I met these guys, they really made my last days in Thailand special.

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And finally it was there, the day that I had both anticipated and dreaded. My last one. What happened to 6 months in between? I feel like I just had my first day. Now that I had been preparing myself for going home for some time, it didn’t feel so weird or hard, but I’m always amazed by time and how fast it goes by in the end. On my last day I slept long, played pool with Vick in the hostel, did some last minute shopping and finally, headed for the airport for my overnight flight. Last time packing my backpack, last time going to the airport, this time I didn’t have to think about visas or onward tickets – I was going home and no one would ask me about those kind of things. I’d really want to write some clever and finalizing words in the end of this post about my last step of my journey but nothing comes to my mind. It was a blast, it was a trip of a lifetime, it was something I will remember always. But for now, I’m just really happy to go back home. May this picture of the Queen Cat describe how good I feel about my trip and also about going home.

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Temple bonanza and jungle camping

Some hundred years ago the capital of Thailand was not Bangkok but a city a bit more up north called Ayutthaya. It used to be one of the wealthiest cities in the world back in its glory days, but then in the late 18th century the Burmese attacked the city, destroyed most of its temples and decapitated all of the buddha statues.

Now Ayutthaya is a quite famous destination for soaking up history and visiting temple ruins – and there are plenty! The city is actually and island, with a river going around the centre, and the first thing I did on arrival was a boat tour around. We visited a few temples on the way, one with a giant golden buddha inside, and arrrived at some beautiful ruins around sunset. It’s quite scary looking with heaps of beheaded buddhas sitting around the main temple, but nevertheless, the ruins are impressive.

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I was told that the best way to explore the city is by bike, so I rented one despite of the striking heat and off I went. Biking was way nicer than walking and this way I was also able to see the surroundings much more: I found a small cute café in the outskirts, drove through local areas that looked like I was suddenly in the middle of the countryside, and saw so many temples. I didn’t go inside as it’s mainly ruins and – as beautiful as they are – they kind of look the same. So I just enjoyed the views from atop my saddle and ended up biking for a couple of hours, which is quite a lot in the heat.

In the afternoon my friend Vick from California, who I had met in Khao Sok, arrived in Ayutthaya! Our reunion turned out to last or the whole next week as we headed to the Khao Yai national park and Bangkok together. The best part of traveling is definitely meeting so many friendly, awesome, like-minded people and learning heaps from other cultures. We chilled on the hostel terrace and later when it got dark we headed to the local night market, gathered a huge amount of delicious food and hung out at the cozy hostel. The day after we did a biking tour together, visited another temple a bit outside of town and also the nice café I had found the day before. I think I saw most of the city in these few days biking!

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On Friday it was time for my first train ride in Thailand, which seemed to become quite uncomfortable as it was already full of weekenders, the ticket seller gladly announced ”no place, only stand!” and we said yes, unwilling to wait another 3 hours for the next one. Our destination was the city of Pak Chong some 2 hours away and luckily we found some seats anyway. Standing the whole way would have been a hard one, since there are so many people walking up and down the aisles, selling food and souvenirs. In Pak Chong we met up with Sev, a French girl I met in Langkawi, and together we headed to the Khao Yai national park for some jungle hiking. We had already booked a hostel but after some planning we decided to go camping in the park instead. It turned out to be a great choice, as the park was not very close to our hostel in Pak Chong and it took us about 1,5 hours to drive there on a scooter.

On arrival we rented camping gear, put up our tents next to warning sings about wild elephants and started with a 5 km hike through the jungle. Supposedly there are crocodiles in the river but (Unortunately? Fortunately?) we didn’t see any. In the morning we woke up at around 5.30 to a massive rain shower, which ended up lasting for two hours! Our plan was to go hiking by sunrise but that didn’t work out, so we slept until 8, when the rain finally stopped. Unsure of whether we could go out to the track we had chosen for the day, we headed to the visitor center and after breakfast just decided to go for it. And we were so glad about that in the end! We ended up hiking about 12 km and luckily for us, it didn’t rain a bit anymore. We were really hoping to see some wild elephants in the jungle, but only found a place where they had been hanging out before. So no real animal spotting this time, but the trekking was unforgettable anyways – and I’m glad I got to do it in great company!

