Italy and Spain ’08: tired feet

July 29, 2008 at 9:45 pm | Posted in Travelogue | Leave a comment

22 June 2008

Flight to Italy today. Well, first came a stopover in Bangkok. Silly me- I’d told some of the girls to ‘look out of their windows because I would be looking down on them’ but here I was flying up North. Don’t know about everyone, but Jeanie definitely wouldn’t be seeing me anywhere in Johor Baruen skies… First flight was short and uneventful, but lucky me: the in-flight entertainment system’s Japanese radio channel played some nice songs that I knew- Aqua Timez’s Sen no Yoru wo Koete; The Brilliant Green’s Stand by Me; and L’Arc~en~Ciel’s Daybreak’s Bell, I think. Did I mention there was a really pretty stewardess too? No wonder those farangs love Thai girls. A bit silly to base this on one woman, but humour me. And yes- nearly forgot- what is probably nothing to anyone else somehow seems ridiculously funny to me: me coolly holding a glass of white wine while the plane bounced around as it hit a patch of rough air (or whatever), demurely sipping minuscule drops while contemplating absolutely nothing more than the torment of utter boredom. At least it was a short flight. Well. Moving on…

The Suvarnabhumi airport was grey and spartan. Concrete walls were without paint. Somehow it reminded me of a prison…

and the strangest thing: we used a bus(!) to go to the terminal after landing. Right. Still, at least it’s better than that little airport in India where we had to walk to the terminal… I walked around while my aunt slept as we waited for our connecting flight. Damn restaurants. I’d gotten hungry again, and it was all really tempting- but I had no baht, nor would I change a single cent of my cash just so I could stuff myself. So I went back and waited. And waited idiotically. At one point I was about to wake her, to move on to the gate… until I noticed that for some obscure reason, Bangkok time is ahead of Malaysia’s by one hour. Damn.

23 June 2008

I’m not sure I got this right, but I think some officer on board announced that we flew over Myanmar, India (Ming~!), Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece, Albania, before finally reaching Italy…… Too bad we couldn’t see anything, as it was dark out. Watched a movie, ‘The Golden Compass‘, which so entertained me that it earned the dubious honour of being the first to be graced by a new word I coined specifically for it: coldonk. As in, cold donkey. I won’t even bother describing it. Imagine it’s meaning by yourself. Another thing: there was a group a few feet away from our seats. Noisy bunch. Ordering liquor and food, standing around with the lights on yakking and laughing away. Wondered if they were mildly drunk. I used the blanket to cover my head, since total darkness helps me to go brain-dead quicker. Something soft landed on my head, or did I imagine it? If this wasn’t a plane, I’d think someone threw popcorn at me. Took off the blanket and looked around. Nothing. Oh well.

Arrived sometime in the morning at Fiumicino airport. The stupidity of it all: we were caught in a traffic jam just to clear customs, pushed into a narrow space before finally entering the customs hall. Imagine this: a crowded room already filled to the brim with fatty acids and overloaded suitcases, and more yet pouring down the escalator, oblivious to the congestion below. Was quite funny watching those hapless escalator goers gesturing to others behind them to reverse, and then trying to go back up with their loads… until someone with some semblance of intelligence finally stopped the machine.

Anyhow, it took us about an hour just to clear customs- doofuses only had about three counters for non-EU citizens, and about four for EU’ers. Hello? How many people do you think there are on a Boeing 747? A flight from Thailand? How many EU citizens do you think will be on board? Dimwits ought to be flogged.

A short commentary on the airports toilets before I proceed: as most people know (at least if you are in touch with any form of media), then you should have heard of the stereotypical fact that women can’t stand toilet seats being left up. Well here’s the the thing: in the one that I saw, once the user gets up, the seat goes up as well. Must have been designed by a man. And how about hygiene? It looked clean, but when you flush won’t bacteria be sent flying everywhere? Oh wait- this is an airport. All these airheads think of is flight. So ends this health inspector’s report.

Took a train to Termini station, which is something like KL Central, only bigger and better. Yet still microscopic compared to main stations like Kyoto‘s. And from there, a subway to Cornelia station. Not Kor-knee-lee-ah, but Kor-neh-lee-ah. Code Geass fans, anyone? Wonder if there’s a station called Euphemia… but I digress. Took a bus to the Camping Village. The bus driver was a nice guy, completely unlike the majority of Malaysian bus drivers. Showed us where to get off, and let us off when we told him we had no tickets (He just shrugged. Apparently most of the locals don’t pay either…).

Pretty bridge, no? If not for all the trash and broken panes, at least.

Actually, we did have the ticket, just that we didn’t know it at the time. The subway ticket was for one metro ride and unlimited bus usage within 75 minutes of validation. Oops.

After checking in, we went to the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel inside it- bloody huge place. I don’t know about most people, but personally, I found Raphael’s paintings more engaging than Michelangelo’s ceilings. Sensory overload- we left the place tired. Had a gelato before entering. Perhaps it wasn’t one of the better outlets, but I don’t really see what’s so great about it.

Eventually I hope to photoshop someone’s head onto this one.

lol the great general/king has a ribbon on his head (it’s the number V on the wall behind)

I can’t help but feel that that face up there just looks stupid.

Wouldn’t mind having a floor like this…

Acting emo. Photo sullied by that other person there><

Sad to admit it, but I was a little… bored. We went on to Trastevere (apparently the most ‘Roman’ area left in Rome) for dinner, before heading back. We ordered a tad too much. Two appetizers, two first courses, and as usual, that Italian rock bread they always serve whether you like it or not. My minestrone soup was nice enough. And in their typically huge servings. She had a ‘gnocchi’, which I should warn future travelers, was most insipid. A final note before finishing the day’s entry: it was here, in the following square, that we discovered that water flowing from the numerous little hydrants are actually drinkable, and in this way did we cut down on our expenses by a considerable sum.

You need comfy shoes for these streets.

The river Tiber.

24 June 2008

Political graffiti. Pretty, no?

So our room’s like this: a prefabricated box, with three bunks, one being an overhead one, if that’s what it’s called. I forget. A small bathroom and a toilet. One small fan and a heater that only retards would use, since it’s Summer- or people who mistake it for an air-conditioner. Our roommate appeared sometime past midnight. Canadian girl. Said hi and dozed off again. Dreamed of school and college friends, but forgot what it was about… damn. As for today, we headed off to the Campo de Fiori, supposedly Rome’s liveliest outdoor food market… right. Disappointing. A small square with about 20~30 stalls. Bloody sedate. I suppose Western markets just can’t compete with Asian ones. Our pasar malam’s are so much better. Why do I even bother? Bought some green grapes and went around munching.

Forgot to mention that we came across the Pantheon while looking for the market. Didn’t recognise it for what it was, as we came up from behind it.

Thought it was a pretty, old building, perhaps converted into an apartment. Then we came to the front, saw the pillars, and I wondered if it was a church.

And then we went in, and then it finally hit me… ahh. Well, it was the Pantheon, alright. And yes, it was a church.

Nice place, but with most of the decor stolen or destroyed… the old grandeur of the place just isn’t really there anymore, whatever travel writers may say.

Then- on to the ‘Largo di Torre Argentina’, which

“is a square in Rome that hosts four Republican Roman temples, and the remains of Pompey’s Theater. It is located in the ancient Campus Martius”

Hmm. Wonderful. The guidebook I had described it on the lines of ‘the most important archaeological site in the immediate area. Woohoo. That it may well be, but to general tourists, it’s nothing more than a hole in the ground with some brown pillars in it. Looked at it and left, disgusted. For lunch, we went to the African restaurant I found while researching Rome online. What we ordered was surprisingly like a thick tosai with meat on it… I’d ordered a ‘Zighini Beghi’, while she’d ordered a ‘Zighini Asa’. Mine was lamb, I think. Or beef. Hers was fish. Not bad. But bloody filling, and we had trouble finishing.

