Category Archives: Asian Travels

At Elephant’s Cave – Goa Gajah


One interesting place to visit in Bali was Goa Gajah, the 11th century tiny little cave listed on the UNESCO World Heritage sites. As the word of Goa Gajah is anticipated coming from the word of Lwa Gajah, the name of Buddhist Temple or hermitage for Buddhist monk, it was a surprise finding that it was rather a Hindu temple. It was surrounded by the nearby villages and enormous rice paddies.
Once entering in the dark cave narrow passage, it suddenly ends in an intersection. The left passage contains a statue of Ganesh, the Hindu god reminiscent of an elephant. The right passage holds a small worship area with 3 stones (lingam and yoni, symbols of divine procreative energy) in honor of Shiva. So if couples were having reproductions problems that was the place to bring their offerings and pray. But entering in the dark misty cave was not as impressive as looking at it’s demon’s mouth surrounded by old archaeological ruins. While the Patirthaan holy pool centered in the cave courtyard serves as a place to take the holy Tirtha water for Hindu ceremony, and walking further there were signs of entering in the jungle. I was told that many old men, once they reach their retirement age, go to live in the jungle for reaching eternal peace with the natural habitat until they die. Very mystical setting and stories in the Elephant cave.

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A Toast to Futuristic, Stylish & Over-regulated Singapore!

How about spending the New Year’s Eve in Singapore? Why not actually. Singapore is simply mind-blowing in its ultra-futuristic style. We hear a lot about Dubai as the new hot shit and quite superb tourist destination. But not really about the Lion City, though it’s incredibly modern, stylish, a mega city with a lot to offer.


I guess it’s due to the over-perception of being a dull, strict, and over-regulated. Bearing this in mind it made me careful on everything, just not to get in trouble during this short stay.
We land in Singapore. Heading toward the immigration check point I’m sort of nervous. I never used drugs, nor I ever committed any illegal activity, but I’m still a little agitated. I just filled a declaration for immigration authorities which has it written in bold capital letters “WARNING DEATH FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS UNDER SINGAPORE LAW”. Of course while approaching the immigration desk the damn brain starts processing faster those Hollywood’s images of someone placing drugs to your luggage. I know its totally foolish of me thinking fiction-wise. I so wanna get rid of these silly thoughts, the only medicine in my handbag is Vitamin C.
The immigration officer looks fixedly at my Albanian passport. He scans it, he goes carefully through it, and then he asks his colleague in some odd language. Let me guess: ” Are citizens of Albania eligible to enter Singapore without a visa?” My foreign ministry said yes, but what if…? Am I going to wait for 2013 at the airport transit area? With a little reluctance he stamps the passport while wearing an official smile he adds:

Welcome to Singapore Madame!

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As mentioned earlier exploring Singapore was overwhelmingly impressive. The Marine Bay Sands area, the famous Infinity Pool, the botanic gardens, XXL shopping malls, museums, exhibitions, cloud forest, ION sky, little India, are just few attractions which engage in simultaneously with multicultural diversity and religious heritage of the city. What a great city to celebrate New Year’ eve! The midnight fireworks’ show staging at the Marina Bay Sands was unbeatable. Therefore, hundred of thousands people were gathered there to celebrate. The show was magnificent, but who thought that sharply 30 mins after midnight all downtown streets would be shut down. Instead little corridors were assigned for walking crowds, who were guided by traffic police. It was obvious that being squeezed in mid of party crowds can not end well. In a wave of mass panic we would be crushed to death If it wasn’t for the well behaved and patient Asians. One daring  European woman, who leaped over the yellow bars to cross the empty boulevard was immediately stopped by a dozen of police. Who knows what New Year lucky fortune was for her!!! Going around in circles with baby steps took about 2 hours. Finally our lucky fortune, a toast from the ultimate party lounge at New Asia skyline.

Cherio Singapore!


At Painter’s Heaven in Ubud

Without even knowing that I was about to visit the only official art school in Ubud, I find myself in front of Semar Kuning Art gallery. A visit to the Balinese art collection sounded thrilling, so here I was at the exact same place where Julia Roberts stayed while shooting the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. I was excited although I couldn’t meet Ketut (the famous fortune teller that is real and not just a fiction production on “Eat, Pray, Love”), I got to enjoy the authenticity and pleasantness of this place. A cooperative of 100 painters, some working in this temple-looking gallery and others just bringing their work here for sale.

At the entrance hall, the painters were busy working on their masterpieces. That did not impede us on looking closely to their work, a wide collection from traditional to modern and contemporary paintings. These amazingly professional paintings were placed in various exhibitions rooms. As the service was very pleasant, I took my time to go through with an inexplicable desire of buying something to bring back home. Such a tough choice! Finally after one hour hanging out there I made up my mind and got the traditional Balinese girls’ painting. Since no fixed price was set, I could even bargain it, and feel happy to make a small contribution to the painters’ cooperative.

Here’s a photo collection of creative souls who have crossed Bali’s paths  – enjoy the view slideshow!

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Breezy People of Lembongan, Bali

At heart of Bali stay its people. Very friendly, repeatedly wearing a smile, genuinely pleasant, and always curious where you come from. I never came across to such relaxed, casual mannered, breezy folks in my life. I found that pretty striking.

Taking one of this island cruises by a speed boat that lasted 30 mins, we reached the dream beach in Nusa Lembongan island. Less crowded then Bali, a car here and there, crystal blue waters with coral undertone, buttery white sand, all summed by the magic tropical summer that never ends all year. It felt as simple as that – a heaven on earth. A cozy grass-roof hut should do it, at least for three nights…

A walk by the seaside after a stop over at a welcoming Coconut beach bar which soothed our souls with live reggae and fruit explosion juices is the next obvious thing to do. Taking a small turn into the nearby village opens a new door all of the sudden. It’s the entering gate to the local lives of Lembongan. Some little boys selling souvenirs, a man sleeping in the temple, fishermen cleaning their nets, while other farmers are busy drying seaweed as every family owns approximately 3-5 acres of seaweed farming ‘bed’ and earns their living in this non industrial island. The lifestyle of a Hindu which lives in peace and adheres to custom and religious values is the cornerstone of the islanders’ mindset. No wonder why there’s zero crime rate and people are so free spirited in here.

