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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HITCHHIKING FROM TURKEY TO IRELAND – SUMMER 2015

I know I’ve just spent 3 months travelling around SE Asia on a very low budget which wasn’t exactly easy but I’m craving even more adventure. Luckily, I know myself pretty well and I knew that I wouldn’t want to go straight back to the UK after these three amazing months so when I was booking flight tickets, I only booked one to the very edge of Europe – Istanbul. I didn’t know why, it just felt right to be back in Europe but still quite far away from my „home“ in London.

This whole idea came to me a bit later but the closer it gets, the more excited I am about it. I have decided to hitchhike all the way up from Istanbul, Turkey to Dublin, Ireland. I have my personal mission of not spending a single penny on transport between these countries. By doing this I would like to encourage more people to travel and see the world even though they don’t earn thousands of pounds. I don’t have a set plan apart from one czechpoint in Croatia (7th-12th August) when my friends from England are coming to meet me and I will most likely be unconscious 😛 Also, I need to earn some money as the balance on my bank account is very close to zero and unfortunately, being a chef means that I simply can’t resist eating all the nice food all the time 😉 I will either find a job as a chef for a couple of weeks or Busky (my diabolo) and I will do some street performance that’ll hopefully get us through the hardest times.

I also met a lot of cool people while travelling around SE Asia and I’d like to visit them as well as meet my fellow bloggers and travellers around Europe. (Yup, Mario, Pia, Andy, Ajay, Skinny Chick Travelling, We Are Wanderers, Travelstache and Travel Junkies, you have something to look forward to) 🙂

This is a rough plan of my journey but everything can change and I’m open to new ideas

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I’d like to manage to do all this in 100 days spot on and then return to my amazing old job in London to earn some cash for my future travels.

If you think you have what it takes, you’re willing to wild camp, couchsurf, eat cheap food and go off the beaten track, get in touch with me and join me!

If you live in a country I want to visit and you want to show me around your town or just say hello to me, let me know too 🙂

And if you feel pretty comfortable staying at home or don’t have an opportunity to travel, just keep your eyes peeled for all the updates, pictures and stories that’ll be shared on my page.

I know it won’t be easy, in fact I’m a bit scared but I always say: „If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.“

See you in Europe on 1st July!!!

HITCH…what around Thailand?

You can’t even imagine how many times this famous quote from my high school (can’t really translate it properly but it’s something like „even though it’ll take longer, the journey will be very bad“)  crossed my mind during those 36 hours I spent travelling around places that not only did I not know, I wasn’t even able to pronounce them properly.

Even though Mario was a little bit limited by time as he had to get his ass back to Bangkok the next day to pick up his Indian visa and even though the only thing I managed to Google about hitchhiking in Thailand was that Thai language doesn’t even have a word for hitchhiking, we decided to do it anyway and left Koh Lanta for Trang (which is about an hour away) very early in the morning in the most packed minivan ever. We were brought into Thai reality once again, when we forgot to multiply the given time information by three so we were glad that we got dropped off at the Trang bus station at noon. We’d been on da road for four hours only but even walking from one end of the town to the other in the 40 degrees heat with backpacks heavier than what we were physically able to carry was a real challenge for us.

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Luckily, we became Trang’s biggest attraction and a random driver stopped and offered us a ride for a few miles. We found the cleanest restaurant we’d both seen in this part of the world, quickly ate a 1 dollar lunch because we weren’t sure when (and if) this opportunity comes again and started walking towards what looked like the highway to the north. We found the perfect hitching spot after only a few minutes so we dropped our backpacks on the ground, raised our thumbs and after about an hour of waiting while hundreds of passing cars were honking at us, waving at us or taking pictures of us, a guy from a shop nearby approached us and offered us a ride to the bus or train station.

„Oh thank you but we don’t wanna go to the station.“

„Taxi?“

„We don’t have a lot of money, we are trying to get a free ride.“

„I give you money, train from Trang to Bangkok?“

„Awww, thank you but we don’t want your money, we just want a free ride, we do this because we enjoy it. We’ll wait, someone will stop sooner or later, thank you.“

„Trang station? Bus? Train? Money for you!“

Oh fuck, this was gonna be harder than we‘d thought. After about half an hour of trying to explain what we were doing there and what we wanted, he came back with a very useful information that his cousin and nephew could take us for a bit with them as they were about to head to the north too. „For a bit“ is also very underrated in Thailand so after about 100 miles, when we got closer to a town we knew from the map, we asked him to just drop us off on the motorway as he was determined to take us to the train station which was somewhere we didn’t want to end up at.