Zighini Beghi.

Zighini Asa.

I dare say I look gorgeous here, if a little tired><

Wow. Rarely look good in flash><

The old Subway, Line B. Pretty, isn’t it?

Next, the Colosseum. Nice ruins. That’s all I have to say. The history of the place is wonderful, but just being there doesn’t have the same impact as reading about it. Oh well. It was there that I witnessed a ‘Monroe moment’: some girl had her skirt blown up from the front by a sudden gust of wind. Embarrassed, she quickly pushed it down. Wasn’t looking in her direction, so I didn’t see it occur in full detail.

And the Arch of Constantine nearby.

Some people had placed roses in little nooks, but being wilted, they made for a sad sight

I went one better, using a bookmark I’d brought along, This one won’t wilt.

Finally, on to Piazza di Spagna, where all the fancy shops are: Gucci, Versace and the like. There was a Bata hidden down the road. Twas in one of these fancy outlets that I spotted a Japanese woman, possibly in her early twenties, or early thirties. It was a blast of fresh air, since all the Asians I’d seen lately were Korean. Shop assistants welcomed her in Italian, and confused, she just nodded and said a little ‘hai‘ (yes). So cute:) Then again, it’s something I myself do now and then, when I’m caught unawares… except for the nod, though. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so dinner was just salad and tropical juice at a roadside cafe. We got lost looking for the famous Fountain of Trevi. The End.

With the waiter who helped take the previous photo

pretty, no?

25 June 2008

Does that little symbol at the top mean that I just ate a ‘ladies only’ burger?

Breakfast at McD’s near Termini station. It was either that or croissants and the like yet again. Destination for the day, Tivoli. Had to take the metro to a station called Ponte Mammolo. Odd name, I thought, trying to imagine what it means in English… only thing I could come up with was ‘Mammary point’. So hit me. And from there, a bus to Tivoli, although as I’d told the driver I wanted to go to the Villa Adriana, we didn’t get off in town.

And I want this to be the pathway to my house…:p

The Villa Adriana, although listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, was disappointing. Sure, it was a pleasant, large park, but that was mostly it. A big park, a small pond, many trees, a nice view of Tivoli proper from the top, and ruins here and there. Plus some ducks nonchalantly quacking along.

Next we aimed for the Villa d’Este. Remember that I mentioned seeing Tivoli from the top of the park? Well we had to go back down to where we came from, and from there, up a snaking road to the top. Bloody far, and in that heat? Murder. We went up um, one curve before debating whether to continue or turn back. In the end we decided to test our luck by hitchhiking. But everyone was speeding past… no one bothered at all. Not even a glance over at us. Now if we were a duo of smashing lust-inducing vixens I’m sure they would have been lining up to give us rides all the way to Venice way up North, but no such luck in our genetic makeup. I stepped on some bubblegum. Damn. It’s times like these that I wish Singapore’s draconian anti-chewing gum laws were emulated by other countries. There was, however, a small turning up ahead, and then I saw a car come out of it into the main road… quickly flagged it down, and it so happened the driver was going up to town. Turns out he owned a shop selling jewelry and watches. Didn’t get his name, but his shop was called Rinaldo Ulpiani. That his name, I wonder? Anyhow, on we went to the Villa d’Este. But before that we went into a church beside it. Lovely interior and it seemed to have some sort of cooling system… would have loved to just sit there forever but felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate. Moved on. The Villa was basically a terrace of fountains, going downhill… quite lovely. Definitely better than the previous one. Plus it cost less\(@.@)/

I still can’t decide whether the sculptor intentionally lopped of this one’s head.

Fontana della Rometta (Fountain of the model of Rome)

Le Cento Fontane (The Hundred Fountains)

Wonder how she would look like if she was real (=.=)

Wandered around town after that. She bought some souvenirs, a few of the typical touristy shirts to give away, and received two postcards as a ‘gift’. Hmph. How about a discount? We found Rinaldo’s shop… expensive stuff. Went in anyway. He was busy though- something wrong with his computer and was in the middle of getting it fixed through the phone. Shook hands and bid him farewell. Stopped for a light dinner before leaving.

Sunset over Tivoli

And so it happened that my blood first graced the ground of Rome. In less grandiose and worry-inspiring terms, I had my first nose-bleed upon exiting Cornelia station. Sat there on the steps, waiting for the bleeding to stop. Must have been the heat. Back to the camping village. Sheared… bleh, shared a pizza. I ordered some drink called a grappa. Bloody murder. The thing was damn strong… I just took a few sips of it, and left the rest. Absolutely disgusting. Only later (as I read the wiki entry for it) did I realise how strong it was. So then: I don’t have any interest in wine, finding it boring yet rather amusing (ever since I found out that red wine tastes like ribena when mixed with Chinese tea); and from my Genting experience I know that beer just isn’t for me. Not that I ever cared for alcohol, nor ever will. However I don’t mind shandy, for it’s sweet taste… and when I told that to my aunt she said ‘shandy is for girls’. Gah. I wonder how sake tastes like? I won’t lie if it tastes like crap just because I like Japanese things, being honest enough to admit that I don’t like it notwithstanding my assumed geographical preferences. So, anyone gonna treat me to some sake?

Back in the room, another nosebleed. This time, I think I can positively blame the grappa. The thing was frigging heaty. Microsoft is telling me that there’s no such word. There ought to be. I couldn’t have cared less at that point anyway. I just stood over the sink, watching my life’s waters drip, drip, and drip endlessly into the sink, down into the sewers… I have heard of two ways of dealing with nosebleeds. One, to just let it drip until it stopped. As I stood and waited, staring down the hole (whatever it’s called, my memory fails me), I wondered just how long I would have to stand there , how many drops of blood would have to drip out before I fainted from lack of it. How many lost drops would it take to kill me. The entire sink was red at that point. A red spray all over. I finally got fed up and went along with the second method, looking upwards. For added measure I stuck some tissue in, and waited again. That solved it. More was to come, however. But not yet. Not yet.

26 June 2008

Civitavecchia Station

Breakfasted, and checked out. We took the train to Civitavecchia. Wondered why no one came to check our tickets. Slept through the journey. We might as well have boarded the train without paying. Once we arrived at Civitavecchia’s train station, however, it happened again. Another nosebleed. Good thing there was a usable toilet nearby. When I was done it looked like someone had given birth there. Well, almost. The previous one was much worse.

The place itself was little more than a seaside town with a fort and the port to which we were headed. Had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, not because we missed Asian cuisine, but just to see how it was like here. We ordered… Cantonese fried rice: servings too small and too salty; vegetable dumplings: tasteless; sin kong tofu: no eggs, too salty; and steamed fish: again, too salty.

Fort Michelangelo

The McD shake here is just too small

Here’s ours ship! Not.

This is the one.

Boarded the ship at 1900 hours. From where we boarded, along with all the containers being loaded, the ship seemed to look rather like an amphibious troop transport ship… but inside, twas a completely different scene altogether. There was a restaurant, private cabins (though ours was more like an airplane, with individual seats), a pool… a small cruise ship. Well, perhaps ‘multi-function vessel’ would be a more accurate description. Stayed on the top deck to watch the sunset before going down for dinner. I don’t know which path we took, North of the island of Corsica, or South, but I was hoping to see whales, or at least something. A leviathan, maybe. OK that’s just ridiculous, just ignore that bit=.= My knowledge concerning marine biology is practically non-existent. So I wouldn’t know if whales pass through the Mediterranean sea.

