Weekend break in an Italian style

 

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It was just 3 days. Me and my friend left on a Thursday early morning to arrive to Naples at 10 am. We heard there was no point staying in the city and the best is to leave it immediately. We listened to the advice and went to Sorrento straight away, from the airport. Connection was perfect and the city is lovely. Small, touristic, safe. And if we stayed longer there we would spend a lot of money on sea cruises, beaches, and other attractions this area has to offer 🙂

What is the most surprising is that the public beaches almost do not exist there. In Sorrento there is just a space by the sea with a platform on which you can stay, rent a sunbed and relax, only if you pay for it. And it is not really cheap as about 15 euros for the whole day. If there are 2 of you it makes 30. In my opinion that is quite a lot. You will not find a proper beach open to public for free. That was a bit sad. Anyway I was staying there only 2 nights, so it was not such a big issue. And our schedule was tight. Only 3 days and lots of things to see! We wanted to make the most of our trip! The next day we took a bus that goes from Sorrento to Positano and from there we had a 7h cruise booked 🙂

The views are below:

On a boat there were about 12 people, so the cruise was quite small and seems a bit private one. I could lie on the boat’s hull, enjoy the views and sunbathe.  The captain had for us some Prosecco, some Limoncello and some champagne 😉 A perfect way to spend a day on an Italian coast. And it was worth every penny 🙂 We had a 3h stop in Amalfi – another lovely city on this coast line.

I do admire these bus drivers as the road even from Naples to Sorrento or from Sorrento to Positano is incredibly dangerous in my opinion. My imagination was immediately seeing the bus tumbling into the sea. Well… nothing like that happened, the road seems safe, but when you are on a bus and look through the window just to see a steep slope, your mind can build many strange scenarios of the nearest future 😉 Mine does, fortunately I know it is just my imagination. So really a huge “thank you” for the Italian bus drivers that each day make sure tourists have an opportunity to admire lovely Positano-Amalfi coast 🙂

Naples however disappointed me. Dirty, unsafe city. We did a good job leaving it immediately the moment we arrived. However before our flight back we decided to spend at least half a day there. So we took a train from Sorrento Saturday afternoon and got within 1h to Naples. Hanging out in the center area was nothing special. Another city in an Italian style. Observations we had were two – laundry hanging everywhere and trash crumbling on every corner. It is surprising the city did not stink. And lots of, in my opinion, dangerous men, on the streets. I do not know if these were immigrants or some gang members, however I did not want to stay outside after dark in the city. By 10pm me and my friend went back to our B&B safe and sound.

It is good that finally I saw what the difference is between poor south and rich north of the country. It was not my first time in Italy, but the first one so south. And there is really a big difference. Probably I will never visit Naples again, and if so only to treat it as a quick stop before going further. Or maybe I just do not like crowded places and feel much better in touristic spots like Sorrento, Positano or Amafli? What always makes me wonder in such small towns where each day there are tons of tourists, is locals’ life. What do they do for a living? Where do they work? Is really each of them working either in a hotel, a restaurant or on a boat? What about winter season? How do they manage then? How do they like their life by the coast? Are they happier than people working in big corporations in big European capitals or they want to escape their lives as it is boring and looks the same every day?

I left the south coast of Italy full of positive emotions, lots of thoughts and still a need to come back there to check Vesuvius! I had no time in my schedule to climb it :/ The good news is Italy is quite close to my country, so another weekend break might be just right to come back there and see the Pompeii part as well as the volcano 🙂 That is the plan for the future 🙂

And the food is something I would not want to miss again 😀

Bergen – in Norway

It was just one March weekend break. I left on a Friday and came back on a Monday. Quick trip. A very quiet one with lots of amazing views. I love travelling to countries that make me feel safe, and I admit Norway gave me such a feeling 🙂

When it comes to the weather it was not that cold, anyway one day it was snowing and foggy. In such a northen part of Europe I would never expect a great weather, especially that not even spring season started. What I was told by a friend who has been living there for the past 10 years was that during the summer the tempartues are around 14 degrees. That is not even summer for me :/ Anyway it would be nice to check myself one summer weekend how really Bergen weather is  🙂

As most of us know Scandinavian countries are expensive. I do agree. Well, the truth is it is just food that is so expensive, and it makes me wonder why? As for the tram ticket from Bergen airport to the city center I paid around 5 euros, for a simple lunch I had to pay at least 30. The prices in the restaurants as well as shops surprised me. I thought that 30 euros during my Cote d’Azur trip for lunch or dinner was quite expensive, after visiting Norway I changed my mind and now claim that was not that much 😉 perspective change 🙂 and in the South of France I always had a glass of wine to go with the meal. I did not do it in Bergen, that would probably even double the price. Anyway the food was delicious and I really enjoyed it, but I could spend a fortune there on it.

It was March, winter season, there was still snow in the mountains what made my trip more interesting. The most incredible thing is that Norwegians are so close to nature. I was again couchsurfing and to my surprise a Polish girl hosted me. Her flat was situated in an area that you simply go out from the block of flats, turn right and then turn back and there is a path going into the mountains. We had a nice 1 hour walk to the top of it. Just a perfect Friday afternoon in a deserted mountain area where you can calm yourself down. I love Norway for that 🙂 I even envy them they are sourrounded by such lovely landscapes. For me, in my native country, it requires taking a train and a few hour trip to be so close to the nature as they are.

