Archive for the ‘places’ Category

January 20, 2019

Italy – Tuscany / Rome

Though my daughter immensely enjoyed the trip (she especially loved the narrow cobblestone ancient streets of Rome, and the emptiness of winter at Tuscany), I’d rate it less than the trip I did for Japan and even Bali. A few hits and misses,

Hits (like):
Civita di Bagnoregio : It is a small town and perched precariously on top of a hill. Seemed simple but the whole experience of walking across a cliff to an ancient town, is special and memorable. I don’t think this place is going to stand for long and we were glad that we have visited this before it is gone.

San Quirico d’Orcia / Pienza : Serene and quiet towns in the region of Tuscany. The time we visited was beginning of winter, and there were no crowds anywhere. Similarly, a lot of shops were closed and we got the whole place to ourselves. The hike to the countryside in between these towns were epic, and it was one of the happiest moments in the whole trip (we did the galloping along the route to emulate the scene from The Gladiator).

Siena : I didn’t expect myself to enjoy Siena. During the planning, I’d always had the impression that I’m going to like Florence more, because there seemed to be more places of interests there. But I couldn’t had been more wrong. Siena is fucking dope, my friends. It felt different. The streets, the buildings, the view, the people, everything. I had the best pizza in Siena too. I fucking love Siena. It’s my favorite city.

The driving across countryside to Tuscany: The countryside of Italy is like a postcard picture almost the entire journey. Driving at dark would be such a waste (which we did not do, except the early start to Florence, which was still dark when we started). My wife took fuckloads of pictures, and we had an amazing time savoring the unbelievable views from the car.

The churches/basilicas/temples/all the POIs at Rome : Fucking amazing and beautiful, just as expected in all Europe. Everyone will have their favorite, and I got mine. I liked the St Mary in Trastevere and the one at Campidoglio. We’d go into the churches, and sat there for 15 – 20 minutes admiring everything inside. For The Vatican City, one would need the whole day to cover the entire place. We enjoyed the visit to the Colosseum, Capitoline Hill, and the Foro Romano as well (Rome can be both such a great and a shithole at the same time).

Misses (dislike):
No hablo ingles : Italy, despite being one of the most visited country in the world, is not an English friendly nation. Some places are English friendly, but those are the ones that are all out to butcher your wallet because you’re not Italian. However, it’s not hard to figure out Italian, as they use the same Roman alphabets for their language, one can still read and guess what the meaning on the sign is. But still…

The people : Italians aren’t the friendliest people I know. Had to be said. Apart from the driver I’ve contacted and the AirBnB host, we got negative hospitality from basically everyone there. Examples: Got yelled at when I inquired about the Accademia tickets at Florence, got yelled at (in Italian) by a man in military fatigue uniform when I – you got to hear this – put my bag too early on the table for him to check! (bag check to enter a museum). If you’re dealing with people selling shit in a shop, expect them to serve you with a face that looked like they’re dying. We had encounters of a restaurant trying to con us as well. From the airport to the museums, you’d notice that these people aren’t good in the hospitality business and they do not make you feel that you’re welcomed. But anyway, fuck them. Just do enough research/planning prior a trip to Italy, that’s all I want to say. (Italian stray cats, however, are extremely friendly to us. There was a cat whole followed me in Tuscany for quite a while).

The street peddlers around Florence/Rome : Most of these street peddlers are African, and they can be seen all over the fucking place in big cities like Florence and Rome. These fuckers are eyesores to the beautiful streets around Florence/Rome. They’d harass people, they’re annoying as fuck and they could be pickpockets in disguise (we didn’t encounter that though). My wife encountered an incident where she stopped to look for something in her bag, and this nigger came to her to be friendly and shit, and gave her this colored trinket string ‘for free’ he said… as a token of ‘friendship’. When he saw me walked far enough to the front, he started to ask for money from my wife. Terrified, my wife gave him EUR 0.50, and he said it wasn’t enough… so my wife gave him another dollar… and he skedaddled out of there like a rat. Fucking niggers kinda ruined our experience in Florence. In short, you’d not feel safe walking around the streets of either Florence or Rome.

The filthy streets around the big cities : The big cities are fucking filthy, and full of shit. I do mean full of shit, especially in Rome in the morning. I saw turds all over the narrow alley, and I even stepped on one. I do not know if it’s human feces or was it a dog’s but, I’d like to think it’s a dog’s. In the morning, the streets can be dreadful. Garbage and bottles strewn all over the places, and smelled terrible. They said the ghetto was a thing in the past, but I’d say, it’s pretty much the same depending on how you looked at it.

