Why will I never be scared of a Muslim just because they’re muslim?

When I landed in Indonesia in the beginning of May, I had absolutely no clue about what to expect of this country of thousand islands. I had no plan, I had no contacts, the only thing I knew was that I was gonna teach English for a bit and also that it has the largest Muslim population in the world. So why did I go for it just like that, wasn’t scared at all and actually were looking forward to it?

Just like a lot of people, I had visited a „muslim“ country before. Unlike them though, I didn’t choose to travel to such a country just because it is cheap, it’s always hot in there and because „the neighbours went there last summer so why shouldn’t I as well?“. I’m not one of those people who give zero fucks about the country’s culture and life in general, nope. I’m not such a hypocrite who would pay for a five star hotel to be served by the people who, the minute they cross Europe’s border, become „our enemies“.

Even though I visited Egypt more than a year before the whole I’MON da road idea, I didn’t want to get to know this country that way. And I didn’t. Thanks to my best friend who is Egyptian. Yes, he is a Muslim, yes, I even have his name proudly tattoeed on my leg and yes, he knows everything about me, including the fact I’m a lesbian. And guess what, he’s never, not even once, killed me. I spent two amazing weeks with him, somewhere in the middle of pretty much nowhere, totally surrounded by muslims and only muslims and I’m really glad for this experience because even back then, I could make my own opinion about all this.

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Now, this may be hard to take for some people but I think, they really are one of the kindest and most-hospitable people on Earth. And that was one of the reasons I was so happy to cross another muslim-country border and once again, I was proven right. I lived in a muslim family (that I didn’t know until I got there) for just over a week and then completely spontaneously, without any plan and company, decided to hitchhike all over the island of Java which took me about two weeks of my life and added another 1200 km or so on top of my hitch-score.

I didn’t see a white person for three weeks, almost no one spoke any English, communication was very exhausting on both sides, I very often didn’t know where I was gonna stay at night but guess what! Thanks to them, their hospitability and will to help, I got through all this by myself, as a solo girl with her super heavy backpack.

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It happened to me many times that I was just wandering around an unknown town after the sunset, a bit lost and very desperate to find a place to crash yet very dirty, smelly, easy to kidnap/rape but never did I have any experience in which a person wearing a hijab would want to blow themself and the ones around them up. Surprisingly, it was the complete opposite. They nearly killed each other when they were arguing about who’s gonna accommodate me. I know this sounds a bit weird but they kinda all wanted me to stay with them, to feed me, to play with their kids and on the other hand, they never wanted to let me go and stick my thumb up the next day because they were worried something could happen to me. Those are the true Muslims. Those are the Muslims who follow the Quran and are not affected by any stupid political situation caused by a third party. I have visited a few more so-called muslim countries including Malaysia, Borneo, Turkey and some Balkan countries and even though I was in really deep shit a few times, the thought of blaming Islam for it never even crossed my mind, no I always put myself into these shituations and I can only blame myself for my stupidity.

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I wish people started to use their own brains and finally realised that what happened for example in Paris, didn’t happen because someone was a Muslim but simply because there was something seriously wrong in their heads. Of course it is absolutely horrifying and unacceptable but look at the reaction of the world. We should all realise that we can’t fight violence with more violence. It’s like fucking for virginity.

Yes, I realise that those terrorists were Islamists but I know that a real Muslim could not do such an act as their belief wouldn’t allow them to do so. Not everyone who wears „muslim clothes“ is a killer and vice versa. I feel really sad about the fact that many people are so manipulated by all the media bullshit. The other day, I read an interview in my home-town newspaper with a local girl who decided to do a little research. She put on muslim clothes and a hijab and decided to walk around Czech towns to see people’s reactions. As predicted, they were priceless (add a bit more sarcasm into it and there you go). I was so ashamed to even read about the results. Do you really think that someone wearing a „scarf“ around their head is some sort of a threat to all of us?

