KOH LIPE: EARTH TREASURE OF WHITE BEACH

When you arrive on the island, the first impression you have is “Am I dead or alive?” You see a row of small boats in the water that has an intensive blue color compared to the white of the sand, a long beach tongue in front of you . The effect is a sharp light that come to your eyes, and you say “Wow!!” If the paradise really exist, hoping it will be similar to this.

Fisherman

If you arrive from Langkawi, in Malaysia (as I did), you need to clear immigration first. The staff on the speedboat or ferry will guide you through the immigration process. After the registration at the immigration office on the Southern end of Pattaya Beach, next to Bundhaya Resort, you are free to go.

The island is  very small, so you can go by foot everywhere, but if you are too lazy, Motorbike taxi drivers are around to take you where you need to go.

History

The first community to settle in Koh Lipe were a group of nomads of the sea called Urak Lawoy belonging to Chao Ley Group. They travelled from one island to another in search of areas rich of fish. Still today, many Urak Lawoy earn to live from fishing. The advent of tourism brought changes, still things are changing, and some have opened their restaurant where they cook fresh fish, while others have become taxisti or organize excursions on the islands.

The Chao Ley Koh Lipe are Animists, with a strong bond with the spirits of the sea and their ancestral spirits. Sometimes positioning of the totem on beaches as a point of contact between the spirits and the shaman. The Chao Ley also boast a rich musical heritage and the Urak Lawoy in particular are very good at playing the violin and percussion.

During cultural events as the Full Moon of Koh Lanta, the Urak Lawoy celebrate traditional dance and music with the hope of achieving economic prosperity and happiness in the family.

Koh lipe treasuries

The three main beaches in Koh Lipe are: The Sunset Beach (Hat Pramong), the Pattaya Beach and the Sunrise Beach (Hat Chao Ley) and a handful of small beaches for the most private and islets to explore.

Pattaya Beach: it is the most popular beach and the most beautiful of Koh Lipe with soft white sand and crystal blue sea. Here in addition to the hotels, you will also find dozens of bars and restaurants located directly on the beach or around the corner of the Walking Street.

Sunrise Beach (Hat Chao Ley): this beach extends along the entire eastern section of Koh Lipe. On clear days you can see in the distance the island of Koh Taruta and Langkawi Island in Malaysia. On the northern tip of the Sunrise Beach, in front of Koh Adang, there is a beautiful portion of white sand that change the shape according to the season and to the winds.

Sunset Beach (Hat Pramong): it is a small bay overlooking the west Coast, and as its name suggests is the best spot to watch the sunsets. It is a beach with the atmosphere very calm and relaxed where you can still find the characteristic bars and restaurants built with pieces of wood carried by sea.

If your skin is burn, this beach is also good in the morning because the sun will arrive in the afternoon, so you can enjoy the sea without pain!

However, you need to do a boat tour to enjoy at all the beauty of the island: the tour of the islands by boat also will give you the possibility of snorkeling in the most beautiful spots of the marine park. Koh Lipe is probably one of the last Thailand pieces remained uncontaminated. With 30 islets nearby and a hundred reef well preserved and easily accessible, is an ideal destination for diving lovers.

The strong points of the dives are the soft corals and the macro; there are several pinnacles of granite covered with coral frequented by neutral colorful tropical fish. The best sites for coral are Stonehenge and Koh Taru where you will be amazed to see the expanses of soft corals purple and white and the variety of marine species.

LANGWAKI ISLAND: THE BORDERS OF MALYSIA

As in Italy is winter and I wanted to have rest on a white beach in front of a blue sea I decided to go to Langkawi Island after Pangkor island on Malysia west coast.

I just looked some pictures of the place and after that I tell myself: “ok, you have to go there!”

So I took a bus from Lumut to Kuala Perlis (6 hours) for 38RM (around 7,5 Euros). After the bus, I have to catch a ferry (1, 5 hours) for 18 RM.

At the end I arrived on the island. Off the coast of Kedah, Langwaki is not a single island. It is a cluster of 99 small islands offering different worlds: beautiful beaches, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, ultra-cheap duty-free shopping and fascinating legends.

 

  • ISLAND LEGENDS

If you go around asking to local people the history of the name they will tell you the tragic story of a beautiful young lady named Mahsuri. It is a tale of love, jealousy and a curse that was placed upon the island by her for seven generations.