Bergen is a nice spot if you are interested in the views. You can climb mountains around its area as well as take a boat to see the fiords part. I could not miss that! The trip was 3 hours long and I thought it would be terribly cold there. It was in fact, but the boat inside was perfectly warm, so what I was doing was from time to time getting outside, taking lots of pictures and coming back inside 🙂 see these incredible shots below

The feeling the city gave me was amazing. I felt calm, relaxed, safe and protected. I knew nothing would happen there that would cause me any harm. The trip, even though, was a quick one, will stay on my mind 🙂 and finally I saw myself how Scandinavian countires look like. I have visited mostly all parts of Europe, and now at least a got small portion of its Northen part.

Once I read again some of Jo Nesbo’s books I will perfectly know where the plot takes place 🙂

Couchsurfing Adventure

What really couchsurfing is about and what does it mean to me?

In brief it is hosting strangers or being hosted in somebody else’s house or apartment in a foreign country.  I started using the website and getting to know its community 4 years ago, 2014 to be exact. I tend to host people as I do not travel that much. I am working professionally and am allowed 26 working days off in my country – that gives one and a half month overall. I think it is a lot anyway. Till now I invited to my flat around 70 people from different continents. A lot, I know. And each of them brought something interesting into my life. I do not mean gifts, but emotions 🙂 Some brought just their presence, some their smiles, some their incredible life stories.

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I do not remember each of the person I hosted, however there are some that I still have in mind. Especially my couchsurfing love story that really happened 🙂 I know in some cases people use the website for the sexsurfing. Well… their choices, I know I do not need to agree to such behaviours. My aim when starting using the website was to meet international and open-minded people. And I try to choose only those. When a person sends me a request I do not accept them immediately – I look at the profile, I look at the way the request is written, I look at the pictures of the person and then listen to myself and my intuition whether to accept them or not. In 99% of the cases my intuition was right – I chose people who brought real positive energy into my life. There happened only one that treated my apartment as a hotel :/ Apart from that nothing wrong happened. Really?! Some would ask  – nobody stole anything from your apartment? Nobody hurt you? Nobody cheated you? Well.. NO 🙂 I stick to my opinion about people that they are good, and maybe that is the reason I attract and invite to my life only these. The best is yet to come – I even give them the keys to my flat! Crazy, isn’t it? The times we are living in, when you only hear bad things happening around the globe, there is a Polish girl who hosts strangers and even gives them keys to her flat 🙂 And still nothing bad happened to her! And I am even 100% sure nothing will in the future. First of all, because I choose people I want to host carefully. Second of all, because these who do the couchsurfing are intelligent and respectful. Third of all, because you can learn so many interesting things from them and expand your knowledge about the world without leaving your flat. It just required logical way of thinking and the state of mind allowing yourself to be free.

My love story from couchsurfing was unpredicted and unexpected. You never really know who enters your flat 🙂 So there was this Korean guy that was supposed to stay with me just for 4 nights. And we got on so well that he stayed for 4 months overall. He is not living with me anymore, he has his own plans in life for the time being and he has the right to do so. Who knows, maybe in 10 or 20 years we will be together again? 🙂 The most important is what I learnt back then about relationships. That these can work out, that people can live together without creating negative atmosphere around them, that it is possible to build love between two people if both are trying. I also learnt that if I did not allow myself to feel so, I would have locked myself from such positive emotions and experience. So one day he left, could not stay longer in the Schengen area and had right to continue his life somewhere else. I was not angry at all back then, just a bit sad. I know as a grown up I am the one responsible for the way I feel and my mood depends only on myself. He is not the one to make me feel good. I am just grateful I was able to live what I had with him. And my memories about these 4 months make me smile. We are still in touch, still calling each other from time to time, still caring about each other. Each month he is in a different country, yeah – a real traveler 😉 Previously I was thinking that if you love someone the person has to be right next to you and with you. I now know it is not true. You can love and care about someone who is far away. Anyway I am not waiting for him to come back, I am living my own life as it is, dating others, building relationships with other people and hosting new couchsurfing ones. This Korean guy was just such an amazing and positive story that happened to me unexpectedly during the whole hosting experience. 🙂

 

There are others I still remember. Like a Cuban guy that was on an exchange program in Spain and decided to travel around Europe while being here. I do remember him as I had big doubts before accepting him. First of all he was new on a website, that means he had no references, second of all he was 19 (!!!), third of all he was a man. And I did not really know if I wanted to host such a young guy I knew nothing about and had no idea if he was reliable. I am over 30, so I thought with such a young person I may not have much in common. However I told him honestly about my doubts, and got in return such a sincere response that I decided to accept him. No regrets at all! We spent an evening talking till 3 in the morning about everything! That is the couchsurfing experience I love 🙂 And imagine now he is working in CNN as a journalist. It was a few years ago that we met. He grew up and started his professional career 🙂 We are still connected on Facebook, still in touch, still remembering what we experienced together and still thinking maybe one day in life we will meet again. I would love so 🙂 He is only one of my amazing couchsurfing experiences. There were so much more, but if I wanted to describe all probably the article would be 90 minutes long 🙂

I usually host people. I do not use the website the other way round that often. However I started doing it recently and the experience I got was of course, there was just no other option, incredible! Lovely people I met, as they hosted me, in Portugal, Morocco, Taiwan, South Korea and Norway 🙂 The ones I hosted were: Greek, Finnish, Chinese, Indonesian, Iranian, Syrian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Taiwanese, Angolan, Algerian, Peruvian, Romanian, American, Colombian, British, Egyptian, Canadian, Russian, German, French, Spanish, South Korean, Portuguese, Swiss, Tunisian, Filipino, Australian, Argentinian, Singaporean, Japanese, Mexican, Cuban, Italian, British and even Polish. Now when I look at the list of all of these people it amazes me! What amazes the most are the positive emotions they brought to my life as well as a bit of their culture, their lives, their stories and their freedom 🙂

When I discovered couchsurfing community I thought that in order to get something, you need to give first. So I started from giving, that is hosting. At the beginning I did not really know what to expect and who to expect. As the proverb says – expect the unexpected 😉 With some time I have learnt that when it comes to accepting people there are my rules in my place, however when I am being hosted I need to accept the host’s rules. Fair enough. If you are flexible, chilled out, like meeting new people and while being in a foreign country you prefer to see it through locals, the website is the best place to be.