Pointless, but still rather captivating, for some reason…

Camwhoring chance! With the wind-blown hairdo.

27 June 2008

We were plagued with a heavy snorer behind us, which made sleep difficult, but we managed anyway, thanks in part to exhaustion. In the morning, we went up to the top deck to find ourselves in the middle of the ocean. The winds were the strongest I’ve ever felt…absolutely delightful. Spent time there just being blown by the wind. Walking back and forth, letting the wind style my hair (and quite well too). Tried jumping as well. I was actually blown back a few inches. Just stayed there for hours(>∀<)

Land ahoy!

…and so we finally set foot in Barcelona. After some effort, we finally arrived at our hostel. I still remember asking one girl where the ‘Alegre de Dalt’ (the street on which our hostel was located) was… she giggled, pointed to the other side of the street, and said, “right over there”. Geh. Right in front of us, and we missed it. The place seemed nice enough. Mine was a mixed dorm, with 6 double beds. My aunt’s was a girl’s only room, on the first floor, which had 3 double beds, but was much smaller, as I found out later on. Strangely enough, there were no fans. Nor did I see any heaters. Chose a bunk next to a window, so at the very least I would not suffocate in my sleep. Breakfast was provided for each day of our stay, so no worries there. There was a small kitchen, but it wasn’t much. Opened the fridge and found it fully stocked . No space for us there(ーー;) Met two roommates. Matt and Michael from Australia. I misheard Matt as Markel… actually asked him if he was German(=,=)\

Walked uphill (the whole town seems to be built on a mountain) towards the Park Güell. Nice place, with a pretty view of the whole city. Saw the Sagrada Familia from up there. Looked rather small, though… “not good. Don’t lower my expectations…” Because that was the next place we went to. Was already late, but not dark yet… stupid long summer days. Just waited for darkness to fall so we could see the night view of the building.

The Parc Guell

You can see a few landmarks from the top

Sagrada Familia at night

28 June 2008

Went to the Sagrada again. Crap. They had a student discount, but I’d left my student ID with the hostel. In we went, anyway… It’s a bit sad, but perhaps because it’s incomplete, I found the outer facade of the structure to be more interesting. The inside was… dull and small. Took a lift to the top of one of the towers. Ever since I first saw it in the light of day I’ve been wondering if the designers of the Petronas Twin Towers were inspired by the Sagrada’s towers. They do seem startlingly alike… oh well. Walked down a long, narrow spiral staircase to the bottom… about 300 steps, I think.

Next up, looking for the Casa Batlló, we instead chanced upon the Casa Amatller, which was right next door. Went inside to find a small photo exhibition, which I have to admit, was quite dull. After all, photos are only good with me in them, gyahaha(^-^)! They also sold some tempting chocolates (the wrappers were quite charming), but we didn’t buy any. Sure, we could always stuff it in the common fridge, but once back in sweltering Rome? At least here, being a coastal city, there was some wind to cheer us on, although not enough to make walking a pleasant affair. On we went. There was a short line in front of the Casa Batlló, which we joined in. As the queue progressed, however, I began to feel a little uneasiness… and so I abandoned the queue to take a look at any notices in the front, and found out that my fears were not without grounds… for some of the rooms were soon to close for the day, in a mere 30 minutes time. At €16 per head, I decided it wasn’t worth it, and so we resolved to come again the next day. As we walked away, I saw a phone booth, and decided to call Bawanie. Too bad the line was terrible and after some time I couldn’t really tell who I was talking to, she, or her sister. So I hung up and walked off.

Next up, Montjuïc, a ‘hill’ with quite a few tourist attractions. Took a funicular train up, but that was rather disappointing, as it was just a short distance and shielded from the outside. There I was stupidly holding my camera ready. Oh well.

The obligatory pose with the statues pic. Hundreds of people must have done it that day.

We actually walked all the way up to the castle, Castell de Montjuïc, even though there was a cable car service to the top… which as we later found out, was pretty expensive. The castle was as ‘castley’ as castles go. At least admission was free. There was a nice view of the harbour from up there, the one we arrived in. Some relatively modern big guns as well, here and there… although they were filled with trash instead of shells. Quite surprising, that. Howitzers, perhaps? I suppose this was a recycled fortress. The castle cisterns were oddly lovely. It was nice to stare at all the water pouring out and filling up that bricked lined chasm… too bad I couldn’t get a clear picture, though. Damnable Plexiglas walls. There were also two lovely patches of grass flanking the castle drawbridge… would love to have them for my yard:)

Oh crap. Camera’s battery was low! Would it last the rest of the day? The horror! Took a bus down to the ‘magic fountain of Montjuïc‘. But as it was still too early, we wandered along into a nearby art gallery, before walking back up to the Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village), a cluster of shops built in the different style of various Spanish regions. There wasn’t really much to see there. We didn’t even pay much attention to the architecture. Many of the shops were closed as well, confusticate it all! Walked along for awhile. There was one shop that caught my attention- it sold some lovely Venetian masks. Wait. Exactly what is Spanish about that? Took a long dinner before descending to the fountain once more. Sat there and waited. It wasn’t much, actually… just a musical fountain. We didn’t wait for it to be completely dark, when it would be most beautiful. She didn’t think too much of it either, saying that it can’t even compare to those she saw in the US years ago.

Inside the Poble Espanyol

Funny little bird…

Back in the hostel, I met some other roomies, an American, a Colombian, and a Czech. American guy asked me if I miss home. Asked him back, “do you?” He said “yeah” or something like that. Alright. No idea how to respond to that. Thinking back, why don’t I miss home? Never mind nonsensical ideas like patriotism. Why don’t I miss anyone, or the comfort of my bed? Perhaps it’s because I don’t really feel the distance. It’s about 5500 miles from Rome to Bangkok, so I’d estimate 5800 from Rome to Kuala Lumpur. I still remember when I was in Japan in ’06… it felt like I’d never stepped onto a plane, flown across the ocean to a completely faraway land. Not at all. It merely felt like I’d walked down to the bus stop and hitched a bus to PJ. Then again, maybe the fact that I speak the language had a hand in acclimatizing me to the place. That doesn’t go for Italy or Spain, though. My meager Spanish vocabulary mainly derives itself from Latin-American telenovelas like ‘Mis Tres Hermanas’ (loved that show)/(=.=)\ As for whether I missed anyone back home, I’d have to say no. Not at all. Too bad for all those who missed me while I was away:p Then again, I had dreams almost every other night of old school friends, college mates, so that’s not too bad, no? Nothing soppy, mind you. Mostly ridiculous themes that I instantly forgot in the frenzy of things, sad to say.

29 June 2008

Lest I forget, I should probably start with a dream I had- somehow I had obtained a sports car, a Ferrari, I think, and was delighting every moment of it. There was some dissension, which led to a meeting, though I can’t be sure. There was definitely a function or gathering of some sort however. The last thing I remember was me wandering through a toy store with Bawanie. OK. Moving on…

At breakfast we were joined by two girls from Hong Kong, one who had just completed her studies in the UK (whoa) and one who was looking for a job. Aunt classified them as ‘香港妹’ (um, HK damsels?). A little walking and they had blisters on their feet, and they couldn’t stand the oppressive heat. But they seemed nice enough.

Blast. It was Sunday, and the city was well nigh dead. This should have been expected, but nevertheless, we had to find something to do. We went on to the Casa Batlló early in the morning (note: not in the the Asian sense). The building was nice, but that was just it- nice. I wouldn’t want to live in there… I like to have some empty unadorned spaces to tinker with. There was a guest book in the Batlló (two actually), and we signed our names in it. Remembered that there’s a certain someone who likes this building (certainly more than I do), so I signed her name as well. A free audio guide was provided, but frankly, it was rather droll. It’s not like Julius Caesar lived in it with Cleopatra- just a middle class businessman and his family. How interesting could that be?

