3. Sipiso Piso Waterfall, Medan, Indonesia

grandeur of nature, embracing the sprinkling mist

so much prettier in real life, the view

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1. Lake Toba, Medan, Indonesia

Last September, I visited Lake Toba, after first hearing about it years ago, then later on in angie’s class when she mentioned that the volcanic crater lake is bigger than the size of SG!
 

 

 

the hammock life. i need



i remember lying down, lazing. and knowing it wouldnt last. fleeting joy, fleeting moments of tranquility before i would be plunged back again. 

i relished that moment where I sat, rocking, chilling, by you


perhaps it was sweeter though, knowing it would not have been forever

i tried to grasp that moment tightly while it lasted



perhaps that’s why i still replay that moment fondly


 

 

 

 

why so many pics of me? ha ha

morning view, we woke up to this at our doorstep


 

 

 

 

3.1 Cienfuegos – Laguna Guanaroca

Finding my way to laguna guanaroca

 

local buses

Laguna Guanaroca had apparently experienced a massive flood last week. It had rained for 3 consecutive days and the place had flooded, the pier destroyed. They were closed last week and had only opened 3 days ago. ‘One of the most important things I have in my life are my computer’, the guide had said. I smiled, that was not uncommon. And you get the wifi card for 1 CUC too? I asked. Isn’t it expensive?

 

I don’t use the wifi that much. If I need something I go into one of the paladar and get a USB storage for the information that I want. Such as manga. Some information are more expensive than others. For example, one chapter of manga could cost 1 cuc. And you know these manga chapters, there could be hundreds of them! With the money I earn here I could probably buy about 2 chapters a week.



Actually, we were lucky enough to spot some pink flammingos taking flight for some time in the high skies, but the pictures turned out low quality. it was interesting to watch nonetheless, as i tried to communicate with my boat rower – who generally bemoaned the cuban economy, to garner sympathy / get more tips from me at the end, you think? i think? i don’t know

 

 

 

more peso food. my love
60 cents usd cries
every backpacker’s dream menu
pizzas for 50 cents usd and rice stuff for 60+ usd cents PESO FOOD

 

decided to treat myself to a casa breakfast at ONLY 2 or 3usd, my casa owner was so nice
local economy!

 

1. Cuba

It’s been more than 2 months now. It’s lovely looking back, pictures of Che, Fidel, and this Caribbean island I had the opportunity to spend about 2 weeks exploring.

In these 2 weeks, I spent a lot of time reading, chatting, observing, sometimes immersed in the comfort of my solitude. On more than 1 occasion, I painted. I walked along the streets alone, curious, and conversed in Spanish in most parts that I went. I walked till my legs were tired, before I sat at a malecon and listened to the choral voices and the Cuban beats. Watched movies and Netflix (downloaded for offline viewing) in the evenings, sharing secrets with my Latina Lissette on some nights.

How lovely! As much as I liked my friends and my people, I still immensely enjoy the ease and comfort I felt when I went back to my big rooms, my cooling casas, all on my own schedule and space and the company of my book.

I still remained somewhat connected to wifi, almost daily.

My first thoughts in Cuba:

It took a long time to get here. Not that I minded THAT much – in my opinion it still passed really quickly, sitting there and doing nothing. That’s me I suppose, I quite enjoy having the luxury of spacing out, doing my own thing, though I had to admit that my second long-haul flight from Madrid to Cuba felt shorter because of my conversations with Zhi Rong. 
My first flight was via Norwegian Air, a 13-hour flight to London. It exceeded my expectations, with the legroom and the touchscreen movies available considering it was a budget flight. I watched Wonder and the Suffragettes, read a little and dozed off accordingly. 
I walked through the gates of London, felt a little nostalgic at the black-and-yellow signs that brought me back to my days as a student in Gatwick, had a meal-deal and waited for my London-Madrid connecting flight. 
It was midnight in Madrid by then. I washed my hair in the toilet, cleaned up and slept for awhile, before my next Madrid – Amsterdam flight at 6am. No regrets for such an arrangement – it just made time-and-cost-sense. It didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable either. I think I have become accustomed to the discomfort of my travelling style. The blanket I brought was a huge blessing, though. 
Using the toilet in Amsterdam’s airport brought back some memories. I thought of buying some stroopwaffles – just because I liked the idea that I could buy a meal-deal from London, and then something Dutch a couple of hours later, this connecting-flight thing is kind of fun – but then decided not to because I was rather late. The queue was long, but I made it in. On time!
I was seated next to a Chinese guy, probably the only other Chinese person on my flight – they probably thought we were related, hence the arrangement of the seating, I surmised. I forgot what a full-fledge flight does. There was so much food, even ice-cream, dessert. It’s great that I have such low expectations, I am constantly pleasantly surprised by better services. Hahahaha. 
From Zhi Rong I learnt about the subtle differences in our Chinese culture – they don’t give oranges during CNY, working adults (rather than married) gave angpows, their school system is pretty crazy, with cram schools from 7-10pm. That’s really 3 or 4 hours a day of freedom, and even Saturday they have these schools. He seemed nonchalant as he spoke about cheating attempts. Really nonchalant, used to this culture that seemed to be tagged to the large population. 
It’s interesting though, that he got a university scholarship to study Spanish for 4 years in Havana, as sponsored by the Chinese government due to the China-Cuba relations. Now he works as a business manager with partners all around Central and Latin America. 
I really enjoyed using my Chinese, though. I guess as I’ve learnt Spanish I’ve also wondered if I’m able to converse well in my second language, and this affirms me that I can do it, I can converse in my second language sufficiently. 