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The worst thing about all this though is the fact that the most critical and negative people are those who only leave the comfort of their house once a year to go on summer vacation and spend the rest of the year in front of their telly getting more and more brainwashed. Do you know the little phrase – don’t judge a book by its cover? People, please wake up and start to respect and treat each other how every one of us deserves to be respected and treated and stop judging people by their religion, clothes, sexuality, etc. I don’t see a reason why we should treat someone bad without any particular reason, just because they’re „different“. I was very different to everyone many times and no one has ever turned their back at me…

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10 LESSONS I LEARNT WHILE BACKPACKING AROUND SE ASIA

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Unfortunately, my days in SE Asia have come to an end but I bet there are many of you, fellow backpackers, who are about to hit the road towards this amazing part of the world. To enjoy your time spent over there a bit more, read about the lessons I learnt during my three month stay and don’t make the same mistakes as me 🙂

1) If a local says: „Be careful, it’s spicy“, immediately leave everything behind and get the hell outta there. Seriously, I’m a chef so I always wanna taste everything and I hardly ever listen to any advice so many times I put myself in a very hot and spicy situation that I ended up regreting for a few hours afterwards. Especially don’t enter a 10m radius around a chilli pepper smaller than 1 cm. Unless you’re into masochism, then it’s fine.

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2) Always carry some toilet paper or tissues with you. Even though you are in a nice city and that toilet you’re heading to doesn’t look bad at all, you will be guaranteed not to find a piece of anything to wipe the most precious parts of your body with.

3) Don’t think too much about all the „drive safely“ videos you watched back home while you‘re on a bus in SE Asia. Just make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and imagine the driver has some magical powers that will always prevent him from crashing. Yes, sometimes it is really and I mean REALLY bad. I caught myself thinking about getting off the bus in a few situations too. But nah, I had to overcome that fear and in the end it just felt like a very cheap ride on one of the craziest attractions in Thorpe Park. See, I’m still alive!

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4) You’re used to eating in nice restaurants with beautiful looking food and good service? Yeah, so was I. It was really difficult for me to watch the cooks follow not a single hygienic regulation. Yup, that raw chicken has been casually chilling there on straight sunshine for the whole day. But trust me, go for it. I don’t know how they do it but the cheaper the food is, the better it tastes. Just make sure you follow number 2.

5) You can talk to anyone about anything and no one judges you.  This was a tough one for me as I came to SE Asia completely fucked in my head with many secrets that I could only talk about to like 2 people back in London. Even though you only just met that cool guy in the hostel 20 minutes ago, the casual conversation about which countries you’ve visited will soon become boring and people crave hearing different stories as well as they want to talk about their problems to a complete stranger. People will give you various opinions that’ll help you get through difficult times. In the end, the chance you will ever see them again is very small.

6) Everyone has a shit story. And I don’t mean a very bad story, I mean it literally. Everytime I drank with fellow travellers, our conversation led to shit stories. A backpacker I met in Thailand told me: „You ain’t a proper traveller until you have your own shit story.“ This is also very often connected with point 2 and 4 but some people have the craziest stories ever. Once I met a girl that had just hiked Mt. Bromo in Indonesia and badly needed to take a dump while having breakfast at a local’s place. There was no toilet in the „bathroom“ and she didn’t know what to do with the product once she relieved herself to the bathroom floor (which the locals normally do) so she ended up wrapping it in a ton of TP, put it in her pocket and carried it away with her. I know, disgusting right? But imagine yourself completely drunk and listening to the whole story. Unforgettable. Luckily, she followed rule number 2 🙂

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7) Oh, you lost a T-Shirt or a pair of boxers while it was being washed in the laundry? I’ll be honest with you, you will never see it again. But wait, the good karma comes around and soon you’ll end up having someone else’s underwear in your surprise-bag of clothes you pick up from the laundry.

8) Be patient. I used to be probably one of the most impatient people on the planet until I travelled around Indonesia and found out that time doesn’t matter. Did uncle Google tell you that that 100km long journey should take about 1 and a half hour? Always multiply it by three. The bus driver will need to stop a few times to have a cigarette (if he doesn’t smoke on the bus), use the toilet (hope he doesn’t do that on the bus too), get something to eat, get more fuel, talk to his fellow bus drivers, etc. You will get to your destination eventually. Just be patient. And when he hits the road, make sure you follow number 3 🙂

9) Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track. That’s where the true tresure is, that’s why you travel. People are normally very willing to help you, sometimes even invite you for lunch or let you stay at their place overnight, especially if you travel solo. When I was in Indonesia, I didn’t see a white person for 18 days and I can honestly say that it was my best backpacking experience so far. Even though three times I saw a guy masturbating when I walked past them in a random town (I know, can’t really blame them, hard to resist haha), it never put me off. Weirdos are everywhere in the world, just make sure you don’t make an eye contact with them.