Mini model of the Battlo, in the Battlo. The loveliest room, I think

Try and spot the signatures!

Most cheery indeed.

We went bus hopping, and ended up stopping at a place no guidebook would ever mention, the Mercat de Sant Antoni, which was more of a flea market, rather like the one in PJ’s Amcorp mall, only with more focus on literature- whether classics, or pornographic comics. The only problem was that they were all in Spanish. Not my strong suit, so I ignored them. Interestingly, I spotted translated versions of Japanese Yaoi as well. Not something you’d ever see in Malaysian stores, let alone markets. There was one stall selling posters, and as some of these were quite lovely I snapped up 3 for myself, and one for my sister… though I have come to regret this as now my walls seem a tad overcrowded, due to their size… Lunch was some pastries from a bakery we passed by on the way back. There was one terrible cake, which included alcohol… disgusting, that one><

That lady back there didn’t look to happy… sour face. Free promotion for you here, you know?

I spotted a Bolivian restaurant, and we went in. No one spoke English, so I just ordered the cheapest soup. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking soups here are like those dainty cups they serve you in Shakey’s or Pizza Hut… the one that came was monstrous. And to make things worse, there were odd, horrific things in it that looked like they’d just been vomited from the septic stomach of a grizzled minotaur. And considering the minotaur is, naturally, a member of the bovine class, I feared that the objects of my distaste were, in fact, cow intestines. Absolutely disgusting. She didn’t like it either, but finished her share, which, I should emphasize, was smaller than mine. I finished the soup but not the endless brown horrors left in the bowl.

Hell on Earth.

We sauntered around town before finally settling in a roadside cafe, and ordered a Sangria de Vino (sic) which seemed to be some sort of mild alcoholic drink mixed with some sort of citrus fruit. Just sat there and drank (at an extremely slow pace), observed, and talked (learned quite a lot more of family history, including the fact that I now have a niece, no thanks to my eldest cousin and her Singaporean hubby). I dare say this was the closest we got to the Italian ‘la dolce vita’ (the golden life). And only, I must emphasize, because it was a Sunday.

After that, to kill time, we wandered off to a theater, where we obtained tickets to a play at 7pm. Twas still early, so we retired to a nearby park, parked ourselves on a bench, and waited. The play, I have to say, was mediocre, merely being a martial arts comedy by a Korean troupe. Kid’s fare. Back to the hostel, I had trouble sleeping, since it wasn’t that late yet (for traveler’s anyway). Some other guests were gathered outside in the courtyard and were having a fun time chatting and drinking. More noise came in the form of a Spanish victory in the EURO cup over… Germany, I think. Fireworks and cheers the whole night. I suppose they were entitled to some euphoria, it being their country and all, but I couldn’t sleep with the war going on outside and so I couldn’t care less.

30 June 2008

And so the final day of June had come at last, also being our last day in Spain. Our ferry would leave at 7pm, so we had time to wander around. Before leaving the hostel, I checked up on Malaysian news online… found out that Anwar had fled to the Turkish embassy, which I felt was a rather ridiculous move on the Turks part. But all rather entertaining. The famed Mercat de la Boqueria was our first stop, supposedly the most famous market in Barcelona. I had read excerpts of other traveler’s comments prior to our departure from Malaysia, and felt that here, at least, would be a European market worthy of wasting our time on. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sights, the smells, they say, are exquisite. Whatever. I’ve decided that you can never trust Westerners when they wax lyrical about European markets. One thing is for sure- those who do so are either stupidly bound to some lugubrious dream of racial superiority, or have never set foot in an Asian market. This little Boqueria couldn’t even compare with our pasar malams, nor even lift a pathetic finger, damp with prepubescent saliva, to the leviathan 築地市場 (Tsukiji market) of Tokyo.

On to the lively street called the La Rambla, which was right outside the market. There were many stalls selling magazines and touristy souvenirs, and a whole clan of high class beggars, the type that dress up and don’t move a muscle, with a can before them. Static cosplayers. Didn’t see a single busker, however. It was there, on that famed street, that tragedy ensued. I churn in remembered shock at the thought of repeating the details, so you will excuse me if I leave none, save that we were robbed by professional crooks. We still had cash, but enough was taken to temporarily worry us, and curtail our plans and spending. Asses! I will not blabber impotently as some would, but here now do I feed them my wrath, a curse worthy of a Pharaoh’s tomb: may the all have the hair in their asses grow to be the length of horses tails, the toenails curve, and grow into tortoise shells, their skin, become as rough burnt wood, eternal tears and mucus to plague their days, hands grow heavy as dumbbells, fingers malleable as frankfurters yet uncontrollable as tidal waves. Max the pox take them in various ways, and for added measure, all the Shakespearean curses found in King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth to give them lasting leers!

Well. That was refreshing. At the time, I was stunned- and I give credit to my aunt for cheering me up, saying it didn’t matter much. Others would have harped on the issue forever. Certainly, my father would verbally massacre me if he ever found out, and to a certain extent, her as well, but she too would rather not let him know either. I thought of making a police report, but she said it was pointless, and we moved on, though my thoughts at the time were still dark, though I hid them well.

She did some shopping before we finally left for the harbour. The voyage was uneventful, except for a minor incident. For the passengers who purchased seats instead of cabins, there was only one bathroom. I went in, but someone had already occupied it. I waited. And waited. People came and left, knocked on the door, and went away. At one point the mans inside said something in response to yet another knock, though I knew not what it meant. I stood there, humming songs, having nothing else to look at but the toilet cubicle in front of me. Even had time to help a man with a broken leg enter and exit the washroom. Finally losing my patience, I knocked as well. I had waited about half an hour. He finally came out, a stout, sour bald man in his forties, or fifties. He instantly complained, are you in a hurry? Are you rushing to work? Can’t a man enjoy his bath in peace? I calmly explained that I was not, but someone was waiting for me and I had been waiting for an unreasonably long time, that he had taken too long. He angrily retorted, do you bathe in a minute? Slightly peeved, I said certainly not, but you must realise that this is a big ship, and there is only one bathroom for many people, that there were many other people who wanted to bathe as well and that he could at least be more considerate and not take such a long time. He then argued, quite foolishly, that he has traveled many times, that no one else uses the bathroom. I could have skewered him there and then, but as most people should know I don’t have much tolerance for fools. Obviously he didn’t know that many others had come, knocked, and left, while I waited there relatively silent, and thought that it was I who had knocked incessantly. So I just apologized, saying that I wanted to go and shower now that he was done and out. The matter was resolved, but I did not like his character. Consequently, I looked suspiciously at all bald men, since I wasn’t bothered with memorising his facial details.

We had eschewed the ship’s restaurant and bought our dinner from a restaurant near the harbour, and brought it onto the top deck as soon as I was done with my shower. It was quite a challenge eating with the strong winds, but nothing impossible, since the polystyrene box helped block the wind a little, although it would have been ridiculous to eat the salad using the plastic cutlery provided, so we used our hands. It was cold, so there were no irritating youths to bother us, and we ate in peace. My thoughts ran wild with the wind, and I thought that I wouldn’t mind emulating the story of the anime ながされて藍蘭島 (Nagasarete Airantou; Cast Away, Airan Island), and get swept overboard in a storm, to awake in a small hut on an desolate island with a population consisting only of women. The protagonist of the show however, is quite disturbed by all the consequent attention he receives from the women, which is quite realistic. I’d probably feel the same and try to escape, so I banished such pointless thoughts from my consciousness. Prolonged isolation from literature or entertainment has never been one of my virtues anyway. Nor could I stand living in a kampung, even if it is an island paradise- I need to live in a city.