Lets have the photos take the stage and do the talking further. A snapshot on how the life of a villager in Lembongan looks like.  (View Slideshow)

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Mystical and Flavored – Bali’s Incredible Nature (1)

Are you someone who’s easily caught by the mystic flavor and uniqueness of a culture? Then Bali is the place to be. It fits for everyone; lonely souls who want to escape the everyday madness in search of a natural and peaceful habitat, newly weds looking for their dream honeymoon spot, curious minds who want to explore more of planet earth, or neighboring Aussies who throw themselves into those spring break-like Miami parties. And if you’re like me looking for a little bit of everything, Bali is the ideal island with so much to offer.

Nusa Dua 1The very first encounter is the incredible tropical nature. The various kinds of tropical fruits, bananas, palm trees, rice fields, jungle habitat, little animals surfing around are a distinct part of Balinese tropical scenery. What is most interesting are the endless tales or local beliefs circling around. Everything has its own particular story, you name them, trees, plants, houses, temples, animals, and local people. Therefore, I’m tempted to share some of striking stories or moments with you, so lets glance at few highlights:

The Paradise tree or Banyan tree. The myth believed by the locals is that the roots of the Banyan tree represent the demons, the twigs personify the angels, the fruits embody the ancestors and the flowers are offerings to gods.


20121227-180057.jpgThe Monkey Business @ Monkey Forest. The visit at the Monkey forest was simply mind-blowing not only for it’s spiritual setting, but also for the monkey ruling which makes the monkey business quite unique. There were two groups of monkeys in two different forest territories. The two groups were not allowed to cross check each others territories, otherwise the “monkey war” will set the stage. In addition, the migration law @ the monkey forest were quite severe. If a monkey leaves the forest, its fellow monkeys will not allow a come back at the forest. Once a monkey is out, it’s out forever.

20121228-015410.jpg20121228-015600.jpgThe rice paddies or terraces. What an effort!! Every single rice seed is planted in the field ensuring that it has significant space in between. As the fields need to be absolutely flat in order to conserve water, the rice growing requires continuous flooded field. In some villages I visited in Ubud area I was told that the farmers had to agree on a fixed rice planting period in between 2 months in order to share the irrigation costs. Besides the effort, it was really mind-blowing to see the green rice paddies throughout the country side. Often the Balinese hindu temples were build in those rice paddies to worship Gods and give offerings to Gods.




The Sirens of Kuala Lumpur

The second after exploring the breathtaking Petronas Towers that lay beautifully there on their own, like not for sale expensive jewels you can look at but not possess, you feel this immediate grasping urge of going out and seeing more of the city.
As the night hits the ground, so I approach one of the most vivid KL nightlife scenes, Bukit Bintang district. Not exactly knowing the city, you got to trust the taxi driver of where to be dropped off. It looked reasonable to go through China town which merges into the party district.

Beach Club, KLNot the smartest idea though walking around on an exciting evening outfit in the amidst of smelly, second hand market. Then again time has to be maximized. The crowded district with a wide spectrum of party styles and settings to choose is there in front of me. Still difficult to choose a nightspot from latin, techno, reggae, retro or groovy beats. Making a cameo appearance in a couple of clubs doesn’t fully satisfy my taste. Still interesting to observe the diverse party folks being unleashed to the night beats.

Lady Boys of KL.As they say, “It ain’t over until it is really over”. A last stop at the downtown beach club. Lady boys being held outside of the club and many unaccompanied men waiting for the lucky touch to get in. I had no problems getting in. Sited outside at the bar in the “observation deck” for the first drink, surrounded by a proxy of twenty young girls standing in a rows just at the club entrance.

Party Chicks, KL.The girls look extremely young and beautiful, teens in 80s pretty woman style, outdated outfits, and vivid hunting eyes. A funky mixture really. African girls whose looks and styles were a reminiscence of Naomi Campbell, and petit Asian young ladies with their striking innocent faces. It feels like being invisible, great. A wink of an eye, a soft touch below man’s shoulders, or a fake thrill of running upon an easy victim with the looks of a 50+ man who’s desperately in search of the trade off ” I can buy your youth and feel a cool dude offering cocktails to a beautiful girl”.

Kenya calling, KL.That’s not the only pattern though. You see it all. A young man whining to an Asian girl about having postponed his trip to Istanbul for her girlfriend who’s not showing up, two western guys in their 40’s immediately approached by their Kenyan sweethearts, girls on the waiting line looking at smartphones with little frustration as time is running out, a desperate man who feels seduced, but still reluctant to conceive to her gorgeous looks and body language, a chubby old man walking out with his winning prize for the night. Btw, still haven’t seen one single kiss. You can go in bed, but you don’t kiss a stranger. That’s too personal.

The Hook-up, KL.With this defense mechanism in mind, the thought of who’s exploiting whom arouses the thinking further. Both sides of the coin need each other and if they’re not both stapled on it, the coin would not exist. The bad and the good, the ugliness and the beauty are held dormant until they are being evoked by some random situation or momentum. One great thing I felt in every breathing molecule while traveling Asia is that you DON’T JUDGE OTHERS, no matter how looks are like, what stomachs can digest, what dress or scarf you put on, or what air is being breathed. It all comes down to feeling peaceful and satisfied with oneself and others around you.