Extreme Rocker and Writer Marco Ferrarese's Hardcore Opinions on Living and Traveling Asia

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A travel destination can become home

March 30, 2013 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: Asia, English, Malaysia, Opinions, Rolf Pott's Vagabonding, Travels Visited: No Comments →

Kek Lok Si temple @ Penang – Picture by Kit Chan 2010

Most people passing through Penang do so because of the UNESCO World Heritage status given to this Malaysian tropical island on July 7th, 2008. Few stay more than the couple days needed to breeze through the main sites and have a quick gastronomic tour. Even fewer do not complain about the higher beer prices not found in other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries.

“What do you like about this place? You have been here for so long!”

Once again, the tricky question kicks in. Let’s put it this way: after much vagabonding, a destination can become home. At least, for me it did.

I still remember the awe creeping into my own, cutting its way up from the cobbled tiles into my toes, and devouring me as I was strolling down Lebuh Chulia at sunset: a crimson sun playing hide and seek behind the Kapitan Keling Mosque’s dark domes. Across the street, a swarm of rainbow-colored Indian gods orchestrated the evening pujas of their devotees like master puppeteers, while the simmering noise of Chinese delicacies deep-fried at the back of the next alley was the increasing soundtrack to this fading black and white movie. (more…)

Vagabonding series – Reflections on Hitching a Ride in Asia

March 17, 2013 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: Asia, China, English, Journey to the West, Opinions, Travels, Vagabonding Visited: No Comments →

Chinese police: serving the law and taking me for a ride – picture by Kit Yeng Chan, 2012

Hitching a ride was, is and always will be evoking images of young, reckless, crazy travel. It is for adventurers, because you do not know who will pick you up and when you will arrive at your destination. And it is indeed for adventurous drivers too: our imagination is so full of hideous stories based on this phenomenon that, before you would pick up that random guy standing at the crossroad, you would definitely think twice.

Luckily, this kind of popular culture has not invaded the Asian media as much as the Western ,and seeing a foreigner at the side of the road generally does not ignite serial killer’s thoughts: on the contrary, it is quite easy to be picked up and helped out.
You may think that only someone with a very low civic sense or a very desperate need for money would be thinking of hitching in Asia. Sorry friends, but you are dead wrong: there are many people, surprisingly foreigners and local Asians alike, thumbing at the side of those roads.
Furthermore, in countries with a big exponential growth such as China, where transportation and fuel prices have doubled or tripled since the last decade, buying bus and train tickets to get around can be killer for low budgets. Hitching is on the contrary a great way to travel the extra mile, trying to have a more authentic experience observing what actually happens inside of those Asian cars you do not have to pay for. Sounds strange, isn’t it? Well, it is not, in reality: you just have to try. (more…)

Authentic Asia: find it at the shopping mall

February 22, 2013 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: Asia, English, Opinions, Rolf Pott's Vagabonding, Travels Visited: No Comments →

Recently I have been intrigued by something travel writer Tom Coote said on his website about the quest for authenticity in travel:
The concept of authenticity has largely been appropriated as yet another way to persuade gullible tourists to part with their hard earned cash. If you really want to get to know a country, you would be better off doing what the locals would like to do, rather than visiting pointless tourist attractions, boring museums and tedious ‘cultural events’.”
I can just plainly agree.

He goes on proposing a few “Other things to do” to escape corporate – and local – attempts to part your money from your pockets, and ultimately comments that supermarkets are often infinitely better than the “authentic” markets that, by definition, are created to lure in the tourist. And again, indulge in Mission  Empty Pocket.  I have been thinking for quite a while that what Tom Coote has written is unbelievably true. Especially in Asia.

Asians, of all the peoples in the world I met, seem to be the ones enjoying the globalizing world most than anyone else. Really.  And let’s face it: as much as many Asian countries would look so much better if people wore only traditional dresses, stop and think. Authentic is what REALLY is authentic; the true essence of life. And this essence, around Asia, is to be massively found within the malls’ walls. Flashing lights, Starbuck cafés, high heels, miniskirts and suits and ties. The oxen-pulled carts have been left out for good, although some Western traveler would have definitely loved to see them ply up and around the mall’s moving escalators. To cite the words of my Asian partner: “Why should we love regress, when we can finally have some progress? Should I dress up in rags to make you happy and give you the authentic experience?”. So, I argue that an authentic tour of China, Thailand and India would not be authentically complete if you did not pay at least a visit to these new temples of authenticity. Stroll up and down the aisles, check out some strange products, observe what locals try to fill their carts with. Look at the screaming babies and thumb through the books on offer. Get an insight into their real, modern culture. Join throngs of families looking for the new plasma television experience, or the latest improvement in whipping cream technology. And you would probably feel that those big differences you felt as you arrived are not as huge as you thought. It is a matter of perspectives. Like the one beautiful perspective I am having now, watching people walking inside of the mall from the safe air-condition comfort of a wirelessly powered Starbucks. This is my window of opportunity to the authentic world.

This post was originally published on Rolf Pott’s VAGABLOGGING here

Da Gangnam a Penang: PSY per Barisan National

February 13, 2013 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: Asia, Italiano, Malaysia, Music, Opinions Visited: No Comments →

E come ve lo posso dire senza perdere la faccia di autentico integralista underground: PSY mi e’ piaciuto. Mi era piaciuto anche il suo video, perche’ mi e’ sembrato il primo artista pop asiatico ad avere un po’ di coraggio per fare dell’autocritica sulla propria societa’ consumistica. Anche se si, lo ammetto, e’ un drone. Ma un drone che usa delle vecchiette in un bus nel suo videoclip, mi stimola. Un po’ meno la sua musica, che se chiudo gli occhi ho voglia di buttarmi a mare con un disco dei Roxette e uno degli Europe sottobraccio, tanto sarebbe impossibile emulare lo scempio col mio gesto suicida. Il fattaccio e’ un altro: Barisan National, il partito cattivo cattivo che da 50 anni “governa” – o fa le figurine elettorali – in Malesia, ha invitato PSY a Penang. Perche’? Perche’ a Penang governa l’opposizione… chiudiamo il siparietto politico e concentriamoci sull’evento: PSY era in Brasile prima di venire a Penang. (more…)

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