Neutral (meh…) :
Florence : Florence is amazing, no doubt about that. A few of my friends boldly proclaimed that Florence is their favorite city of all Italy. I don’t know about that but for me, Florence is just another big city in Europe that is filthy and too crowded. I enjoyed visiting the landmarks there, but that’s all I can say. I secretly wished that those landmarks weren’t in a shithole like Florence but, that’s just wishful thinking…

The food : The expectation was strong on the food, I have to say, only to be disappointed with mediocrity. Prior the trip, I told a friend of mine who owns a pizzeria that I’m going to find out if his claim of being kosher is valid. I was secretly hoping that his pizza was not as authentic as what he claimed after I’ve sampled some from Italy. But then, I found out that his pizza was actually better than most restaurants in Italy itself. He was ecstatic of course (that bastard). Anyway, to my opinion, food is not a strong point in Italy’s portfolio, despite what people claimed.

michaelooi  | places  | Comments Off
December 20, 2018

Rome, Italy – Itinerary and planning (7 days) – part 2 of 2

*this is the continuation from Part 1

So I returned the rental car on Day 5 to the FCO airport. From FCO, I transferred to the city of Rome and checked into an AirBnB lodging. I had the afternoon left and used it to make some reconnaissance around the narrow cobblestone alleys, and also to pick up some of my Italian shaving supplies. The Day 1 starts the next day (on Day 6 of the whole trip). Here’s the disclaimer for this Rome itinerary:

- Actual travel time took 2 weeks (4 days at Tuscany, 8 days at Rome). You’d need a day to get to Italy by flight, and another to come back. The place is fucking far. Refer to a map. If you choose to go by other means of transportation (other than flying), you’d need to allocate more time.
– Trip was done in mid November, considered winter season by the locals. This season has a relatively short day time. The itinerary takes account on that short daylight and compensates by starting earlier in the morning.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 12-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit 95% of what I’ve planned (with the exception of 1 particular day), with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience both rural and urban Italy. The itinerary involves a lot of walking, with at least 11k steps (up to 21k steps) each day. That’s roughly about 8km – 15km of walking per day. If you have mobility issues, this is not going to work for you.
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go easy by subway/bus, or even rent a fucking car/bike. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info.
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (A lot of churches, including a visit to Vatican City).
– Some of the days are weather dependent, meaning, it cannot be done without a clear/blue-sky weather. You need to proactively check the weather forecast (when it’s within a week away) and shuffle the days around. I actually had to shift a few days around. One of my planned days did not happen and had to be substituted with an impromptu plan.
– I’m going to do something different with this itinerary sharing. Instead of including the time/hours like the actual itinerary, I’m going to just share the locations and let the readers plan it out on their own – as different assholes might have different ideas about spending time, so… why limit it?
– This is just my own planning and shared to give everyone an idea how to make it their own. It is definitely not the best, with individual preference, travel date and financial factors considered. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because you suck or we simply have differences.

*warning: long post ahead…
Read the rest of this entry »

michaelooi  | places  | Comments Off
December 9, 2018

Tuscany (Florence, Siena, Pienza/SQ), Italy – Itinerary and planning (4 days) – part 1 of 2

part 2 here

I found a bargain back in January this year with Qatar Airways to Rome, so I planned for a trip there and just came back a week ago. It was a 2 week excursion (actually 12 days, if you minus out the long traveling time) – 4 days in Tuscany, and 1 week in Rome. My overall expenditure turned out to be lower than going to Japan (not surprising at all). Here’s the itinerary for you bastards who might be interested. Going to split the trip into 2 parts, one for Tuscany and another one for Rome. As usual, the customary disclaimer before you proceed…