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10) You will master the art of improvising. This especially applies, if you follow number 9. Once I nearly got raped (yeah, still didn’t convince me to act like a tourist though, yuck) and ended up walking in the middle of nowhere for 7 km with no water, no food and no cigarettes until it got better and made plan A. I know, people normally make B plans in such situations but since I normally have no plan at all, a very simple plan was needed. You will become very creative if you’re about to miss your flight or don’t have any clean clothes left too. Just do not panic. Everything has a solution. Unless you didn’t follow number 2.

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KOH LANTA, paradise on Earth

Even though Mario and I travelled down south during the water festival (Songkran) which is the busiest period in Thailand, we were lucky enough to get a ticket for an overnight bus leaving the same day as we left the farm. The fourteen hours long journey wasn’t bad at all except when I woke up totally soaking wet at 3am.

„Oh my god, I pissed myself,“ was my first thought because I’d been trying to avoid using the bus toilet for as long as possible and I’d really drunk a lot of water so it wouldn’t surprise me at all (not that it happens to me all the time haha). „Luckily“, I was wrong because when I looked out from the window, I saw it was pissing it down and the hole in the roof explained everything 🙂 The steward moved me to another seat and gave me a dry blanket so I could keep dreaming about finally getting into our destination – Krabi.

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A few people told us about two beaches we should definitely check out – Railay and Ton Sai – so we decided to go there first. There is no road connection between Krabi and Railay but it only took us about 15 minutes to get there by long tail boat and another 15 minutes to figure out it’s way off our really low budget to stay there so we moved to Ton Sai straight away.

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The minute we got there, I started to regret that I’d left all my climbing gear back in the UK because it was a climbing paradise! We managed to get a really cheap bungalow but we knew we wouldn’t wanna stay for longer than one night because apart from climbing and getting high in a little jungle village, there was absolutely nothing to do.

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We had a few beers in the evening though, met a lot of travellers and played pool on a table that was as straight as me. First thing in the morning, we said hi to our changover and off to the most beautiful island Koh Lanta (that’s what they say) we went. And yep, it was exactly the place we were dreaming of. Beautiful white sandy beaches, almost no backpackers and a lot of pretty girls. After about an hour of searching for the perfect place to stay, we were almost at the point of giving up when we saw the most amazing resort ever.

„800 Baht (16 pounds) per night,“ told us this lovely Thai woman and we knew that if we get into the right negotiating mode, we’ll get there.

„600?“, we were trying.

„No, 800 Baht,“ she wouldn’t give up.

„500 with no air con?“, asked the smartest guy on the planet – Mario.

„Alright, deal,“ yeaaaah, we got it!!!

Yeah, we managed to get a really spacious bungalow with a nice clean bathroom, fridge, safe, terrace (and free coffee and water) for only 10pounds a night. And what’s more, it was only a 20 second walk to the most beautiful beach in Koh Lanta from there.

Of course we had to check out all the bars and bar girls on our first night. Pia (our fellow volunteer from the farm) was staying on Koh Lanta too so  she came down to see us and yep, as predicted, Mon got so drunk that she even decided to get high (I know, call me a retardo). Yeaaah, I knew the consequences but sitting there in a hammock in the rooftop bar overlooking the sea and stars so close to me I could almost touch them just seemed like a perfect opportunity to do something stupid. At least I had a chance to catch up with my blogging the next day which I spent all in the bed complaining about dying of changover 🙂

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The sunsets on Koh Lanta were absolutely stunning. I realised that I’d actually never watched the sun set over the sea until then and it felt just awesome. When the darkness covered the sky, the sea turned into something you can’t just describe by simple words. That night I spent good three hours just sitting on the shore watching the waves. Every single one of them left a trace of shining blue lining all over the beach when it brought thousands pieces of little plankton. Unfortunately, this perfect moment was ruined by a cat (yeah, again) choking on a live chicken that she’d eaten so I called it a night 😀

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It was about time to overcome my fear of motorbikes too so Mario and I rented two of them and went off to explore the beautiful island. Believe it or not, I didn’t even scratch it 🙂 We drove down to the most southern point of Koh Lanta – into its national park. Mario, the much more experienced and excited photographer, was blown away by the first lighthouse he’d ever seen, however I managed to convince him (he only lives once) to go for a 2km long hike through the jungle with me which I soon regreted.