I am going to continue my couchsurfing adventure. I am going to trust people as I was doing till now. I am grateful to whoever invented it that I have such an amazing possibility to meet foreigners, spend time with them, get to know their life stories, share my observations and sometimes even meet them again in another country 🙂

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A girl in Morocco

Why me, a lonely traveller and a girl, with blue eyes, chose to go to Morocco?
I think I did it to prove myself that a girl can survive in a Muslim country while travelling on her own.
I did so, anyway I have paid a bit of a price as well.
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I spent one week in Morocco beginning of December. The weather was just perfect for sightseeing. Nice and sunny, not too hot. I am not a person who stays only by a beach while travelling as I prefer to see more of a country. During that week I managed to visit Agadir, Marrakesh, and Casablanca. When it comes to transportation between the cities it is totally fine. From Agadir to Marrakesh it was around four hours by bus, bearable for me, especially that the views were totally amazing! Anyway there was no other way to get there, unless you rent a car.
My impression about Agadir, city I started my travel from, is that there is nothing special there. It is becoming more touristic and you can see that from the moment you enter it. Agadir has a good beach and I assume people usually come there to rest. What is good that I noticed is the fact the city is developing. That means more workplaces and more money. Good for them. 🙂 There are also some places, especially by the beach, where even alcohol is served. In many restaurants or bars it is not, however there are some exceptions. I do not really need alcohol when I travel, because holiday for me is not about drinking, anyway living in Europe and having alcohol available on every corner 24 hours a day I easily noticed it is not at all served in Morocco in many places. Anyway I didn’t miss it that much. Just an observation to share.
I spent only one night in Agadir and the next day I took a bus to Marrakesh. That was the only way to get there because there are no trains from Agadir. In the red city, as Marrakesh is called that way, I overall spent three nights. During the first two I was hosted by a Moroccan family and the third one I spent in a riad. I heard a lot about such an accommodation and wanted to try it. Totally recommended 🙂
I can’t say I liked Medina that much. Medina is the city center where you can find lots of different markets with many different products to buy. Unfortunately you get scammed there too as well as you need to bargain each product’s price. And it happened to me I got cheated, well I paid much more for earrings I bought that these were worth it. A disadvantage of being a tourist :/ It was not like overpaying twice, I would say it was paying 50 times more :/ Still I did not pay a fortune, just for a pair of earring worth about 1 euro I paid 50. Stupid me :/  I only found it out when the family that hosted me told me the real value of these earings :/ Good these are beautiful at least 🙂 I can only suggest other travelers not to buy anything in the Medina part. It may occur to be a hard task as everything is so colourful there and markets are right next to each other.
The Medina stinks :/ Another tourist observation. Men are driving their motorcycles in between so many narrow streets, that the fumes are unbearable and were making me throw up in some parts. It was only December, I cannot imagine how terrible it might be during the hottest months! :/
What I also did not like were the market people. So annoying and wanting tips for everything – even giving you direction. Good I had Internet, google maps and did not need anything from them. I need to mention the Internet works perfectly in Morocco 🙂
In the center, however, you can’t walk peacefully without being disturbed and without being asked to buy something. At the beginning I was trying to be polite, even smiling while saying “thank you” and walking away, but I quickly noticed that it is a big mistake. I learnt how to neglect or ignore people in the market part easily. So I stopped saying anything, as for them it was an invitation to a conversation. When I got out from the Medina it got a bit better. There are some travelers who like to be in such crowded places. If you are one of them, you’ll be very happy being disturbed on every corner. I didn’t like it at all. What I really liked and truly enjoyed was the trip I took to the desert that was beginning in Marrakesh. This was just amazing and I can only recommend it! Even though I started it very early, at seven in the morning, with other 16 people in a van, and arrived to the desert only at 6pm, the views I had during this whole trip were incredible!
Sleeping  on a desert was a completely new experience for me. I expected it to be full of sand and thought the wind would be blowing it so heavily I would not be able to move around, not even mentioning riding a camel. It appeared to be totally calm and relaxing with a breathtaking sunrise that was worth waking up at six in the morning just to see it.
I also took the van back very early the next morning and thought I would probably sleep a bit there what I didn’t do, because I quickly realised there’s no point sleeping when there are so amazing views outside the window! Who know when I will be able to admire again such landscapes?!
As usual there had to be adventure 🙂 There are always adventures happening to me when I travel 🙂 What happened this time was the driver forgetting to let me out with the group I was supposed to ride a camel to the camp. So when climbing the camel for the first time in my life, I had to climb it down 5 minutes later and try to guess what was going on. Of course I did not understand their Arabic. Anyway the Berber leaders of the group allowed me to go with them to a certain point and then someone else came and picked me up to continue my way to the right camp. That means climbing a camel for me for the first time happened twice 🙂 I realized some time ago, that when I travel and there are some misunderstandings or other strange things happening, they usually concern me. So the camel&camp situation was not a big surprise. Well, I just was forgotten to be put to the proper camp group. Not a big deal 🙂 They could have left me alone on a desert 😉
The camel I got was just perfect! It made me laugh while it was walking. Being tied to others, it just couldn’t stay in the line! It was supposed to walk straight, with others, but it was still following its own path. As much as the rope allowed it 🙂 I do the same, I always walk my own path, do not care that much about others yet I still feel a bit tied… We created just a perfect team!