 

Havana is hotter than I thought, and humid. 

Some pictures to begin this series:

 

 

With each place I go, I carry with me an appreciation of an aspect of my life. In Tonle Sap it was the stretch of land to run on; in Albania it was the fuss-free visa waivers we got. In Iran it was the freedom of letting down my hair, and in Botswana it was the realisation that I did not need to have that creeping sense of fear when I cut my hand. In Cuba, it was the ease of wifi I’ve come to take for granted. It struck me when I was walking past all these people crowded in the park, staring at their screens. More significantly, it was seeing this lady, lying down with her head on a seat bench, staring into a man – I assume someone she loved – skyping him, that it made me realise how they had to go out into the park in order to speak to someone far away. Me? I had my air-con (if I wanted) room, the privacy and comfort of my space. Not coming out in this humidity just to communicate. 

coco taxi

Overall expenses in general: (2 weeks – 2ksgd inclu. flight)

3cuc on taxi

Dinner ytd 2cuc and 25 pesos

Water 70 cents cuc



Viazul 17 cuc



Drink – 10 pesos

The bread thing starts with c with guava filling – 2 pesos

Postcard 1.5 cuc



Ice cream 5 pesos

Cups and statue 6cuc total

Museum 8cuc



Dinner 7.80 cuc



5 cuc taxi for viazul



Peso pizza and drink 20 pesos

Wifi 3cuc

Viazul 32cuc



Tour Vinales 15cuc

Fanta orange 1.50 cuc

Ice cream 0.10cuc

Sandwich breakfast 15pesos



Dinner – bread and 2guayaba 25cup

Breakkie – 25pesos

Cuevo del Indio 5cucs

Ice cream 1.2 pesos

Lunch – 6.60cucs



Bananas – 50 cents cuc

6cuc for casa

Lunch 20 pesos

Postcard 1.50 cuc

Water – 1.25 cuc

6cuc for bus to santa clara



Breakfast – 18 pesos

Tip – 40 pesos

Entrance and laguna – 10 cuc and2 cuc for bus

Ice cream – 1.75 cuc

Lunchner – 20 pesos

10cuc accom



11cuc accom and brekkie

8cuc bus to Trinidad

1 cuc bicycle to viazul station

20 pesos for food, 15 pesos for drinks etc



Food – 11 pesos (8 pesos bread with egg and ham and cheese, fruit juice 3 pesos)

Souvenirs – 11cuc + 4 cuc = 15 cuc



Tmr dinner – 5 cuc



30 pesos for street food

25 cuc for viazul to habana



Movie ticket for 2 pesos

Hamel Hostel 5.25 cuc

Ice cream 2.50 cuc

Ice cream 0.40 cuc



Taxi to airport 20cuc

 

7. Johannesburg, South Africa

It’s been almost 5 months since my first step into Southern Africa. It’s so different from Morocco though, and at the same time many of my conceptions towards the continent has been challenged. It wasn’t as… frightening as I thought it would be. I didn’t see starving children, malnourished, mud cookies, which were part of my Geographical Imagination of the continent. It almost surprised me to see those huge supermarkets with shiny floors and rows of fresh fruits, french fries and meat and cakes and SUSHI behind the glass counters, tall air-conditioned malls, inter-city buses that were just like all the others – air-conditioned, sometimes promising wifi, with music occasionally blasting in the trip. Was I that ignorant, to feel this surprised? I suppose so. Nonetheless I do acknowledge that as a tourist, I saw the shiny bit of things.

Some things poignant to me was how my notion of animals have changed. Wild animals, not the ones I’m accustomed and largely exposed to, locked in the zoo. My notion of fearing wild animals, and the idea that I do not have to worry about HIV in my home country, and the large network of land transport services in my homeland, these were great.