Today, people still believe that the prosperity and blessings is not a simple coincidence. The mysticism of this legend can be felt in many parts of this island, especially at Makam Mahsuri (Mahsuri's Mausoleum), where Mahsuri is said to be buried.

Her parents, Pandak Mayah and Mak Andak, originally migrated from a small Muslim village called Prabang, near Phuket, Thailand. Mahsuri was born and raised in Langkawi, in the early 1800s, and later married a local warrior named Wan Darus. Her husband soon left to join the fight against the invading Siamese.

While he was away, Mahsuri innocently befriended a young man who just happened to be traveling through the area (and obviously not a warrior). The village chief’s wife, who was jealous of Mahsuri’s beauty, then spread rumors of Mahsuri being unfaithful to her husband and the rest is history (or legend if you will). She was falsely accused of adultery and sentenced to death. Mahsuri was executed by knife in 1819.

The Legend recorded in the island history tell that the Siamese invaded Langkawi not long after Mahsuri’s death and razed the island to the ground with a scorched earth policy. And coincidentally, Langkawi did not become a major tourist hotspot until the birth of Wan Aishah bt Wan Nawawi, the seventh generation descendant of Mahsuri.

  • ISLAND TREASURIES

Tourism is one of the most important activities but many of the islanders are still farmers and fishermen. For this the food you will eat is really good and fresh!

 

One of the beauty of this island is the countryside and peaceful landscape of paddy fields you will enjoy by renting a moto bike and taking a leisurely drive around the island. Some of Langkawi's most rustic and memorable views are along the road that circles the island far from the most touristic places.

You'll experience small villages with wooden houses framed by palm trees, and children pedaling their old bicycles on errands.

But if you like to hike you can also do that in the island small mountains. They are for free, so you need only the willing to start and go to the top!

If you are too lazy there is another possibility: there is a new cable car that can bring you to the summit of Mount Mat Cincang - Langkawi's second highest mountain - for an unrivalled view of the entire main island and beyond.

Other popular destinations are the Field of Burnt Rice, Hot Springs, Telaga Tujuh (The Seven Wells) and the Beach of Black Sand.

You can also enjoy a Boat tour to Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden), Gua Cerita (Cave of Stories) and Gua Langsir (Curtain Cave) if you will have the time!

What I wrote is not exhaustive; it is possible to do much more in this beatiful island.

So going back to my trip, I passed 2 lovely days in the island before going to Koh Lipe in Thailand.

I stayed in a hostel in Cenang, a good location to start your day and decided where to go!

The first day I was walking all around the main beaches enjoying the sun and the music. There was a blues festival on the island in those days so in the afternoon I passed my time listen good live music and drinking some beers.

The second day in change I took a moto bike and I was all around the island pausing to visit the waterfalls and the 7 wells. From there you can start to hike to the top of the Mount Mat Cincang. It takes around 2 hours to arrive to the top. Before leaving th island the 3rd day I decided to go before the time of departure to Kuah to walk a bit around the village and enjoy the Legend Park and the view from the eagle square.

See you in Koh Lipe!!

 

LITTLE LOCAL FISHERMEN PARADISE!

If you want to live a unique experience Pangkor is the perfect place. The island has a long history of conquests and community. Indians, Chinese, Dutch, Thailand and Malaysian came here and mix their culture in a particular way.

It is a little island, quiet and chilling more than tourist hotspots like Langkawi. It is located off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia in the state of Perak. It has everything you want for an island escape, with sleepy fishing villages, relaxed atmosphere and amazing views.

You can reach the island from Lumut where you take a ferry that takes 30 minutes to arrive. I left the ferry at the first stop, because my hostel was much closer but there is another one, after this stop. Pangkor is 18 square kilometers, but the good surprise is how much you can do, and what you can see.

  • First Day: snorkeling and bike

The first day I did snorkeling in the morning, a small boat bring me and other people all around the island explaining what  you see, and after, it stops closed to a small island let you the time to relax and watching fishes. I was the only European; the others were all Malaysian and Thailand people. They all together tried to explain me in English the information the driver was telling us. I paid 30 RM (eight Euros) for 3 hours.