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The trip to the desert, apart from being cheap, was really great. I think it cost me 60 euros for 2 full days, including sleeping on a desert, dinner included. What was not included were the tips for the Berbers and lunches both ways. I was surprised by the condition of the tent we had. The running water, the availability of western style toilets as well as showers. Imagine the Internet worked there!!! 🙂 The tent I was staying in was suitable for four people and the one we had dinner in could gather around 60. The Berbers took great care of us, spoke very good English and other languages too, to my surprise. By talking to them I found out they learn everything from tourists and by their own experience. I was amazed by the way they speak foreign languages and behave toward tourists. I know it’s their job, I know they do that every day, however only there I really felt treated with respect. Great memories! The trip was the best I could do in Marrakesh and if I could I would visit the desert again.
When I came back from the trip to the city I chose to stay in riad as I wanted to see how it looks like. I need to say it made a big impression on me – a really typically Arabic place with many colourful carpets in the middle of Medina. The area was calm, to my surprise. The market finishes its working day in the evening and everybody goes to sleep then, so the place that was full of people just a few hours before becomes deserted during the night.
After Marrakesh I took a train to Casablanca where I spent one night only. I did not do a lot of sightseeing first of all because I did not have a lot of time to do so, and second of all because I didn’t feel that safe there. When I travel I like walking a lot and my experience in Morocco is that for a woman, and a lonely traveller it was not such a good idea. I was being disturbed and bothered by guys and unfortunately it also happened that one of them grabbed my ass on a street. Out of the blue. It was early evening, around 9pm. That was too much for me. I know I’m European, I know I am a girl, and I also know I have right to be respected. The guy approached me from behind and allowed himself to enter my territory without asking for permission! I was in Morocco beginning of December, I did a research before going there, I knew I was going to a totally different culture, so I wanted to respect the country and its citizens. I cannot say I was wearing provocative clothes. I had long trousers and a pullover. Yet the guy allowed himself to treat me like an object. Well, that was how I felt that day. It was shocking too. I live in Europe where men will never treat me like that. I know it could’ve been worse, I could have been raped, so it’s good all ended up only with touching my butt. Unfortunately he ruined a bit my trip memories, because I still remember how shocked and shaking I was after this incident. Apart from that nothing worse happened to me, so in fact I can say I did prove to myself that a girl, a European, can travel alone around Morocco.
In Casablanca I met an amazing couchsurfing couple from Brasil that hosted me for one night. I wish I could stay longer with them as meeting Brazilians that are living and working in Morocco and getting to know their life story was a thing 🙂
I cannot say a lot about Casablanca as a city, because I didn’t really see it. I arrived at four in the afternoon, had some dinner and then I went to the hosts’ house where we spent the evening talking till late. The next morning I took a bus back to Agadir and then flew back home. What I can say about Casablanca is that it is called a white city and it really is.
Overall my impression about Morocco is that I don’t want to come back there very soon, probably not at all, and I don’t even want to visit any other Arabic country for the time being. The culture is not the one I like, admire or want to stick to. I was so happy coming back to Europe and I realised I’m incredibly lucky living here, feeling safe on the streets, not being disturbed by anyone and not being treated with disrespect. When it comes to the country itself, its landscapes and what it has to offer is amazing! It has great views, beautiful mountains, good weather, nice beaches, just some people suck. :/ Couchsurfing people were of course incredible! In Marrakesh I was staying with a typical Moroccan family that were lovely and hospitable, and gave me so much love and attention that it makes me smile when I think of them. 🙂 With the mother of the family I could talk for hours as we were exchanging our life experience as well as I learnt a lot about their life in Marrakesh. I know that those who do couchsurfing have a different state of mind than those who only live in one country and are surrounded by one culture. I wanted to see myself how Morocco really is. Looks like reading the blogs and getting prepared for the trip and for the Muslim culture, did not prevent me from meeting an idiot on a street that felt the right to take advantage of me, just because I was a tourist. Before my trip I read so many good things about the country and about its people, that I wanted to have my own opinion. And it is a mixed one. There were good and bad things. Do I recommend it? I only recommend the country, people not that much. I know it is always best to learn yourself. I do not really like southerners that much. Even when it comes to Europe I’m not that keen on Spanish or Italians, as for me they seem to be too loud and too expressing. I like well-balanced people. And I sure I can find them everywhere. So by going to Morocco I only proved myself that visiting southern countries is not my style and I’d better visit Asia. I feel safe there. Gaining such an experience was still great, as now I know I will not travel to a country where I would not feel good. On the other hand I survived, I had an amazing trip to the desert, I saw incredible Atlas mountains and meet lovely international people. What struck me a bit was Moroccans’ French level that is not that good. I speak English and French and thought that because the country was colonised by the French, they would be fluent in it. To my surprise sometimes it was easier to communicate in English.
Last thing about Morocco – not a very surprising one, is that everybody wants money from you. I know in developing countries it is very common. I also found the country quite cheap. I didn’t spend a lot of money on the transportation, hotels, food and the overall trip for seven days, visiting three cities and the flight cost included was around 500 euros. I don’t consider that expensive at all. However I know I overpaid for taxis and souvenirs.
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The most important for me was gaining the experience and my own opinion about one of a Muslim country. Now I know how people behave there, how men treat women and with my observations I was coming back to Europe feeling incredibly grateful I am Polish! As a woman I feel free here, I can do whatever I want, nobody grabs my ass on a street, and no men treat me like a sexual object. That’s also the reason why I travel alone. I do appreciate my life in Poland more! I’m happy I was born in Poland. I’m happy I’m European. I’m happy I am free. I am happy I am such an independent woman 🙂 Who knows who would I be if I was born in Morocco? To that question I do not want to know the answer.