Some guy tried to emulate us, but he brought up a whole tray of food from the ship’s restaurant, ceramic cutlery and all. Dimwit slipped on the final steps to the top deck, dropping everything with a loud crash. To his credit he did try to clean up the mess a little… but after a bit of that he started cursing, and was quite consistent in it- he passed by us, walking to the other end of the deck and back again, cursing ‘fuck it, fuck it all, I wanna fucking kill someone’. Who, I wonder? It was all rather entertaining, but still rather tense nonetheless. Eventually three other guys came along and satiated his fury with some beer. The broken plates and spoiled food were left to rot.

1 July 2008

Ah, July, the month named after Caesar! A great omen! How fitting that we should arrive on the first day of such a noble month! What glorious adventures await, I wonder? Not. Nor am I given to such idiotic whimsies. We got back late. Bought two tickets to Naples, and left for the hotel. I think there were some elephants in the connecting cabin. A pack of pachyderms. It seemed that with every step they took, the entire cabin shook><

2 July 2008

We got a new roommate in the middle of the night, a small guy (no elephant, luckily) who came all the way to Italy just to see the Vatican. Now that’s rather ridiculous to me, but to everyone his own. I had a dream again, finally one that I could remember and record. The first scene had something to do with the Death Note. Postcards of Ryuk were on sale, and I wondered how that was possible, wondering if someone had touched the Death Note. Based on these thoughts I must have been Light. Good, since he’s my fave character(=ω=)The second scene was more down to earth, and yet not so. A girl I’ve known for a long time visited my place, and we spent a long time together. There was no tension at all. We wasted time frivolously, doing pointless things like writing BM essays just for the heck of it. There was only one thing. Whenever I tried to hold her in my arms, she faded away and reappeared in a different corner of the room… I forgot the rest.

Back to business. The train to Naples- we were nearly screwed. I’d bought our tickets yesterday, but unlike the trip to Civitavecchia, this time a conductor appeared to check our tickets. No problem, I thought, smugly handing him our tickets. There was one. But he spoke no English, and we didn’t have the slightest idea what he was saying… luckily there was this guy, a student from the looks of it, sitting opposite us who understood English, and he translated for us, saying that before boarding the train, we were supposed to validate the ticket at the station. If not, there would be a €50 fine per person. Damn. How the hell were we supposed to know that?! Luckily he let us off. This would never happen in Malaysia… the conductor would have us kicked off at the next stop(=.=) However, later on, upon scrutinising the 2006 guidebook I had, it did mention that little point (oops). Slept the rest of the way there, as we passed through a long series of tunnels (with the lights off, it was completely dark for quite some time).

And finally, Naples. Ah. Well. The place was bloody chaotic. Drivers paid no heed to pedestrians, unlike in Rome, a mere 150 minutes away (by regular train, at least). Utter madness. Trams were parked at the side of the road, empty and useless. Traffic lights were all out of order for who knows how long. Crossing roads could incur heart attacks for some. It reminded me a little of India, in fact. A little India in Italy! I’d wanted to climb Vesuvius, but based on the guidebook, there were only 4-5 buses per day, and that the journey took an hour, and thus we decided that it was too risky. So we ended up wandering around town. Naples, being a formal royal capital, had a few palaces around, but we were no longer interested in buildings. Furthermore she had no interest in seeing ruins, so Pompeii and Herculaneum were silently struck out. So we wandered around town. The whole city seemed to be on sale. She did a little shopping. I noticed one thing: there were many shops selling beads and cheap jewelry, and most of them were run by Indian immigrants. Meanwhile, Africans ruled the streets, plying their numerous wares of suspect origin. There was one Westerner, however, who attempted to sell me something as we walked past… an iPhone. Quickly brushed him off.

The mad town, Naples

Bored of the most irritating ‘city’ (the noise had begun to annoy us), after having lunch we decided to head back to Rome on an earlier train, but Naples couldn’t resist the chance of screwing us once more. The train station’s arrival/departure board was confused. Trains were late, canceled, or delayed. They even brought a truck in for nearby renovation works or repairs! A truck inside a train station! Our train had vanished off the board. It seemed that everyone was panicking. At the information counter, the man who attended to me was most rude- when I asked whether the 4.30 train would be coming, he said to look at the board. I’m asking you because it’s not there, you oaf! We ended up having to take the 6.30 train, the one we had originally meant to take. It’s presence was also a mystery on the board. I went back to ask which platform the train was on, and he gestured for my ticket, roughly scrawled the time ‘6.30’ on my ticket, and heeded me no more. What platform, I asked? He looked away at his colleague (who had shut her window moments earlier), opened a pack of biscuits and munched. The temerity of the brute! I went off and asked a train driver, and finally got a satisfactory answer. Slept all the way back as well, tired after all that nonsense.


Nice, no? Close-up of a train curtain.

3 July 2008

Wonder what happens when they run out of space. Will the church collapse or something?

Swiss Guard. Looks like a kid… and who’s that sneaky looking fella in the background?

Another dream. In it, I was late for a swim meet. Hmm. Moving on, we went to the Basilica of Saint Peter, in the Vatican city. Pretty place. It was interesting to note that there were some Muslim tourists… so I suppose that the ‘law’ that Muslims may not enter churches is purely Malaysian nonsense. Bernini’s setting for the chair of St. Peter reminded me a lot of a motif I noticed somewhere in Death Note. Huh. I still remember that once, guards shouted for everyone to make way for some red robed man to pass. I asked a guard if that was a cardinal. He said no, a priest. Well well. And just a priest, and going about like a god on earth, with a pompous gait and a stare that pierced forward into emptiness, seeing nothing around him. So much for ‘all men are equal’ and all that claptrap. We moved on to the Piazza del Popolo, a name which amuses me to no end. Just try humming it, without the first two words>< It was a pretty place anyway, but way too hot. Rested in a park above the Piazza, before leaving.

looks nice from behind, but from the front…

We watched Aliens vs. Predators 2 at the outdoor cinema provided by the camping village before retiring too bed, and this time, I was struck by the crappy acting, the worst being by the Sheriff who got nuked in the end. A fitting end.

…while in the shower, being closer to the source of all the noise, I discovered that the elephant was a woman. Crude in every action, even placing things down. The horror><

4 July 2008

Sent my aunt off at 10 in the morning. Well actually, waved from outside the van as it drove off. Well! My first day alone. I had to wait until 12 to check in. Waited, reading the guidebook I had. Checked in, delighted to find that the cabin was empty. I had the whole place to myself. Good. I didn’t plan to go anywhere today. The plan was to stay back and relax. Did some laundry, as I had almost no shirts left to wear. Blazing hot outside, so they dried quickly, which was good. Read a bit of the novel that our very first roommate threw away, ‘Other Women’ by Lisa Alther. It’s mainly about psychology. There was one line in the book that caught my attention: ‘lesbianism is the ultimate form of narcissism’. Hmm. Haven’t experienced that, nor ever will considering my genetic makeup anyway, so I didn’t dispute the point. However, I’ve always thought that that title would be more suitable for all those ‘Divine Monarchs’.

With nothing to do, I showered for fun. I’ve never mentioned the water, have I? It’s not like water back home- they have cold water, and it is, I believe, as cold as the coldest water in Genting’s water park (or colder still). Prolonged exposure caused numbness and pain. The hot water, on the other hand, was well, hot as all hot water is hot. Nothing special there. But just imagine sitting/standing there almost forever, alternating between both… pleasure or torture, I wonder?