– Actual travel time took 2 weeks. You’d need a day to get to Italy by flight, and another to come back. The place is fucking far. Refer to a map. If you choose to go by other means of transportation (other than flying), you’d need to allocate more time.
– Trip was done in mid November, considered winter season by the locals. This season has a relatively short day time. The itinerary takes account on that short daylight and compensates by starting earlier in the morning.
– This is an itinerary post, I’ll do a separate post for what I think about the places I’ve visited.
– This was planned based on 3 pax – my wife, my 12-yo daughter, and myself. I managed to hit 95% of what I’ve planned (with the exception of 1 particular day), with almost perfect timing accuracy. If you’re planning for a group of more than 4, this probably won’t work as well for you.
– The main objective is sightseeing and to experience both rural and urban Italy. The itinerary involves a lot of walking, with at least 11k steps (up to 21k steps) each day. That’s roughly about 8km – 15km of walking per day. If you have mobility issues, this is not going to work for you.
– The itinerary hinges on the assumption that you’d do your own planning/research on public transportation. You can choose to splurge on taxi or go easy by subway/bus, or even rent a fucking car/bike. Doesn’t matter. Just Google around for info. (for the record, the Tuscany part in this itinerary was done with a rental car – which according to me, is the most efficient way to get around between the places).
– If your religion prohibits you from visiting buildings or monuments of other religious faith, this won’t work for you too. (A lot of churches, including a visit to Vatican City).
– Some of the days are weather dependent, meaning, it cannot be done without a clear/blue-sky weather. You need to proactively check the weather forecast (when it’s within a week away) and shuffle the days around. I actually had to shift a few days around. One of my planned days did not happen and had to be substituted with an impromptu plan.
– I’m going to do something different with this itinerary sharing. Instead of including the time/hours like the actual itinerary, I’m going to just share the locations and let the readers plan it out on their own – as different assholes might have different ideas about spending time, so… why limit it?
– This is just my own planning and shared to give everyone an idea how to make it their own. It is definitely not the best, with individual preference, travel date and financial factors considered. If you think there are flaws with my planning, that’s probably because you suck or we simply have differences.

*warning: long post ahead…
Read the rest of this entry »

michaelooi  | places  | Comments Off
September 23, 2018

essential travel packing list

I’ve been traveling enough to have a list of my essential items for travel – which I plan to share here.

Alright, I’m going to split this shit into 2 parts. ‘Must Have’ and ‘Nice to Have’.
Must Have – you’re definitely going to thank me for it. You should not travel without it.
Nice to Have – only some of you might thank me for it. You can still travel without it, but it’s not recommended.
Now, on to the list:
Read the rest of this entry »

michaelooi  | enlightenments, places  | Comments Off
May 1, 2018

Japan – Kyoto / Kawaguchiko / Tokyo

I know this is a long overdue post, but I finally managed to get over my laziness and muster some effort to write about the Japan trip. So what do I think about Japan?

Hits (like):
Kyoto : All my best days in my Japan trip were spent at Kyoto. Mix of city and traditional Japanese landmarks, if you have to choose a week to spend at either Tokyo or Kyoto, go for Kyoto. All the listed places in my itinerary are awesome, but especially worth mentioning would be that Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo-jo castle. Both places are fucking amazing and mind blowing. It is said that Kyoto has shit tonnes of temples so, what I experienced here might be just the tip of what’s more awesome. If I get to choose again, I’d cut out Tokyo to spend more time at Kyoto.

Kawaguchiko : Kawaguchiko (a lake side town) is a great place with killer views too. I was here for Mt Fuji, as it was my lifelong dream of witnessing Mt Fuji from the base with my own eyes (when I saw it from the plane back in year 2000 while en-route to USA). Most people opt for a day trip here, but don’t be like them hippies. Put 2 – 3 days here to roam around, it’s worth the time. There are plenty of places to hike in the vicinity of this town, and they’re mostly outdoor. But there’s also a roller coaster theme park here if that’s your kind of shit (those coasters look quite intense) but this is even more awesome because at every dip and scream, you get to see the majestic Mt Fuji laughing at your ass for being such a pussy. Mt Fuji is just so surreal. (our hotel was just right next to the theme park and full view of Mt Fuji)

Disney Resort at Tokyo : I’m not a fan of Disneyland but I had a blast this round at Tokyo Disney Resort (combination of 2 theme parks – Disneyland and DisneySea). With proper planning this time round and also the blessing for having a very organized crowd, we managed to hit 18 rides in Disneyland and 15 in DisneySea. We spent a total of 13 hours at each park, from dawn till dark. Sure the tickets were expensive but it was well worth spending than at a shittier Tokyo city (which you should give a miss).