South Korea Love

Why am I so in love with South Korea? And why this country is just incredible?! Is it because of people I met there? Or the landscapes? Or of what it has to offer? Or how amazing it is sightseeing a city that is so modern and in the same time it had so much of ancient culture and architecture? This whole mixture makes it one-of-a-kind. And I’m definately coming  back there, next year, for sure! I’m planning it already 🙂
It is funny how much I fell in love with the country, especially that my trip started in the most terrible way it could have. I was landing at 11 PM, late, I know. Yet I wasn’t afraid of landing that late, because I knew the country is a safe one, so even if it happens I need to wander around in the centre looking for the hotel I booked, or any other place I need to look for in the middle of the night, nothing will happen to me. I didn’t know the biggest problem will happen at the airport! So I landed, got my language, exit the area and then looked for an ATM as I needed money. And then problems start :/  It was already Sunday night, as when I got my baggage, it was around midnight.
It occured there was only one ATM working at the moment as there was some maintenance being done on others. And the only one working there was not giving me money! Thefirst thing I did was to call the bank I have account in, and they said everything was okay from their side – would they say anything else? I went then to the information center and they said there might be some problems because of the maintenance time. I did not want to take the taxi to the hotel as I prefered to take the night bus. I hate paying for things I do not really need. Anyway for the bus I could only pay by cash (that I did not have) or use their trasportation card, that of course I did not have as I just landed in a foreign county :/ I had some money to exchange, but because it was late, all of the currency exchange points were closed.
In the meantime my hotel reservation was cancelled, to my big surprise. I have no idea why booking.com cancelled it just because I did not show in the hotel :/ So once I got such an information by mail (the Wi-Fi works just perfectly at the airport!) I called the hotel, explained my issues and asked if I still can check in probaly around 3 am. They were fine with it. What made me angry and sad was the fact that at the airport there is only ONE (!!!) company providing ATMs service. As the ATM was not giving me money, and it was to others, I asked the information lady if there are some different ATMs around the area. To my surprise the answer was there are none :/ So it is Sunday, midnight, I am in such a well developed country, and I have problems withdrawing money at the airport! What the f*** is that? Can you imagine how surprising that was?!
So I took a taxi, had no other choice apart from staying at the airpot till 5 or 6 am untill the day life begins. I prefered to check in to the hotel, so I asked the driver to pull over near one of the ATMs that I could withdraw the money in a different ATM, and see if it is a problem with the card or there is another one. A different ATM also didn’t give me the money :/ Now this whole situation made me a bit nervous. Anyway,  I started thinking logically, what I always do and try to find a solution. I was able to pay for the taxi by card, I could pay for the hotel by card, so why couldn’t I withdraw the money? So instead of going to sleep I was thinking if I am able to get some money in this so-freaking-well-developped country? And the next day, instead of starting it from sightseeing, I had to figure out how to get the money! Fortunately I found, quite close to the hotel I was staying in, the branch of the bank I have account in and their ATM gave me money 🙂  Thank you Citibank, I love you too 🙂 Thinking in advance, I took a bit more that I needed, just in case, because I was not sure if any of other ATMs would give me money. I did not even want to try them again.
By the time I solved my problems it was already past midday. Finding a locker on the central station was a challenge that day because all of them were booked. So I was wandering around the city with my backpack. Fortunately it was only around 11 kg what wasn’t that bad, just a bit inconvenient. And because of it I was moving a bit slow :/ That day I did not see much of Seoul.
At 8 PM the whole crappy situatuion changed as I met my hosts who appeared to be just amazing! We met in the center, they took me to their flat and I spent a great evening with them. They showed me on the map all of the places worth seeing in the city and they were absolutely right! I need to add they were also incredibly prepared for hosting people. There were so many tour guides in the room they offered me for 2 night I could really choose from 🙂 They occured to be such great people that they will stay in my heart for ever 😉 Because that day I was not able to see much of the Seoul, the next one I woke up early, left the flat at 8:30 in the morning to have the whole day on the sightseeing. So I did 23 km by foot and I’m sure I haven’t even seen half of the city that I fell in love immediately! I can only say: I love, love, love it!
I love the palace I saw, I love the stream in the centre I walked by, I love all of these skyscrapers around, I love the Seoul Tower and its view, I love the markets I went to, I love the village I went to, and I just love every single spot I saw! I even went on one of the bridges as I like admiring a city from their view. And it did not disappoint me 🙂
I need to go back to South Korea, I want to go back there, I want more of the city!
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So even though the beginning of my South Korea trip sucked, with every single day being there I was loving the country even more! I knew if I did not allow bad emotions to stick to me, it will only get better 🙂 and it did!
And I had some lovely stars on the ceiling when I was sleeping! 🙂 Thanks to my hosts, of course 🙂
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They occurred to be the best ones, so welcoming and wanting to share a piece of their life with a stranger, that means me. Meeting such people makes me continue my Couchsurfing adventure and because of them I know the website is the right place for me to be in 🙂  I’m very happy and grateful I had an opportunity to meet people like my lovely Seoul hosts! I know if you are a good person, you only attract good people 🙂 I tested it myself so can guarantee it works 😀
My next destination in South Korea was its second biggest city – Busan. South of the country and by the ocean with a nice beach, and going there by train was only about three hours. Ticket price 50 euros. And what’s funny is that nobody even checked if I had one on the train 🙂 In there I spent only one night, anyhow I managed to do a bit of sightseeing and meet a girl I hosted two years ago! Another Couchsurfing surprise 🙂 That’s amazing there are people staying at your house and then it might happen in the future, that in fact you meet them again. So we just grabbed some coffee and a cake. It was nice to see her again in a different place 🙂
In Busan and by the ocean there is a lovely park I had a walk and a nap 🙂 It happens to me that I take naps in different cities when I travel. I did it already in Rome, Nice, Thessaloniki and probably much more 🙂 The coastal view is incredible! Check it yourself 🙂
Some tips now:
1. In Busan I had no problems finding a locker for my luggage and they were available on every subway station. It costs 5000 won for the whole day. The machine was taking only banknotes of 1.000. Listen now: there was also a machine at the station exchanging you money to 1.000 banknots. How great is that? How thoughtful of Koreans is that? Do I find it in Europe? No way 🙂 How come not loving Korea even just for that? 🙂
2. The transportation card is centralised, so the one I had from Seoul also worked in Busan. I love Asian inventions a lot!!!
3. If it happens you land at night – get some money before heading to South Korea. I could have exchanged some before, yet I thought that in such a developed country I will not have any problems. How foolish of me that was! Lesson learnt 🙂
4. Their English level? Totally fine. And the people are amazingly helpful. Even if they sometimes might struggle with their communication, they will always help you. They did when I got stuck in the subway and the gate did not want to let me go 🙂 It occured that one way ticket was not enough for the trip I did. The same as in Taiwan – the subway charges you for the kilometers you do, so one way tickets may not always be enough.
Summing of the trip, I need to say that these four days were quite intense, surprising, amazing and not enough! I am really planning of coming back to South Korea next year. I want more of it! I want all of it! Next time maybe I will manage to visit Jeju island? Who knows? The plan is ongoing 🙂
Is the country expensive? For me it isn’t. Of course I did not expect it to be cheap. If you compare it to Vietnam, or Thailand or the Philippines it is much more expensive, but still, in my opinion, very affordable.
Something for the girls – the cosmetics they offer are of really great quality and totally inexpensive. My luggage was 11 kg when I was beginning my Asian trip and only because of Korean cosmetics it got into 16 kg 🙂  so the plan for next year is to come back for more cosmetics 😉
And I want to see more of Korea – that’s for sure! For me the country in a mixture of Japanese and American style. It is not that strict as Japanese are, yet well-organized and functioning in order. Plus it has this chilled out American mood. At least that is the feeling I had once being there. And I love such feelings! See you soon Korea 🙂