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From one Buri to another

My initial plan was to travel northern Thailand for the last few weeks of my time here. Luckily I found out about the burning season, the hottest season of the year when the crops are burnt. So in addition to very high temperatures the air is filled with smoke – making the visibility zero and the air pollution dangerous. Didn’t sound very tempting so I had to make other plans!

I needed to find someplace preferably south of Bangkok that didn’t involve more islands (I love them, but enough is enough) and found information about smaller buris (cities) like Phetchaburi and Kanchanaburi. There are more, of course, but I decided to visit these since they were on my way and also I’d gotten positive feedback on them from friends.

Phetchaburi lies about 150 km south of Bangkok and is described as a ”low key, slow moving” city – I think this definition is different in Thailand than in Europe? It was quite a big city in fact and not quiet or tranquil in any way, but still nice. Unfortunately I cought a cold just when I arrived (first time during the whole trip!) and stayed in bed most of the time – but I had a bit of energy left for a sightseeing tour. I found some cute street art filled alleys and many old temples. Heaps and heaps of cheeky monkeys as well and the more I experience them the more I despise them. They confuse me, having the looks of little humans, thus giving the feeling of being a thinking being – but acting completely unpredictable.

The owner of the hostel spent a lot of time with us guests and took us to the best spot for sunset and to the night market every evening – it`s a great help to have a local telling you what all the food is! She also thought me how to say “I am a vegetarian” in thai, which turned out to be quite useful 🙂

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After a few days of rest I felt ready to hit the next buri, Kanchanaburi. Again, supposedly a smaller, calmer city, as I’m sure it is compared to Bangkok. But not calm at all, completely different from what I expected. Kanchanaburi is known for it’s WWII history: the Japanese built a train line from here to Burma in order to keep their shippings safe from attacks, and the line was completely built by prisoners of war, most of the who died. It’s also called the Death railway giving the city quite an eerie feeling. I visited a very interesting museum for the railway history and also the bridge over the river Kwai, which is famous from a movie with the same name. On my second day I took a day trip to a happier place, the Erawan national park with it’s 7 leveled waterfall. The park and it’s waterfalls were like straight out of a fairytale and if you make the effort of getting past level 3, you can swim in the natural pools quite nicely – not like in the lower levels which are completely overfilled with people. The only minus were the swarms of bees on level 7, I got stung and had to escape to another level for a swim! And the feeling of having hiked up all the levels, partly climbing through stones and up some tree roots, then getting into the chilly water – never felt so refreshed and newborn. Loved this daytrip!

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Eazy breezy island life at Ko Phayam

The Hippie Bar on Ko Phayam. A place that I’ve heard stories about from friends who have visited several times and I wanted to find out what all the fuzz was about. I was ready for another batch of sunny beach days and a visit to the legendary bar.

I took a ferry from the city of Ranong, where I had spent a night. It took about 2 hours with the local ferry and as soon as we hit land, I jumped on a moto-taxi and headed to my guesthouse, the ”Flower Power”. It was located on the north top of the island, just a few minutes from the beautiful Buffalo Bay beach. It was the first time that I wasn’t in a hostel but had my own private room, which felt weird and a bit lonely. There was one hostel on the island, but it was right next to the pier and I specifically wanted to stay by the Buffalo Bay. I met a Bosnian girl already at the hostel in Ranong and she had booked a dorm bed in the hostel – and damn was I happy that I didn’t go there, she told me a rat (!) ran across her body during the night. After this happened two nights in a row, she fled to another guesthouse. So finally I was quite pleased that I’d chosen my room from the beginning…

The island itself felt quite big, especially in comparison to the small Ko Mook where I had been earlier. I don’t ride a scooter so I mainly stayed on my part of the island. Which was perfect, since it had everything I wanted: a beautiful beach, a few cozy beach bars, good food close by and of course the Hippie Bar 🙂 It’s basically a construct of heaps of drift wood, a big adult playground to get lost in: several balconies, hideouts, stairs, bridges and nooks make it easy to lose your orientation. It’s a great hangout though and the food was nice too.