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We were going about half a metre tall stairs up a very steep hill, met a few monkeys that tried to get hold of anything that wasn’t tied to us and thanks to Mario’s fear of snakes, I (as a proper adventurer) offered to go first when he saw one casually crossing his path and because of that I had the chance to see a fucking dragon! Yeah, I was one of the lucky people to have seen a very rare flying lizard so from now on I only expect you to call me Khaleesi 🙂

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Before we left Koh Lanta (after having spent 6 days there), I managed to rip both of my feet open because walking bare foot became my favourite activity (Thai way) and it is also much better to hit the road like that 🙂 I’m quite glad Mario realises he only lives once so he decided to join me for  what appeared to be the most epic road trip ever – hitchhiking in Thailand 🙂

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LET THE LONG RIDE BEGIN!

I’d normally say that it must be an April fool joke to be woken up by my alarm at half three in the morning but on this year’s 1st April I didn’t really mind at all. I didn’t get much sleep anyway with all the butterflies in my tummy. Last time I felt like this was before I left my home country for the UK and it’s really been a while since then. I quickly picked up the last few things left in my room and stuffed them in my backpack, finished eating my last brownie (oooh, if you knew how much I’ll miss you) and before I noticed, the boys and I were loading into Andy’s car. We got to Heathrow quite early so I treated the boys to a nice coffee for sacrifising their sleep to spend a few extra hours with Mon 🙂

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Check-in, printing my boarding passes and last hugs with my bestest bodyguards and friends aka Mariusz, Poli, Darek and Andy. Of course I couldn’t take it and I cried like a little baby. I will miss you, guys. And then it all went smooth. It was a big coincidence that one of my friends Luke was also traveling to Bangkok for a couple of days so at least I had someone to get through the two hour delay with.

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This is it, England. Good bye and thank you big time for everything! If it wasn’t for you, I have no idea where I would be right now. Don’t know what the chances are but it happened so that the plane I was on flew right above my home-town in the Czech republic. Shame I didn’t know it beforehand, I could’ve told my mum to wave 🙂

The journey was extremely tiring but the movie selection didn’t allow me to sleep at all. Damn, I could’ve slept while they were serving the most horrible lunch in the history of plane meals. Luckily, I had a bag of salt and vinegar crisps in my bag 🙂

We got to Mumbai airport around midnight and had about an hour to go through all the security checks. I can say that I’m quite an experienced traveler but one of them seriously scared the shit out of me. This Indian woman looked like she just escaped prison, her arms pumped up with steroids would easily destroy any Terminator that crosses her path and it was clear that she hasn’t shown any sort of emotions on her face for at least half a century as she had literally no wrinkles. There is nothing I love more than being pushed against a wall and touched by a hot girl but in that little room she invited me into, I seriously thought I was only going to become the next victim of Indian rape. Luckily, she didn’t find what she was looking for (thank god that my boobs decided not to grow anymore at the age of 12!!!) so I could almost miss my flight to Bangkok.

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I finally set my foot on Thai land at 7.35am after a five hour flight that made you feel like you’re on one of the attractions in Thorpe Park. I got my one month Thai visa and me and another three backpackers got a taxi straight to the famous Khao San road. Even though everything and everyone was still asleep, the temperature was already higher than me on a standard day in college, wifi didn’t work anywhere and I couldn’t check in to my hostel until noon. Luke and I decided to get our first Thai curry then (god, that was hot) and after a couple of hours I was taking the nicest little (three-hour-long) nap in my life.

DSCF0228It was a whole different world in the town centre in the evening though. I got a decent dinner for about 80p but I was also really tempted to try something proper authentic that was being sold on every corner. After about 15 minutes of constantly saying „shiiiit, I don’t think I can do it“ and „fuck it, you only live once, right?“ I decided to eat not just one but two massive grasshoppers and let me tell you something – they tasted pretty damn good! 🙂

Before I went to bed I spent about half an hour trying to figure out how to get to west Thailand the next day where I was about to start volunteering at a farm and then I only remember falling asleep while listening to the magical sound of electric fans in my room and counting the cockroaches on the floor 🙂