Blast. Will I have no luck on this holiday? I was hoping for two (single)Japanese girls as roomies… but had no luck, as usual. I was sitting outside the cabin reading the book when a woman and her son appeared. She paused upon seeing me, went back to look at the signs, came back and asked me if this was indeed, cabin 106. Without a doubt. Yes it was, sadly. She was surprised, as the people at the reception counter had told her that there was another girl there. And are you a girl, she asked. Momentarily taken aback at all this, I still had the presence of mind to veil my mild shock with a comedic gesture of feeling my chest, and saying, ‘nope, don’t think so’. They were nice people (from Latvia, by the way)anyway, so no grudge against them for ruining my fantasies once more.

I took a short walk outside, walking along a little back road. I spotted someone in a parked car moving oddly in the front seat… two promiscuous lovebirds, perhaps? I walked past, ignoring them, so I couldn’t confirm my suspicions. I don’t fancy being chased down by a nutter who thinks I was spying on them. Then again, if they really were doing it in public, I suppose they were actually after attention? Oh well. I’m not interested anyway (right, go on and jeer, you cynics out there). For some obscure reason, Western women just don’t attract my attention much.

I went to the supermarket and got my dinner- baked potatoes and a tin of cocoa milk. Rather miserable, I know. Played with the kid a little as best as I could, though I had no idea what he was saying.

Time for bed. Damn. Kid started coughing. I turned off the fan for her and consented with nary a grumble, being the kind soul that I am, when she left the door open for the night. Sometime around midnight, I was awakened by the sound of fireworks. I went out to take a look, barefoot. It wasn’t much, just a small display. I wondered if it was just the usual summer fireworks I’d read of, or the work of the American embassy, after all, it was the 4th of July, their Independence Day.

5 July 2008

Another roommate came along, possibly the girl that the receptionist really meant. She’s tall, taller than me, I think. Pretty from behind, not so from the front. So hit me for being mean, I’m entitled to it. Read some books, finished off yesterday’s potatoes, washed another shirt, and planned my day.

I took a bus to the subway station Cipro, and a sign outside a shop that I spotted displayed the temperature as 38 degrees. Bloody hell. I could barely believe it. I took the subway to the Vittorio Emmanuel station, hoping to see the monument locals call the typewriter, or wedding cake. I couldn’t find it. Apparently it was somewhere else, and the station merely bore the same name. Instead, I think I wandered into Chinatown. It wasn’t much, though, as it contained mainly boutiques selling cheap clothes.

I then followed, note, FOLLOWED a tram to Termini station. Stopped in a bookshop there, and read a bit. The first book I picked up was a romance with attractive cover art. Randomly flipped to a page and the first words I read were on the lines of:

“his fingers went over my wet clitoris”

Well. Moved on to political analysis, a book titled ‘the sack of Rome’, about Silvio Berlusconi‘s rise to power. It was interesting reading how he converted his media empire into a political machine, but it didn’t hold my attention for long. Moved on to ‘the war with Hannibal’ by Livy. How should I put it? It was… exquisitely riveting in all it’s bore.

Piazza della repubblica

Wandered on again. Found the Piazza della Repubblica, with it’s Fountain of the Naiads. I intended to head for Piazza Barberini, but instead arrived in the archaeological area near the Colosseum. Walked along the old forums, the Column of Trajan… plenty of Koreans around. Where are all the Japs? Enjoying their cool, breezy summer back home? Now I want to be there instead of floundering in this intense heat…

The Trajan Markets. Anyone see the white balloon?

Seriously, the Koreans were everywhere

After that debacle I found myself wandering around Piazza di Spagna once more. I was too lazy to look for the Fountain of Trevi, however. Wandered into a free art exhibition, about Christian art through the ages. Was particularly interested by the paintings portraying the persecution of Christians in feudal Japan. A breath of fresh air after days of typical European art.

Back to everyone’s favourite Piazza del Popolo. Took a picture of that grand looking statue from the front. The first time we came, I only took a picture from the back. I have to say, though, that it looks better from the back. This remind you of anyone? There were some police there, and an ambulance on standby (I think). Also a big group of youngsters who think that dressing up in black for every day of their entire life is cool. Put one and one together and wondered if the police were there to enforce order if a fight broke out. Weighing the issue, I decided not to take a picture of them. I did not want to be lynched by a mob of black-shirts, no matter how remote the possibility may have been.

The wall in my dream…

I walked along the entrance to the Villa Borghese, a tree lined avenue, though I was too tired to go all the way up, into the park. I saw a wall from where I stood- and it struck me, for I felt that I had seen it in a dream not long before, a fantastical one where I had made a prodigious jump off the wall into the trees below, in an escape from some friends who pursued me for some forgotten reason. I sat there, and rested my tired legs, for I had been walking the whole day without much rest. And no lunch either.

Back at the camping village, I was stopped by the guard for a chat. He was a Sri Lankan, and had been to Malaysia before, and was planning to come again by the end of the year. I wasn’t really interested in talking, being tired, but I entertained him for a while. Exchanged emails, and he gave me a guidebook of Rome.

6 July 2008

Another dream. I remember Iron Man in hiding, suddenly receiving an unbelievable contract from some unknown source. Right. Next: with my sister at home. I detected an anomaly, some sort of object that was causing an eternal loop in time. She couldn’t care less, but I set out to whack it into anomalous junk. It wasn’t easy. With each hit it took, it reshaped itself into something else, and in a different position- yet always something that didn’t belong.

I woke up and was told that there would be one of those famous Roman strikes tomorrow, so I would be cut off from the city, with all public transport shut down, and confined to the village. Banished such thoughts for the moment, and took the subway to Circo Massimo (nothing much, just a depressed field between two parallel roads, which is why it’s free, because no one would pay to enter). The train there was like rush hour on the KTM. I was crushed in. There were two girls near me, who I thought were Japanese. I think I overheard one of their names.. Yuriko? Wondered whether it would be wise to strike up a conversation. They got off at the same station as me. Would it seem weird, I wondered, if a total stranger came over and chatted with me? I suppose that would be a yes. Outside, they made my decision for me, heading off in the direction of the Colosseum. Not where I was headed, so I gave up. I headed in the opposite direction, headed for Trastevere once more, to the Porta Portese, supposedly Rome’s largest flea market.

Lesson in basic symbology, anyone?

I walked on, but halfway there, I had a nagging feeling that I was headed in the wrong direction, and reversed all the way to the station, perhaps hoping to see the two again, though that was impossible. From there I went straight on, but when I finally saw a sign bearing the name E.U.R, I started to worry again. Looked to my map for counsel, and found that I was on the wrong track, that my initial direction was correct. So back I went. Once I saw what I thought to be the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, I knew I was on the right track. Besides, the river was right before my very eyes. I crossed the bridge into Trastevere, and the market was just on my left. I had high hopes for this market after good experience in Barcelona’s Sant Antoni, but I was left disappointed once more. It was big, alright, but most of it was cheap, crappy clothes. Walked halfway in, and disgusted, left. You will notice that I didn’t even bother to take a single picture of the place.

Home for the homeless

Went back to the Tiber. I walked all the way along the river, going above it by the street, and even took the more unconventional route, alongside it, under the bridges. Underneath, there were more interesting sights, like a makeshift home for the homeless, flowers on the walls, the undersides of the bridges… walked a long way, all the way past Castle Angelo, all the way to Piazza del Popolo once more, and this time, I went all the way into the Villa Borghese, which the Sri Lankan had told me was beautiful, and someone online, or in my guidebook, had described it as ‘Rome’s answer to New York’s Central Park’. Well it was a park, no doubt about it. But nothing spectacular. I’d been making a map of the day’s journey, but I quite lost my bearings upon entering the park, so whatever I’ve drawn is just an estimate. Went deep in, until the ‘biopark’, but didn’t go in. On the way back down, some guy who was walking in the opposite direction said hello to me (although it sounded more like ‘ell-ho’). Was deep in thought, so I just let out a surprised, barely audible hi.