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Taiwan Round Trip

Why did I choose Taiwan as one of my holiday destinations and why it is worth going there? Because of two Couchsurfing girls that talked about it in such an awe and amazement that I decided I will check myself if they are right. Both were Taiwanese what explains why they wanted to promote their country. I wanted to see if Taiwan, as for me a separate country, is really worth seeing and I would cancel the rest of my trip and stay there for a month, as some people do according to the girls. Well…it is a nice place to visit, but I did not cancel my holiday plans and stayed longer there. Overall I spent 8 in Taiwan during which I managed to do a round trip. The island is about 400km long, what is not really that much.

I started with Taipei, the capital. When I landed the 1st thing for me to do was to get a SIM card and then the transportation one. EasyCard used for the local transport is an amazing invention. You just charge it and then use for subway or buses, not only in Taipei, but also in other cities. Another one I visited was Taizhong, and the card worked there too! At the airport I was also waiting for my friend to arrive, so I had about 4 hours  to figure everything out. Getting a SIM card is a peace of cake 🙂 I am lost without google maps and addicted to Internet, so I need such a card immediately 🙂

The first day in a new place is always kind of getting to know it, so I cannot say I did a lot of sightseeing back then. However the 2nd day was more intense. I was supposed to meet the couchsurfing people who accepted me for 2 nights, only at 9pm. That means I had the whole day of wandering around the city. I left my luggage in a locker at a central station, what was not difficult to use and find a free one. Then I started to walk around the city. When I travel I prefer to walk a lot than use subway, as in such a way I see much more. When you are underground you cannot admire the landscape. Taipei as a capital is well-developed and you can easily move around within it once you get to know how the transportation works. What I mostly love about Asian countries, is that there are so many parks surrounded by the skyscrapers, that it creates an amazing view for me! I just love sitting down on a bench in a park and admire the view around.