During my four days here I did exactly what I had planned on doing: not much. I enjoyed a fruity breakfast at my guesthouse, hit the beach, read my books, went swimming – all these things you do on an island. The only timetable I had was breakfast and sunset, making sure I’d be at the beach in time of the latter, it’s amazing to just lay in the water watching the sun go down.

I’d definitely recommend Ko Pahyam – it’s such a beutiful place and seems to be relatively unknown. There were tourists, of course, but it was not crowded. During the days there were maybe 10 people at the beach! So I guess in comparison to many other places this one was basically empty. What a place, so glad I came!

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You’re in the jungle baby!

There is a national park in Malaysia, Taman Negara, that I was planing to visit. It’s one of the oldest rainforests and to reach it, you have to take a boat through the jungle river to the next village. But I didn’t make it – the weather was quite bad, I had just visited another jungle in Cameron Highland, was just feeling generally lazy to hike or organize anything for a hike, so I skipped it. And regretted it so much afterwards! That’s excactly what I had planned to do in Asia, visit an awesome rainforest, and I was so close but didn’t go. Ah!

That’s why I started reading about jungles in Thailand and check which ones would be on my route. Khao Sok is also one of the oldest rainforests in the world and it got my attention straight away. The only minus for me was the closeness to all the tourist spots and the internet was full of adverts for day trips for these areas, so I was afraid it would be really really full. But after getting some tips from a few sources I decided to go anyways – and guess if it was worth it? Of course it was!

My journey from Ko Mook to Khao Sok village took pretty exactly 12 hours. I’m not really sure how, it’s not a very long distance from one place to the other. But in the end, the supposedly 2 hour drive from Krabi took 4,5 hours, the driver made a huge loop and I guess the only reason was for him to deliver a package to  ta place that was definitely not on the way. Oh well. In the end he didn’t even drop me off where I had bought a ticket to, but 2 km before and wanted to have more money. So I walked because I was pissed off while the driver greeted me off with an angry ”Good luck walking!!”. It was 2 km and I have two working legs so no problem. What an idiot.

Luckily the owner of the hostel was the sweetest lady so I forgot about my sour mood and booked a 2 day/1 night trip to the national park straight away. The trip started the next morning and first we were driven to a big dam lake, which was where we spent most of the time. I was still quite sceptic, especially when we arrived at the pier and the mass of people looked more like a swarm of bees. But once we started the ride on our long tail boat over the lake, it just got better and better. Stone formations as high as 1000 m shot up directly from the lake, the where everywhere and around them only jungle. We stayed in tiny bamboo huts that were floating on the clear green water and as the area is quite big and the huts for all tours located at different parts of the lake, it felt like we had the whole place just for our group.

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First we had some free time for swimming and that might have been my favourite part of the whole trip: doing synchronized jumps into the lake, playing with an old car tyre, kayaking and just chilling on the docks. Some of the group members clicked immediately and we had loads of fun, it felt like some kind of summer camp!

After lunch we headed for a jungle walk and a cave tour. I know, another cave within a few days! On the way through the jungle we saw a tarantula nest and a green viper snake, no big deal. The cave was bigger this time, the tunnel about 1 km long and with parts that we had to swim through. It was full of huge spiders, again no big deal. Remind me again why I keep going to these places? 🙂 The cave itself was really impressive though, I felt like Indiana Jones wading through unknown waters with a lamp on my forehead, not knowing what was underneath or above me in the darkness. One part where we had to swim through was not even a meter wide who knows how deep, the only option was just to dive in and hope there’s no terrible creature waiting to catch me.