Dinner in the cabin again. Cold pasta and cream doughnuts. Watched a movie after that, American Gangster. Uncensored. It was quite nice. There was one scene that was quite masterful, but most likely did not make it past Malaysian censors, the scene where the cops raided the drug packing plant. Now according to tradition that should be a tense, adrenaline driven scene, but not here… it just wasn’t possible to feel that way if you see a bunch of topless, afro haired girls jumping around, flapping their arms and screaming while trying to avoid gunshots. Just too ridiculous. Wonder why the mob boss’s wife married him, though. Miss Universe, World, or something, radiant future before her. Why didn’t she leave him upon first witnessing his violent nature? Oh well.

The map of today’s route. Look and be afraid.

7 July 2008

Another dream. Playing tag in Genting with some old friends. How meaningful. Thanks for wasting my precious R.E.M time. Forgot the rest. Went over and bought a box of chocolate milk. Looked over at the guy in front of me, and was struck by the difference- me with my choc, and he with bottles of brandy and beer…(=.=) It was supposed to cost €1.23, and I had prepared the exact change. Happily started to hand the cash over to the cashier, but paused at the last moment. €1.14. Apparently there was some sort of discount. Damn. Well thanks for saving me a few cents, but they’d robbed me of the little joy I could have derived from giving the exact sum. Isn’t it just annoying when you are given change after all that?

On the way back to the cabin, I spotted a guy whose body was full of tattoos… with nothing to do, I started wondering what design I’d ever pick if I chose to do one (never, I think). What designs do guys normally sport, I wonder? Mystical beasts like dragons, or griffins? No thanks. Lover’s name? I’m single. Plus that isn’t very safe. You never know…(ーー;) What else is left? Religious symbols? As in my own name? That would be good, but then I’d be unfairly branded a narcissist. How about… butterflies? Nah. Cancel out flaming skulls too. So what is left? Sat and stared straight ahead, at some flowers. Flowers. Why not? I remember Nana‘s ren tattoo… that one was lovely…><

No public transport today because of the strike, remember? Continued reading the novel I picked up. What the hell is a ‘moo goo gai pan‘? Stupid Americanized Mandarin names. Whatever it is (oh. just found out), it’s worse than the ever-painful-to-the-ears ‘chow mein’. Besides horrible pronunciation of Chinese, miss-from-back checked out. Terribly hot outside. Slept and showered repeatedly until around 7. Dinner was cold chicken chunks ‘ala Romano’ (i.e, tomato sauce), and rice with bits of sardine (I think) and corn. A cat came along, and I fooled around with it for some time, tossing tiny bits of sardine to it, and petting it when it came. It jerked back instantly, but kept coming for the food, the ungrateful cretin. Ah. The buses came back to life in the evening.

I noticed one thing: night comes earlier now. Up until Barcelona, the sky grew dark only around 9.30-10pm. It’s also purple, which was exceedingly lovely- though I suspect that was because of all the lights. Still pretty, though, even if it may have been artificially caused. Watched National Treasure 2. I don’t really like Nicholas Cage, but the show was fine. Entertaining, but nothing to scream about.

Night sky. Couldn’t quite capture the purple tone, though…

8 July 2008

Took the subway to Piazza di Spagna, thinking of visiting the Keats-Shelley memorial right next to the famous Spanish Steps. After all, I had done Keats for A-Levels, and thought that I might as well pay a visit to the place where the man once lived. Flimsy reason, no? Which was why upon arriving, I changed my mind, since it was nothing more than a small apartment. Why bother? It’s not like the Holy Grail is in there- just some chairs and tables, some paintings, etc… how inspiring. Walked up the Spanish steps, took a look down from the top. Had lunch in a nearby McD that managed to look both glamorous and cheap at the same time.

At least I got something good out of Spagna. This shot.

Walked onwards to Piazza Barberini, but turned back upon seeing a sign saying ‘Trevi’. I noted with much interest, however, that the police had blockaded the street leading to the Piazza. Well- and so on my last day I finally found the fountain that tourists worldwide seem to adore so, the Fontana di Trevi. It was crowded, as expected. There’s a legend that throwing a coin into the fountain will ensure one’s return to Rome in the future, and I’d thought of tossing one in just for the heck of it. That’s why I’d brought some Malaysian coins along- no way I’d throw my Euros in. At this point in time, however, I’d begun to be bored of all these old European countries, and entertained the thought of, say, the Spirit of the Fountain visiting me one day and announcing, “Congratulations, your wish has been fulfilled. Come, let us leave for Rome”, and instead I say, “I’d rather not. Why don’t you take the rest of my family instead?” Seriously, a guaranteed return to Rome? Can’t I wish for anything else? How despotic. Took a photo, and left. Didn’t even toss a single cent in.

Back in Barberini, I walked into a lively demonstration. Transport Union demanding higher wages, as I was told later on. They gathered around the Fountain of Triton, as the ringleaders harangued their troops and gave speeches. Flags were waved, but that was it. They even stopped for a tea break. What are these people, sixteenth-century Brits? Entered a bookshop on the way to Termini, and noticed an interesting book: ‘The Book Thief‘, by one Markus Zusak. Later on in Termini, I read a fascinating chapter of a book about Julius Caesar. The final chapter discussed the issue of his ‘divinity’. There was common knowledge like about him being a ‘descendant of Venus’, and his ascendancy to divinity through a motion in the senate. There were some more interesting tidbits that I’d never heard of, however, like the fact that many scholars, theologians, etc. had thought of Caesar as the man who laid the foundations for Christ’s arrival, by establishing the seeds for a world empire to better receive Jesus. In other words, an empire for Jesus to inherit. And also so that Jesus wouldn’t have to deal with thousands of separate tribes, kingdoms, etc. which would have impeded the spreading of the faith, etc. Alright. Interesting enough.

9 July 2008 – 10July 2008

Interesting dream. First as myself, in a strange new school. I sat next to Tommy, with Khong Choong (hmm. that’s odd. Never really bothered about him) in front of me. All the fellas ever talked about was games. I just sat there, bored to death. We were then ordered to change seats. Not all of us, though. I was moved somewhere near the middle. Ling was close by. I couldn’t follow the lessons from that spot, for some reason. Oh, and Mahathir was a classmate(=.=)\

The second part was the nonsensical part where I wasn’t myself. I was in some remote jungle land, as a girl pretending to be a boy, for some important reason. Only one person knew my secret, the man who oversaw the place where I stayed, which seemed to be a boy’s only boarding school. I remember getting a new phone, and was ecstatic until I realised that there was something wrong with it and it was practically crap, so I had to trek down the mountain to town to get it fixed. Once I was done there, however, it started to pour. I was in a rush to get back, and asked around for a lift, but everyone seemed to be afraid to go up the mountain. So I had to trek up again. It was hard work. The rain buffeted my petite frame, slowing me down greatly. At one point, the path was so steep that I had to get down on all fours and gingerly crawl across. I then chanced upon a mountain hideout. There was an evil smell in the air, and I quickly left the place. Finally, I returned to the school (or whatever it was). My secret-keeper was waiting for me. Went to him for comforting (I needed it after that ordeal). I bathed and changed, and he gave me a pair of fresh panties. Later, in the washroom, I saw that someone had left a rubber model of a woman’s breast in the sink. It was larger than mine, too. One of the boys started poking it, thinking it was all very entertaining. I laughed along, ill at ease.