That was the 1st sightseeing day around the central station area, Peace Memorial Park, The Chang Kai-Sheka mausoleum, DaAn Park, Taipei 101 building and Tamsui district – north Taipei – a place full of street food, situated by the river with calm and relaxed atmosphere. You can feel you are a bit outside of the city, that is quite busy when you are in the center, as most of the cities are. That day I did 18 km by foot. At 9 pm I met the couchsurfing couple that was supposed to host me and the evening I spent with them was about exchanging life experiences. Like most of people who do couchsurfing, there are interesting human beings and very international as I was hosted by a Serbian guy and his Taiwanese girlfriend. As the guy is European, between me and him there were not a lot of differences. He’s working in Taipei as a programmer and speaks Chinese! That is great! I have never met a European (till that day) that learnt and uses on daily basics Chinese or any other Asian language. Just the thought of learining all of these symbols makes my head spin 😉  In my opinion most of young people now work in IT, and in his case it’s incredible he came all the way from Europe to study Chinese a few years ago, then met his girlfriend and now he is living and working in Taiwan. The only thing he was complaining about was the traffic jam. During the peak hours, in many European cities, especially capitals, you also get it, so not a big deal for me. The evening with them was an interesting one, and exactly what I expect from couchsurfing, as for me this whole concept is not only about free accommodation, but a way to get to know new people with whom I can share my life experience&observations and in return they share theirs. The flat they were living in was quite old with a very interesting architecture, I would say built around  1950s or 1960s.  That’s also another advantage of couchsurfing, as instead of staying in a hotel, I am able to see how normal people live and work in a different country. It’s so great they are willing to share a bit of their life with you and I am grateful I was able to see  Taipei through locals 🙂

The next day, that would be my third day in the capital, I went to Yangmingshan National Park. It is situated a bit north from Taipei, but it only takes just a subway and a bus to get there. Unfortunately it was raining that day, so it ruined my trip a bit. What I noticed about the rain in Taiwan is that when it happens it’s just unpleasant. It was April,  quite  warm, so I cannot say I was terribly cold, couldn’t see anything during my trip and was looking for a place to hide. I knew that probably next time I will not come back to Taiwan that quickly, so I wanted to make the most of it. F*** the rain! 🙂 I said to myself that even though it is raining, I am still sightseeing the park. I went inside, walked around and I did not allow any of the bad weather to ruin my holiday! I had an umbrella anyway 🙂 Yangmingshan National Park is a nice place to visit, and I would call it just a green park that you can relax in from a big city life. There were some waterfalls, lots of amazing paths to walk by and many green areas surrounding it. Morover everything was so beautiful because of the spring season! The rain made its nature even greener than it usually is. I spent there just a few hours as unfortunately it did not stop raining after 10 minutes :/ Yeah, wishful thinking… Waiting for the rain to finish wasn’t a good idea, so I just took a bus down to the city center, where to my surprise, it wasn’t raining. The rest of the day I spent wandering around different Taipei districts.

In the evening I went to see Taipei 101, very popular and one of the highest buildings. The tower is about 500m and when you look at it, it makes an impression of being created from boxes that are put one on another. An amazing building with an impressive view, especially during the evening when it gets dark and you can see how the city looks like with all of its lights on. That day was a bit cloudy, so I could even observe the clouds going through the building. I mean they were literally passing through the building, what also made an incredible impression!

My next stop was Hualien, just about 200 km from Taipei and I chose the city because it was close to another National Park I wanted to see. I managed to find couchsurfing there too, a guy that could host me for two nights. This time the person was a  Taiwanese student, and it was a new experience for me to sleep on a floor, on a mattress that was incredibly thin. Anyway I have to admit finding people who would host me there was very easy and very quick. Was it because I am European? I never really asked hosts why they accepted me. So the next day I woke up very early, because I wanted to get the first bus that goes from Hualien to the national park. It was at seven in the morning. To do so I left the flat around 6 a.m. This is called travelling and not wasting a single minute! 🙂

The bus that goes into the Taroko National Park is very convenient, because it has several stops there and you only need a daily ticket to move within the park. It goes around every hour, what seems to be not that often, but when you are sightseeing all these touristic spots in the park, you find it easy to catch the bus back or to another spot. The only thing that happened during that day was that the bus stopped in the middle of the park. There were some works being done on the rocks. It may happen that not everything goes smoothly when you travel. Sometimes you may get stuck in a place for some time. I knew it was only for my safety, so I didn’t get angry because I’m aware that in such places security and protecting tourists is the most important things. I prefer to be stuck in the bus for about 30 minutes before it moves further, than having a rock fall on my head later on. I am a patient tourist wanting to enjoy my holiday and not rushing anywhere. 🙂 I had the whole day to spend there, and a bit of inconvenience was not a big problem. Unfortunetly I could not say the same about my companion. Anyway the views I had later on made everything up! 🙂

After Hualian, where in the city itself there was not much to see, I went to Kenting. A city totally south. Before writing about Kenting a few more words about Hualien. The city is a good spot if you want to visit the Taroko National Park, and it has a big adventage as the locker is just next to the train station where you can leave your bag for almost the whole day. It does not cost a lot of money, I don’t even remember how much that was, but I remember it was open till 10 PM. So if you arrive in the morning, you can leave the bag there and go sightseeing. I do recommend the park, but as for the city itself it only has to offer an ocean coast. Anyway wandering around is still a good idea.

