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

Archive for the ‘Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding’

Possessed by guidebooks: how to exorcise yourself

April 21, 2013 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: English, Opinions, Rolf Pott's Vagabonding, Vagabonding Visited: No Comments →

Travel scientists have unearthed that a human subspecies called backpacker, or traveller, has been observed across many of the furthest flung corners of the globe reading guidebooks more than interacting with locals.

“So do you want to come with me for breakfast?”
“Sure! “
“Any preferences? I saw a street stall at the corner selling what looks like an awesome fruit salad”
“Well… actually, if you look here at page 267, the guidebook mentions this place… I’m sorry, we have to eat there.”
“Well… because it’s in the guidebook!!”

If there was a Travel Exorcist, dear guidebook, its power would compel you; because you can be the reason why such a conversation has become a standard among travel circles.  I am sure that, whether you are born a Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Footprints, Moon, Bradt or any other, you and the authors and editors who put your attractive paragraphs together are not the only ones to blame. (more…)

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…)

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

Marco Polo Encounters, or vagabonding off the beaten trail

December 27, 2012 By: Marco Ferrarese Category: English, Opinions, Rolf Pott's Vagabonding Visited: No Comments →

village life in Bangladesh – Picture by Kit Chan, 2012

During my recent adventures in the Indian Subcontinent, I tried to steer off the beaten tourist trail as much as I could. Thanks to some contacts and friendships I cultivated in other parts of the world – very often a great key for successful connections in other places – I was fortunate enough to venture well far off the beaten path, in places so small that not even a detailed map would carry their names tagged somewhere in microscopic scripts.

Being one of the first foreigners coming to a far flung destination is definitely a great experience, one of those you would write off your book of memories as an anthropological quest, or, as I fondly call, a Marco Polo Experience: a case when, like my Venetian ancestor, your visit and yourself function as a cultural representation of the outside world, an important link between a community and their stereotypical – or plain false- ideas of the outsiders.
After a few forays into the deep backwaters of Bangladesh’s unknownia, I feel like sharing a few tips to maximize your –and your hosts’- experience during one of those rare Marco Polo encounters… (more…)

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