And here comes the final part, the strange part where I’m nowhere to be seen. In a wide open field, several mounted knights lined up in two lines, facing each other for a joust. Both charged, and one side was utterly defeated. The winning side, however, had odd lances… they seemed to have metal dragon-like mouths for instead of sharp points. A distance apart, three people were watching the scene. A king, a panther man who seemed to be his general, and… Doctor Doom. DD was telling the king some of the technical details of the odd lances to the king, but also slyly admitted that ‘they might make the soldiers lazy and complacent’. I think he then continued with ‘certainly something good for the opposition, no?’. The panther man didn’t like what he saw, grumbled an excuse and left the field. DD told the king to be careful of the panther man. King: ‘but he’s been loyal to me for years!’. DD: ‘you never know.’ More or less. The end.

Well! Today’s the day of my flight home. Took the shuttle van to the airport, where I wandered around like a blithering idiot looking for the tax refund counter. Information point people were useless, directing me back and forth. It was a worker at an electronics shop who directed me in the right path- and his English was much better too. The counter was after passport control, so I had to get my boarding passes first. A bloody long wait. The same problem as my arrival in Rome: how many counters do you need to cater to all the passengers of a Boeing 747? And at least have more space for lines to form! I don’t care too much for the way they queue. One degenerate mass of people in one queue, and when we finally reach the counters, we split up. It’s all right for short queues, or when there is plenty of space for long snaking lines, but not so for a tiny space like this! Speaking of which, the counters were built like this: |_| how could there not be a massive pile-up when people keep cramming in? The people in front of me were interesting, though. There were some nuns, a brown-robed friar, a group of people with funny hats on, another group carrying film equipment around and interviewing people with a small camera and a mike (amateur film makers, I think), and finally, a bunch of overgrown boy scouts. Just imagine grown men and women (the men with pot bellies and goatees), in short brown pants, blue shirts with a cloth tied in a knot around their necks, and all that… never mind. To each his own…(-,-)

It took forever to get my boarding passes. More nonsense was to come at the tax refund counter: a long wait in the queue, and then I was told that I wanted the counter for a different company. Fine then. Still plenty of time. I went over to the right counter. Two ladies behind it, taking, and no queue at all. I stopped in front of one, and waited. She ignored me. ‘Excuse me?’ No response. Like, at least acknowledge my existence? The temerity of it all! There was a man behind them, preoccupied with something. He nodded for me to go over to the other lady, who took a look at my receipt, and told me to go have customs validate it first. Fine. On to the customs counter, for the biggest blow: the man there asked to see the goods. Damn. They’d gone back to Malaysia with my aunt. ‘Impossible’, he said. Coldly, I repeated, ‘impossible?’. He said yes. What a magnificent waste of time. And there’s 8 euros gone down the drain, eaten up by the system and its protocols. After all this nonsense, what awaits me in Bangkok, I wonder?

Turned out alright, except for a minor hiccough. Flight announcement: “and on your left, we can see Mount Vesuvius…” Blast. I was on the right, and I didn’t get the window seat- nice view of the outside, since my flight was in the afternoon. Everything else was relatively fine. Dinner was nice. The main course I selected was salmon and fragrant rice- the salmon was a big chunk, and though not cooked the way I’m used to, was delicious. When the flight stewardess came around serving drinks, I was determined to try something new, and asked her what she had. I chose to have a cocktail, but when she asked what cocktail I’d like I was flustered. Not wanting to look like an idiot, I told her “Anything. Just choose one for me.” She laughed ” I wouldn’t know what you like, sir,” Well. The only cocktail I know of is the Bloody Mary. Didn’t say that though. Again. “What do you have, then?” She rattled off a list, and I said “the first one” although I didn’t really catch what she’d said. It was only later that I realised that it might have come off like I was flirting with her. Oh well.

I watched three short documentaries, two serials, and three movies. I thought of sleeping, but eventually gave up when I realised that I had no idea what time it was, or how late. It was dark outside, so it was obviously night though. How do you possible define ‘late’ when you fly over seven different time zones? So I stayed up for the entire flight to Bangkok. Now the three movies. The first was Charlie Wilson’s War. I remember that they’d screened this movie in GSC’s Gold Class sometime before, but didn’t go- wouldn’t pay that much for a movie. The movie itself was nice enough. up next was Dan in Real Life. When I saw the opening credits flash, Steve Carell, I thought, oh no, not another ridiculous movie full of lame jokes. Oops. I think I confused Carell with Adam Sandler. Or was it Ben Stiller? Whatever. The movie was so simple but just so lovely! I was straining to hold back my tears for about three quarters of the film… congrats, Dan. Finally, 21, the movie about kids who counted cards. I was quite interested in the movie, and was thus pleasantly surprised. It was however, drab and disappointing.

Somewhere over… Afghanistan? Turkey?

Near the end of the flight I began to feel afraid. Not because we were flying through (or above) a storm (which was quite lovely, with small flashes of lightning outside), but because my skin started to get terribly dry. both my arms were white and flaky, more arid than Ethiopia. I made frequent trips to the washroom to dampen them. Worse still, my whole body started to itch- I don’t know why. Maybe I should have asked the flight crew if they had any more Tiramisu… could have used it as an impromptu moisturiser, perhaps? Perhaps not. I suffered the pain in silence.

Upon stepping foot on Malaysian concrete, however, the itchiness subsided. Perhaps it was the cold. No. Anything but the cold. If so, how could I possibly explain the Summer of ’06 in Japan? Even though it was Summer, the days were taken by a cold breeze, and the nights were colder still. And there I was walking around in a light T-shirt, with warmly wrapped locals looking at me like I’m some kind of madman trying to catch pneumonia.

Caught a bus to Central. At least that way I didn’t have to face the horror of waiting outside the arrival hall- as anyone who has landed in KLIA will know, the waiting area outside is a health hazard, what with all the smokers outside. Puffers taking a break from work. Puffers back from countries where no-smoking laws are strictly enforced. Puffers who just love to puff, all puffing away happily, slowly killing the ‘nons’. The bus had its hazards, though. There was one girl quietly singing boring songs in tune with her phone, one big guy having an argument with his wife/sister/whoever which lasted for ages… gah.

Met up with my dad outside college. Despite knowing that I had a big bag, he still took the bike instead of the car(-.-). As I expressed my irritation, my ex-econs lecturer walked past, not seeing me- so intent was he on making a chocolate purchase to save his sanity after dealing with a bunch of rabid kids. We stopped off for lunch at a banana leaf rice stall, though I wasn’t hungry. I plonked myself down at a table. There was a girl at the table next to mine, with her parents, I thought. She saw me and said hi. Crap. Someone I’m supposed to know? I said hi to her, and we spoke no more. Dad came with the food, and I took a little. I supposed I would have looked strange (what Malaysian eats so little?) then, what with my already slender frame worn out from an exhausting routine and little food during the final days. Oh well. Who was she? Someone from college? Had to be. But who? They got up to leave, and she said bye. I said bye too, and only moments later, I remembered who she was, though it wasn’t a straight hit: that girl. The one who’s almost always with that tall guy called… Wilson? Winston? William, actually(=.=) Yeah! That girl! Her name? …got it. Much later, though. Amanda. Not surprising, since I’d never talked to her before. My bad. Just 17 days away and I’d started to forget who’s who.

Home at last! Finally, some sleep- not. Went straight to the computer to transfer photos and other menial tasks of the same ilk. Didn’t sleep till late that night. I may actually have broken my ’33 hours without sleep’ record in Genting without knowing it. No rest for me yet, however. After hours and hours of unending work , slaving away on this infernal post, and a word count of 13061(so you better appreciate it), I can finally move on with my life. Uni life, at least…><

A final reward for those who managed to last all the way from top to bottom- the full albums of the trip, every single photo, although the quality isn’t the best. Blame Facebook for that one.

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