Kenting now, where there is another National Park, to be more specific – Kenting  National Park. 🙂 I wasn’t even aware that I booked a hotel just next to its entrance. The idea occured to be great, as I am a person that loves walking around and admiring nature. In there I had a national park just around the corner. The hotel was 4 km up the hill from the city centre, however its owners were so kind that they would drive me down whenever I wanted to and pick me up when I wanted to come back. When you spend two nights in one place it means you have one full day for sightseeing.  Mine started from the Kenting National Park, that had to offer lots of lovely landscapes. Some of its spots looked like jungles! Later on, in the afternoon, I went down to the city centre, as it was only 4 km away. I love walking, so I decided not to use the owners to drive me down, but I my own legs. Kenting city centre has several beaches. The weather that day was really nice, sunny, quite hot and there were not a lot of people by the beach, because it still was not a holiday season. I relaxed there, had some lunch and then went back to the beach to watch the sunset. Later on, when the evening started, I walked the main road, admired the night market, street food, and the area full of people where I still felt incredibly safe. In my opinion Kenting is a kind of a holiday spot for Taiwanese. To get there from Hualien wasn’t very easy, because first of all I had to take a train and then change it into a bus in Fangliao. I thought it would take me at least eight hours to get there. It occurred I managed to do so in six, so I cannot say that moving from one place to another in Taiwan takes very long time. For me it was bearable. In my opinion you can easily move from one city to another within this country.

So after spending two nights in Kenting  I took a train north and got into Taichung. My last stop on my Taiwan trip to-see list with another couchsurfing experience. The host was incredible. Even though I was only one night in the city, as the next one I was taking a flight to the Philippines, he spent the whole day with me. And it was on a Monday! I arrived on a Sunday evening and completely did not expect my host to take a day off in order to hang around in the city with me. However he did. 🙂 In that case I did not have to put much effort into checking what to see in Taichung, because I already had a guide and this guide took me to a lovely and colourful village, and later on to the Gaomei Wetlands that I just loved from the beginning and they made a huge impression on me. There, for the first time, I saw so many crabs! What was also amazing was the fact that you could take a walk in the wetlands. Next to all these crabs, if you wanted to. It is a pity I did not manage to see the sunset there :/ Maybe next time? My host also took me to a place where you could eat really good and cheap. That is why, if you see a city through a local’s eyes, you get to know much more about it. And you experience tasty food 🙂

And that was it. The same night I was taking a flight to the Philippines.

My overall impression about Taiwan is that it is very easy to move around there. The lockers are everywhere, so you can store your bag whatever you need to and just go sightseeing. I found them usually in subways and train stations. The biggest problem I had was finding bins in the cities, so the garbage I was usually keeping with me, in my small backpack. I did not want to throw it on a street as some Taiwanese do. Then I was either asking people in the shops to throw it away or taking it to the hotels/hosts. I found some trash bins at the stations, but cannot say that was enough. I am used to having bins every corner. Thank you Europe 🙂

Another thing I noticed was that buildings are very dirty.  I would say they were built around 1950s, but looks like nobody ever renovated them and nobody cares. The dirt for sure comes from the dust or pollution around, but when it comes to the air I can’t say that you found it difficult to breathe in Taiwan or that cities are so polluted you have to wear a special mask. I didn’t observe anything like that.

What is very important, or even the most important to me, is that I felt incredibly safe. People were so helpful and kind, even though their English is not that good, that I could stay there. 🙂 It is amazing how well-developed the country is. I liked it very much, especially the EasyCard that you use not only in Taipei, but also in other cities. Such a card is centralised, and you do not need to figure out how to buy bus tickets or subway ones again in another city, as the card you already have works there. I really would like to have such an option within the country I live in. Who knows, now there is Schengen area that I just love, so maybe one day there will be Schengen transportation card? 🙂 I would love the idea 😀 I support all inventions that make people’s life easier!

When it comes to some surprises or something that could ruin my trip I wouldn’t say there was a lot. I could only mention the rain in the Yangmingshan National Park, what was a bit annoying, but I have no influence over the weather, and one day of rain really isn’t something that will make me feel sad or angry. Second thing that happened to me was a lady who gave wrong information. I know she didn’t do it on purpose. It was when I was going from Hualien to Kenting. She sold me two train tickets and said to change the train. What was interesting and funny about the second train ticket, was that the train number was the same on both. Time for a change was only about three minutes. Anyway I got off at the station she told me to, came up to conductor to figure out the second ticket and ask about the second part of my trip. To my surprise he said that the train I was supposed to take just left. I quickly realized I should have never left the train from the beginning of my trip. My lesson to be learnt – to listen more to myself and instead of guessing just ask over and over again till I get rid of all of my doubts. What was good in this situation, was that I did not have to buy another train ticket for the next train going to my destination. Conductor allowed me to take the next train using the ticket I already had. In Europe they would tell you to buy a new one :/  And the second good thing was that the next train was within one hour. That means I did not have to wait long to reach my destination. It could have been bad, there could be only one train a day going to the place I wanted to go! And that’s all I could mention that did not go according to my plan. So really, nothing 🙂

Is the country expensive? That is a question very often asked by the travellers. For me it was not. Out of 8 nights I spent in Taiwan, 5 were couchsurfing, what means not paying for accommodation and in the same making my trip less expensive. Hotels cost me around 20 euros per night (breakfast included). When it comes to food, I would say for 10 euros you can eat a good dinner or lunch. When it comes to transportation, trains that I was taking to move from one city to another were about 10 to 15 euros for a distance of 200-300 km. Subway in Taipei and busses in Taichung depend on a distance you make. In Taichung if you move around within 10km it is even free!

So looking at how much time I spent there and what did not go according to my plan, I need to say everything went really smoothly in Taiwan. Is it easy to use its transportation, easy to get to information if you don’t allow any misunderstandings to happen, 😉 easy to find yourself when you’re lost, and very easy to do a round trip around Taiwan within 8 days. In my opinion everything is easy there, as their EasyCard is 🙂