After I came back, I had lunch in a small Chinese restaurant (5RM) and I stayed for a while in the hostel. In the afternoon, I rent a bike and I was to visit the Dutch fort that is in the south part of the island. The bike cost 15 RM for one day.

I took the bike and I started my personal tour of the island! First, I was to the Dutch fort, nothing special but it was good to go and close to the sea take some pictures of the small anglers’ boats and their homes. In front of it there is also a mosque, good to see but I wanted to stay on the beach and take the sun so I turn right in Pankgor city for another direction and after 5 km I arrived to the first beach. The name is Pasir Bogar beach, I stopped half an hour just taking pictures and watching the sea... I missed it!! In front of me Pangkor Laut island, famous for a resort, out of my pocket money….. One night costs almost 2.000€.

After that I took again the bicycle and I continued on the road. Here there was the first difficult road piece. There are 2 climbs of 10%, so I tried but I had to go on foot with the bike in my hands. No problem I made it!

Good point: after the climb, there is always a downhill. Flowing with the wind on my bike I reached the Monkey bay and the nipah beach where I stopped to stay for 2 hours. This beach is known as the best one of the island and in front of it, there are two small island, Mentagor and Giam islands that during the morning I visit with the snorkeling tour.

The fisherman driver told us that 3 days before and 3 after the Chinese New Year night, the water go down and you can go by foot from Nipah beach to both the islands. Around five, I restart my ride to go back to the hostel in SG. Pinang Kechil Jetty. Here I arrived to Teluk Dalam easily. This is a local small village, as I love these type of places I stopped also here in front of the bay and I took same photos with the sun that was going down...

From here to the hostel, the road was hard, but I did it! At seven, I arrived to my hostel and I finally chilled a bit, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette. At height o’ clock, I was to eat something. Chinese food, good and with the beer I spent 20 RM (4 Euros).

So my first day finished and I was waiting for the next one!

  • Second Day: chilling in the hostel

Day 2: The rain was falling down when I woke up at 7 am. Therefore, I took my time having a coffee and breakfast. At 9am, I take again the bike and I was to Teluk Gedund, another village at the end of the island, closed to a mosque build on the water.  I continued to reach again Pasir Bogar beach and I chilling there one hour after coming back because my rent time finished!

As did the day before, I had lunch with noodles and tea (6RM) and I rest in the hostel for the afternoon.

A curiosity is that in past times this area was a center for piracy. The pirates had their home ports in the Pulau Gedung Hills, Gua Lanun (Pirates' Cave) and Batu Perompak (Pirates' Rock) on the island of Pangkor. After the Dutch period, during the British rule, the name was temporarily been Monkey Island.

In conclusion, Pangkok was a good experience as you can see fishermen villages covered by a Chinese atmosphere as Sungai Pinang Kecil and Sungai Pinang Besar. Next stop was Langkawi Island, at the extreme north boarder where Malaysia touches Thailand. It is known for the white beaches and to be a free port island.

 

 

 

KUALA LUMPUR: THE INNOVATIVE MALAYSIAN CAPITAL CITY!

As my parents were travelling after Christmas, I decided to go on holidays during Christmas time!

Two objective: warm place and sea as mandatory because I was frozen in Turin due to the winter started.

I was thinking to go in Thailand but some friends told me it would be so full of tourists during this period and if I would like a place without too many tourist to change my idea.

After searching for a good and economic destination, I felt in a cheap ticket to Malaysia and so I bought it. I arrived in Kuala Lumpur where I spent 2 days to let me the time for recovering the energies and be used to the time change.

A multitude of cultures infused in one place, mix into one melting. You will enjoy your time savoring the amazingly diverse culinary options and exploring what the city has to offer. KL's unique diversity - the Malays, Chinese, Indians and other ethnicity - have all injected their own unique influences to the city's art, language, architecture and night scenes. The city is full of flavors, colors and experiences to explore.

To go from airport to the city center is easy, there is a train that takes 30 minutes and you paid it 55RM, so don’t take a taxi and I searched for the KL express.

As I arrived in the afternoon, I left the bag in the hostel in China Town and I decided to go for a walk to start visiting the city.