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We rounded up the day with some more swimming, a sunset boat tour, dinner and beers. I was a bit concerned about the toilet, since it was located on land, only reachable over wooden planks and in the night it would be pitch black dark. And well, of course I had to go really bad in the middle of the night – but I guess all these cave excursions have really turned me into some Indiana Jones since I wasn’t even scared 😉 We got up with the sun and headed for another boat tour and the lake looked like a completely different place with all the mist hanging over it. It was so eerie, in places we couldn’t see anything but fog and ead tree trunks that reached over the water level. And it was so beautiful again but all I could think of after a while were the banana pancakes we’d get for breakfast soon. Fortunately, we still had some play time after breakfast and definitely used the time well in the water. Another boat tour took us to one more cave, some amazing rock formations and another island where we had lunch and fresh pineapple – there’s always fresh pineapple here!

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It was not a long trip but there was so much going on during these about 28 hours that it felt much longer. It was like a small bubble that we stayed in for a while and after we got back to the hostel I felt a bit lost – what am I supposed to do now? Luckily a guy from California and a girl from France also stayed in the hostel for another night and we joined forces, went back to the national park (the village was on the other side than the lake) and went for an afternoon swim in one of the natural waterfall pools. The next morning we went back and did a longer hike in the jungle, saw some otters and monkeys, went back to the swimming spot, enjoyed the last hours in Khao Sok.

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I’m down to the last one

It feels like it was just a few weeks ago that I waited for the first train journey of this trip, with a full backpack at the trainstation in Lappeenranta. It can’t be that long ago, can it? But more than six months have passed since that first step, where everything was still going to happen and I had no idea how great it will be. And when I think about everything that has been since then – all the things I’ve seen and done, the people I’ve met and new experiences I have had – it feels like I have fitted a whole lifetime into this past half year. Because it’s so much, so overwhelming, sometimes even scary and stressful. So many feelings in all colours and scales, so many impressions and sometimes maybe too little time to really take it all in. Luckily I have this blog to come back to and go through this trip again.

But I’m not completely at the end, not yet, I still have one more country to discover!

I arrived in Satun, Thailand by ferry from Langkawi in Malaysia. It was just me and another tourist on this boat, I guess Satun is not really the most famous place to be. I didn’t stay either, but took a bus a couple of hours north to Trang. Arriving in this very local place after Malaysia needed a bit of adjustment, as nobody spoke English and my internet didn’t work. So first I had to climb out of the comfort zone I was in before and somehow find my way to the hostel old school style 🙂 I did though, of course it’s not so hard, but it got me confused for a moment – although also happy, it was good to be a place that was just ”normal”. On the pavement before the hostel I tripped and landed hard on my arm (with all my luggage still on me), a short moment of panic, but lucikly I stayed unharmed. Classy entrance!

I only spent one afternoon in Trang, walking up and down the streets trying to find some kind of bathing suit or bikini as I had forgotten mine on Langkawi. Not at chance. So instead I got some spring rolls, Pad thai and mangoes at the local street market, not a bad substitute at all.

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The next morning I took a ferry to Ko Mook, an island just off the Trang coast. I had gotten so many tips from friends about which islands to visit – Thailand has so many and it was so hard to decide. On one hand, I wanted something not too crowded but on the other, not a complete deserted place either. So I chose Mook as it had a hostel and so a chance to meet a person or two to talk to. I like the place – good size for walking, a few nice beaches and reggae bars, simple but nice restaurants and amazing sunsets. I did a day trip snorkeling around another close by island, Ko Kradan, and visited the Emerald caves, which were amazing! We’d swim into a hole in the mountainside that ended in the sea, about a 100 meters through a dark cave tunnel, and ended up at a blue lagoon with a beach that was on the bottom of a huge hole in the mountain! Wow!

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I really like the island life, the feeling of just floating around in a small bubble, hanging out at the beach and getting tired of all the sunshine, taking a cold shower in the afternoon and heading out to eat. Going to bed early and repeating the same routine the day after. But after a few days it’s enough for me, I need to get active and see something else! So after 3 days I said goodbye to Ko Mook, it’s lovely dogs and cats, the friendly ladies of the restaurant next door, to my new found spanish friend, to crazy scooter driving children and being lazy. I`d hit the beach soon enough again, but first it was time for some jungle adventures!