​ Summing up my first evening in Johannesburg – emerged unscathed, had a Joburger, and listened to the various stories about getting and avoiding attacks/carjacks (18 times, he counted). Despite these, the driver and Peter both shared the sentiment that they enjoyed the energy of the city, and loved the city in ways – a ‘un-boring’ place amidst the ‘chaos’, they found a place for themselves.
Free education, free healthcare (even the HIV pills are provided by the government) unemployment benefits, pensions. 11 official languages.
Observing blacks speaking English, or Zulu (the next most common?) language to each other. Medium in schools dependent on which schools you go to.
So many cars, seemed like everyone had a car because of a lack of public transport systems. Didn’t see any bus stops around (although there were those mini-buses), nor motorbikes (too unsafe, Peter suggests).

6.2 Swaziland – Sibebe Rock

Sibebe rock was quite an easy hike, we didnt really need a guide, to be honest. Nonetheless we did – and we would have been pleased to support the local economy, if not for a grumpy guide that wanted to leave us halfway, while overcharging us from the start which got us off to a rather unpleasant vibe at the beginning.

Nice view at the top, breeze.

6. Swaziland! (Ezulwini)



Swaziland! A small, landlocked kingdom, an absolute monarchy, where the current King was crowned at the age of 18, and married with 14 wives (his father had more than 70, and an estimated 180 children and 1000 grandchildren). People are friendly, weed grows freely in the wild. I feel like lazing all day in this cooling climate, surrounded by all these hills and greenery. Love this place!

​ Tucked in a corner of Mbabane, Cz found a shoe repair shop owned by a Deaf man and operated by two Deaf employees. In 10 minutes, the loose and broken seams were fixed for $1. I tried to sign ‘thank you’, he smiled and I think he understood.

​ It’s funny though, how our notions of ‘modern dressing’ and ‘modernity’ immediately shifts to that of the States. Cultural outfits are perceived as ‘traditional outfits’, even ‘primitive’ was my thought when I think back on the Swazis with their animal skins loosely draped over their bodily parts. The good place

Couchsurfing with Kingson was one of the BEST CS experiences EVER. Hotel-style bedroom, laundry, waking up to breakfast, aircon and duvet – THE BEST!!!!

4. Okavango Delta, Maun

Such a beautiful place, such a beautiful day!
love this

​One thing I took away with me was the heightened awareness of getting cuts, and the fact that I’ve taken for granted the sanitized environment I am in, the lack of a need to test for HIVs.

Testing for hiv together before entering a relationship.

Having / testing for children before getting married

Back when my main conceptions of elephants were that they were ‘interesting’ and ‘cute’. Now I’ve lost one of my sandals, and I’ve added ‘terrifying’

When I first heard the lady at the border telling me that hippos were one of her biggest fears, I thought that was almost amusing, because it was such a foreign concept to me. Similarly when I heard the guide telling us that the local woman over at that boat was very scared of elephants. Now that I’ve had this encounter, my mind flits back to how it raised it’s trunks and lifted its enormous body, and brief charging after the rocks were thrown, I remember my heart thumping furiously, strands of regret swept through my mind. The tour shouldn’t have happened today, it did because I pushed for it, but the initial cancellation must have been a warning sign, and now I may be one of the tourists that perished in the wilderness of Africa. Melodramatic as it sounds, I was honestly terrified. If it had charged at me, maybe if there wasn’t a river hindering its crossing, it’s game over for me.

Botsang, our mokoro guide, shared with us the time he was a guide for an American tourist for 21 days in the delta. On night 11, he was woken up by the loud roars of lions; the ground trembled from its volume. With the other guide, he grabbed a rifle and headlights, shone and spotted the lions 10m away. They shot one; the other fled. The next morning, they found the lions’ tracks just outside of their tents.

I love the colours in this series of pictures.

Freedom!

crew!

Housing

Botsang, 30 years old, built this house made out of reed grass, sand and mud found in the Okavango Delta himself. It keeps him cool in the summer heat. He uses the solar panels to charge his cell phone. Sadly, 2 weeks ago, his wife was cooking and a fire broke out. This is his temporary home; it took him about 4 days to build it. He’s starting to build a new, bigger one now.

 

 

 

 

 

3. Victoria Falls (Zambia / Zimbabwe)

Too many of my favourite pictures at one of the world-renowned waterfalls :’) I am incredibly lucky, I know!

Dry season – apparently in wet season you get all soaked!

spare me the melodrama, Mr Gan

We waited for the bus to Kasane, Botswana from here.


Feeling incredibly lucky to be able to hear the rushing waters from one of the most spectacular curtain of water in the world! Can’t decide if the Zambian or Zimbabwean side was better, both were absolutely awe-inspiring ❤️