My hostel was on China town, so I thought better to leave this area for the late afternoon/ evening. Therefore, I started from the Eco Park and without any fix direction I arrived to the KL tower. I was inside the building, not for a specific reason. A person at a small souvenir shop told me I could go up to see the view from the top. I was thinking to see the panorama from the Petronas towers but from there it would not be possible to take picture from above of them, so I decided to go up here and left the Petronas tower. The cost was 55RM or 105RM if you want to go also to the open floor (that is the best one).

This is called Sky Deck and it is at 421 meters above ground level. Here there is also the KL Tower Sky Box. At 300 meters up, the Sky Box extends out from the Sky Deck ledge. It is a unique experience for visitors to enjoy the panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur.

After the KL tower, I was walking to the Petronas twin towers. This is recognized as symbol of the Malaysia future and globalization. The Towers symbolizes also the Malaysian culture: the interior motifs are a reflection of local handicrafts and weaving patterns, while stainless steel and glass combine beautifully as Islamic patterns. The design of each Tower's floor plate is based on simple Islamic geometric forms of two interlocking squares, creating a shape of eight-pointed stars. Architecturally, these forms describe important Islamic principles of "unity within unity, harmony, stability and rationality".

In front of the towers, there are fountains that during the evening and night are the basement of a light show. The dancing fountains perform daily from 12noon to 2pm, and then again from 6pm to 11pm. You have to be in the park down the twin to see them.

After I looked the first show in the night, I left to go back to the hostel, as I was tired by the trip.

Day 2 in Kuala Lumpur: Batu Caves and KL city

The day after I woke up and I took the metro to Batu Caves. I am amazed about KL public transportation. It is far away from Indian average, the Asia country I visited most. Batu Caves have a direct train ride from KL Sentral. Therefore, it was easy to go and it takes half an hours. I spent the morning at the temples that remember me India at all.

One of Kuala Lumpur most distinctive geographical features, the place is a labyrinth of spooky caves found within the country's limestone abutments. When you arrive, you see the first Indian temple and at the right side a cave where you can enter for 5RM. I liked it very much because inside there is a whole story told through statues and written descriptions on the walls.

When you will finish the cave visit, the direction is the gold statue. There you can reach the biggest pull of natural caves thanks to 272 steps. From the top, you can view Kuala Lumpur in front of you and starts the visit to the main temple.

If you wear shorts, no problem. At the entrance, there are women that for 5RM rent you a sarong. When you will give back to them, the refund is 2RM.

For this temple no fee at the entrance. If you like to stay more when you go down on the right side there is the “Dark cave” when you can go inside to observe some cave’s animals and the tour tales 45 minutes. I don’ remember the price, but I think is around 35 RM.

When I finished I went to take the train back to the city and after a coffee, I started to walk again. The first site was the central market. Revamped and revived as a huge gifts emporium, the Art Deco wet market, www.centralmarket.com.my, nonetheless provides a focal point for piecing together K.L.'s past, taking in its current artsy-crafty pulse and exploring nearby Chinatown. On the ground floor, portraitists and street artists can be found — giving a dose of old-time character along the long-obscured riverfront. After that I left the city bring me where it wants without any plan. I reached the sultan palace, nice and the textile museum in front of the Merdeka Square.

After this, I was inside the mosque close to there and I walked till the mural of Ernest Zacharevic and going around the city with no destination. The streets of KL are already well marked with road signs and all you need is a map. There are also dedicated sidewalks for pedestrians that are shaded by the trees. And do feel free to ask a tourist police or a friendly local for help whenever you need to!

I closed my afternoon back to the hostel visiting Chinatown during the evening. I was there the night before but I desire to see it also in daytime.

It was the 24th so I had a dinner for Christmas night with the other hostel guests at the rooftop of it, we drink beers and we went out to celebrate with locals the night. It was great. Malaysian were all around the city drinking and celebrating with fake snow spread on all the people they met!

BARCELLONA: STREETART WALK – THE POBLENOU

Barcelona has become a'huge urban art gallery. The city you will see is totally different: the industrial Barcelona, the greatest painted walls with graffiti, stencils and urban-art in every corner.

You will have in front of you a contemporary art gallery and an open sky above you. In these streets you will observe the main murals and the most representative works of the road culture.

The Barcelona Street-art is a really good walk to do in the city. There are several streets and alleys of the various districts full of graffiti and paints.