Nakamise Dori 仲見世 and Senso-ji Temple 浅草寺 at Tokyo : Both located at the same area. Nakamise Dori is a shopping street teeming with souvenir stores, food stalls and art stands. Starts at Kaminari-Mon, which is a big ass gate, ends at the Senso-Ji Temple – all in 1 stretch of happening road. It reminded me very much of a night market in Taiwan, only that it is much smaller in size and is throughout the entire day. What’s most important is, it doesn’t cost a thing to enter the place and the temple.

Payment machines around Japan : I’m a big fan of its payment machines. You know, you enter the restaurant, instead of having a server waiting for you to check out the menu, you do that at the side before entering the restaurant, make up your damn mind, place the order at the vending machine and the machine spits out your order coupon, then you go get a seat. Server gets the coupon, and you get served. How about that? Very organized and there’s no need for communication (unless necessary at all). It resolves the problem of getting the wrong order and waiters songlap-ing the $$ from cash register.

Misses (dislike):
Tokyo in general : Tokyo in general is a shithole. It’s overcrowded as fuck and if you’re unfortunate enough to hit the public transportation at the peak hour, you’re in for a nightmare. If you’ve seen videos of platform workers stuffing commuters into a jam packed train like sardines, yes it’s all real and I’ve experienced it myself. It was a fucking insane experience. Transportation is also expensive in Tokyo (albeit well established), most of its day-passes are very limited and simply does not worth the value unless one goes to shitloads of places within the same day. I allocated 1 week for Tokyo. Bad call. Tokyo at most, only needs 4 days. 2 of them at Disney Resort (only if one has not been to a Disney theme park). I’d have cut out Tokyo if it wasn’t for Disney (for my daughter).

Entry fees for almost all the places of interests :A lot of the temples require entrance fees or cover charge, and if you’re planning to visit shitloads of them, they could add up. While I understand the need to maintain these places, I can’t fathom why these places can’t be funded through other means? Like sales of trinkets or through donations (oh they have that as well). It makes me feel that visiting Japan is all about money. In Penang, none of our temples inside the UNESCO area require entrance fees. Those POIs that require fees, are usually cheap and they give you a bang for the buck, not like a small parch of shitty rock garden or something like that.

Bus driver duties : Japanese bus driver is equipped with a microphone, and for some fucking strange reasons, he is required to talk to his bus commuters like he’s a DJ or something. Like when there’s an interesting area that he drives past, he’ll go “Hey guys that’s where my friend Tamaukasi lives, he’s still a virgin with a lot of doll pillows” in Japanese. Or maybe something like “This is the last stop guys, better get off the bus if you do not want a wasabi root shoved up your ass”. Gets fucking annoying after a couple of turns.

No hablo ingles : The general Japanese public do not speak English. This is especially inconvenient if you’re in a restaurant with no English menu. Online apps with the camera translation aren’t helping either. Their flawed engine would translate a dish to something like “chicken tits motorbike winter”, or something worse. So most of the time, we’re reduced to sign language. There’s a time when my wife had to sign to the Jap chick at a convenience store to buy ‘menstrual pills’, but somehow it got translated to cigars (for some reasons, my wife didn’t think of using Google translate FROM English to Jap writings).

Neutral (meh…) :
The Japanese people : The Japanese people aren’t as polite/friendly as everyone says (overrated). Well, not the way I like it, I should say. They’re not generally rude, you have to give them that. The only rude encounter I had was at the immigration. The overall Japanese society is apathetic to everyone. They don’t give a fuck about anything, unless they have to… which then they’ll be polite about it. They’re obliged to sound/act polite and it’s very rote. It felt fake, and there’s no feel of sincerity to it. Most of the time, it made me feel uneasy. Fake smile, fake bow, fuck me. I prefer them to be rude but sincere than a fake courtesy. If you want genuine politeness and courtesy, you should check out the Taiwanese. My favorite people on Earth. However, I also have to say that the streets in and around Tokyo/Kyoto/Kawaguchiko look very secure and feels very safe. I haven’t seen any loiterers or vagabonds or people peeing on the streets like what I saw at USA/Germany/Indonesia/China/Malaysia.

Food : I have always liked Japanese food. I don’t know if this is just me but, with the exception of that fantastic Houtou noodles at Kawaguchiko, and some expensive sushi at Tsukiji, the general Japanese food at Japan isn’t any better than the Japanese food at Penang like many said it is. There are good ones in Malaysia that are even better than those at Japan, true story. So, that sort of failed to justify the pricey food there… My wife and daughter are of the same opinion.

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