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They only steal coconuts on Langkawi

It was time for my first real island trip in Malaysia and I hopped on the ferry to Langkawi. I had booked a hostel on recommendation and wasn’t disappointed: the terrace was exactly as chill as you’d expect on a tropical island. The Indiana Hostel is run by a German lady and her Malaysian husband, with the help of the little tiger Robin Hood, a kitten who is simply irresistable. Definitely a big bonus! It’s a highly social hostel too, everybody hangs out together on the terrace and I didn’t spend one moment on my own.

The first day I went straight to the beach with my new Finnish and French friends and thought I could enjoy a nice cool swim – haha! The water was so warm, no chance of getting fresh there. Later we met up with Nina and Veronika – the Germans I already met in Cameron Highlands – for a beer at the beach. I was positively surprised by how cozy and quiet it was on the beach, I was afraid it was a full-on party location. But instead there were candles, nice background music, blankets on the beach, everything was just really chill. We were talking about thefts, as one of the hostel mates had gotten her bag stolen in Bali, and one of the local Langkawians (?) said ”On Langkawi, the only things that get stolen are coconuts”. Island life!

The French girl, Sev, and I rented a scooter the next day and did a full island trip to a waterfall and three beaches. Luckily she was an experienced scooter rider and I could sit in the back! One of the beaches was famous for its sunsets and that’s where we headed the day after for some afternoon sun, waiting for the red ball to sink into the water. The sunsets here are really amazing.

The rest of my time I hung out at the hostel terrace, played with their little kitten Robin Hood, drank mango shakes, tried all the food at the food market (It’s impossible not to. Just think about vegetable filled tofu with peanut sauce, spring rolls with chilli sauce and peanuts, stir fried noodles, roasted chickpeas, mango cake, banana pancakes with coconut, caramelized coconut with sticky rice, dragon fruit juice…yes, you understand now it’s impossible not to buy everything) read my books, planned my next steps and booked tickets for the next destination: Thailand. To be continued 🙂

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Penang and George Town

From Cameron Highlands I had planned to go further in the countryside to the Taman Negara National Park, but the weather was not so great and I was feeling lazy, so I just continued to Penang (I really regretted this later but let’s not think about that). The historic center of Penang City, George Town, is another UNESCO World Heritage city, consisting of old colonial buildings and is really famous for its street art. As well as in other cities of Malaysia it also had a Chinatown and Little India with a lot of nice street food and a big mix of cultures.

It was super hot here as well so strolling around was a bit sweaty. But enjoyable, despite the high amount of tourists. I spent my time searching for art work and sitting in local Kopi tiams, coffee houses, where I could enjoy the Penang white ice coffee. Really delicious! I also met up for some street food and beers with two fellow travellers who I had met in Cameron Highlands.

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Together we took a day trip to the Penang National Park and trekked through the jungle to the Monkey Beach. The beach is only accesible by foot or boat and is really beautiful, with white sand, palm trees and small beach bars. Unfortunately, there were some resort tourists who fed the monkeys with chips and other things and so the monkeys were quite annoying and a bit aggressive. No place for napping on the beach as your stuff would be gone in the blink of an eye!

At the point where one of the monkeys stole a whole fanta can at the bar, climbed up to the tree above me and poked his nail into the can – so I got a nice fanta shower – I was quite ready to go. Previously one of the big monkeys sat his arse on my t-shirt that I’d hung on the swing to dry so there had been enough for one day, haha!

Anyways it was a nice getaway from the city and the jungle track was really nice, even though it felt more like a proper work-out in the heat and humidity! All in all it was 7 km long, so I guess that would count as a work-out anyway 🙂

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On Sunday the city centre was partly closed for cars, which was a very nice change. The traffic in Asia is quite crazy and there is a constant flow of cars and scooters on the streets and without all this, the city felt like a completely different place. I was happy to realize there are some grass root level campaigns for this, such as the Occupy Beach Street, the closing of one street every Sunday in order to organize a market, performances and other stuff for pedestrians to enjoy. I also visited an art exhibition, the Art Lane with amazing works of both local and visiting artists.

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