An alternative can be to rent a bike and  ride along the street art and graffiti areas in Barcelona, enjoying a truly authentic part of Barcelona.

There are also some organized tour if you prefer to visit this part of the city with a guide.... an example is barcelonastreetstyletour!

The neighborhood I'm speaking about is the industrial Poblenou that has begun a steady transformation from area full of disused factories to one of hi-tech office blocks, stylish hotels and modern apartments!

The area is considered a creativity hub in Barcelona. One of the most famous place of this part of Barcelona is : L’Escocesa creation center  but if you look all around you will find a myriad of small galleries and studios.

If you are interested in this art, once a year, during March, there is the the Poblenou Open Day. During the event several workshops of different artists are open to the public, concentrating allowing visitors to explore music, conferences, interaction and street food.

It is really nice to walk up and down the Rambla del Poblenou that is the heart of the social life of the neighborhood. You can eat, drink or just chilling a bit sitting in a bar drinking a cerveza. If you want to try some good tapas, try delicious tapas at El 58, stop for a pint of local beer at Cervecita nuestra de cada día.  

This is in the Gotic Barrio but I loved it!

PORTO : A FAIRYTALE IN THE NORTH OF PORTUGAL

Porto is a quiet city, really nice for long walks on sunny days. Porto has changed during the last years. I was there more than 10 years before and I can say now

it is a touristic city that is growing in beauty and in charm. I was really happy to see a new renewed Porto, full of colors and life.

Let yourself be inspired by the narrow alleys, the ocean breeze and the vibrant colors of the houses: Porto is really a magical city and has a very long history.  It is less crowded than Lisbon if you prefer an elegant but not crazy night life city to visit.

The visit to the city can start from the famous Livrarua Di Lello and Irmao, It is one of the oldest and most spectacular libraries in the world. It is note especially because it inspired Harry Potter writer J.K.Rowling. It is a library in liberty style, full of treasures to discover. In the last few years, is necessary ticket to visit the library, at a cost of 4 euros which can be discounted to purchase a book (not cumulative).

A place I loved was the market of Bolhão that  is a symbol of the buildings of the center of Porto and is the most important market of the city. The project was originally made by the Architect António Correia da Silva and dated back to 1850. The inauguration was in 1914. I decided to buy fresh fish and vegetable and cooked them at home!

If you are looking for a relaxing experience, you can opt for a walk on Luis bridge at sunset. The bridge was built in 1831 and it connects the port with the town Vila Nova de Gaia, famous for the wine cellars with wine tasting of the famous Porto wine.

My Friend and I having a walk

 

In Villa Nova My friend and I decided to do a tour to know better the Porto Story. We decided for the Offley.  Located in Vila Nova de Gaia near the waterfront, at Caves Offley you will learn the fascinating story of the Baron of Forrester and its role in the Port wine industry. In this guided tour through the cellar, there will be wine Port tastings and for small groups of connoisseurs there is also available an intimate visit with a wider selection of Port Wine tastings. Founded in 1737  by William Offley the company became international and today is one of the most important Porto cellar. But if you desire to have a full experience of Porto Wine you need to go in the Douro Valley and see with your eyes the grapevines from the river. Amazing!

If you are hungry after the walks I suggest a place where you can eat a lot of fish for a good price: Restaurante Casa Adão.

If time permits, a trip toward the Ocean is a good option. You can do it in 2 different ways:

  • aboard the characteristic yellow tram,.The tram line 1 - Infante - Passeio Alegre is located in front of the San Francisco. church. The ticket costs 2,50€ and it can be done directly on board.
  • Or you can take a small boat from Villa Nova de Gaia and do a small trip under the 5 bridges of the city till the Ocean. I did this. We bought a ticket with the boat tour, a tasting in the Porto Cruz building and a tour in the OFFLEY cellar.  We bought the ticket directly in front of the river and we paid 12 Euro.

When you want to go back to the other part of the city you can also take a cable-way, that will bring you to the top in front of the saint Luiz. Nice to go after the sunset because you see the city full of lights!  The cost id around 7 Euro for both ways.

Another thing to do, a  good way to visit the city with a guide is a walking tour, for example with portowakers  . 

If you like the street art they also organize some good walking tour in the afternoon on it!