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Awesome, the sign by the motorway said that it was only 100 miles to Surat Thani – a town where Mario was gonna take a train to Bangkok from. It was only quater past four and the sun was still out so no problemo at all. As soon as we said it though, it started to piss it down so heavily that we had to hide in a very random furniture shop. We were soaking wet but at least we were more motivated to make another move. We bought some food, water and cigarettes in the garage, wrote Surat Thani on a piece of paper, raised our thumbs and for the next half an hour posed for all the passing cars taking pictures of us like we were some monkeys in the zoo 🙂

We didn’t even notice that a massive truck stopped behind us. I started to run towards it when the driver shouted at me. After a few phone calls with his friend who could speak a bit better English and trying to show him on the map where we needed to get to, he agreed to take us as he was going the same way. Just when we thought that everything’s cool and we were really going to make it to Surat Thani before night time, the driver took advantage of a gap in the concrete blocks placed on the motorway between norhern and southern way, took a U-turn and we had no idea about what was going on. Mario and I didn’t say a word, we only exchanged a few where-the-fuck-are-we-going looks and hoped for the best. The highlight was when the driver found an „English for beginners“ book and tried to find the perfect phrase to break the ice while driving through the mountains on a very narrow road. While the driver was studying English very hard, he also managed to roll and smoke three cigarettes, drink two energy drinks, make two phone calls, play tetris on his phone and spread tiger balm all over his back to finally point to the sentence that was guaranteed to make a fluent conversation.

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„Is this your first visit in Thailand?“, I read out loud for him and Mario and I nodded. That was the end of it as it got dark and none of us was able to read that magical book anymore. We still weren’t quite sure where we were going to but luckily straight after we’d seen the sea (!!!), the gps on my phone woke up. Even though it wasn’t the plan (not that we had one anyway), we managed to get from the West coast (Koh Lanta) to the East coast in one day, yay! 🙂

The driver stopped at the petrol station after about three hours of driving and told us it wasn’t too far to Surat Thani but he was heading a different way. 70 fucking miles!!! That was the number we saw on the sign nearby! It was dark everywhere and there were hardly any cars around. The situation didn’t look great as we already knew how difficult it is to hitchhike in Thailand. I still can’t believe it but before we even stuck our thumbs up, a random car spotted our Surat Thani paper and we got offered (by almost fluent English) to be driven all the way up to Surat Thani!

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We got to Surat Thani train station in about an hour, thanked the driver and Mario went to check what time the train to Bangkok was leaving. I sat down on the pavement, lit up a cigarette, guarded our backpacks and patiently waited. I knew I didn’t wanna go to Bangkok just yet, my plan was to stay in the town for a night and hit the road early in the morning to hitchhike to Chumphon which was about 190 miles away. From there I wanted to get an overnight train to Bangkok. Simple plan, huh? 🙂

„The train is leaving in four minutes, Mon,“ said Mario when he got back and when I saw a piece of paper in his hand that really looked like a train ticked, I knew he wasn’t joking and I thought I was gonna cry. So this is how it ends after all the adventures we’ve been through together? Do you expect me to just say good bye and hope that one day we’ll meet again? I could barely say a word, I only hugged him, wished him good luck on his two month adventure in India and that was it. I was shocked. He really did take that train, he was gone and I was standing there with no clue where to go. I started to wander through the unknown streets, tried to ignore all the barking dogs that were following me and stopped at a building which promised at least a bed and shower. Queen hotel, that was the name of the place where I, at that point completely exhausted, put 250 Baht (7 dollars) on the reception desk, got a room key and tried not to faint while walking up to the third floor where I was supposed to spend the night. I didn’t even put my backpack down though and I knew I was definitely not going to stay in that filthy room. Even though I was wearing hiking boots, as soon as I walked into the room, all kinds of bugs started crawling up my legs and the floor was literally covered by cockroaches, ants, spiders and geckos. Completely frightened, I shut the door and walked back downstairs to ask for a different room or a refund. „No refunds and all other rooms are full.“ Bullshit! It doesn’t happen very often that I don’t win an argument but after a few minutes I realised that even though my reasons to argue were great, I’m not going to get anywhere with his shitty English anyway so I gave up and left the fucking queen hotel.

I had no idea where to go, all the streets were empty (apart from a bunch of barking dogs on every corner) and I hadn’t seen a white person since Mario left me so I decided to go back to the train station. I lied down on the floor with my head leaning on my backpack and just burst into tears. I had a bit of an emotional moment over there, I just had to let it go. I took a little nap but I was woken up when unknown liquid splashed all over my legs (I’d rather not know what it was). I needed to move somewhere. According to the map, I wasn’t far from the airport, judging by looking at the empty dark streets though it was impossible to get there by foot. With the tears still in my eyes, I managed to negotiate the price of a taxi to minimum and I was off to a much safer and comfortable place. Safety and comfort were the two things that the train station in Surat Thani was missing.

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To my even bigger shock than the filthy room, the fucking airport was shut. Until then, I didn’t know that airports ever get shut but Thailand proved me wrong once again. So now I’m properly fucked. My phone died, I didn’t know where to go and I also didn’t know how safe it was to wander around a shut airport so I grabbed my twenty kilo life and followed the road leading from the airport. The road was very narrow and surrounded by a jungle from both sides and yeah, I admit it, I was a bit scared. After a while I noticed a little light in the distance. I got closer to it and saw a hut full of guns. Soon I realised though that there was nothing to be scared of. The security guards spoke a little English, they let me charge my phone over there, fed me rice and curry and once they wrote Chumphon – the name of my destination in Thai on a big piece of paper, they walked me all the way up to the highway 🙂

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It only took like two minutes and a big truck totally packed with people stopped. They said they’d take me all the way up to Chumphon if I didn’t mind sitting in the trunk. I was so tired that I really didn’t give a shit about spending the next 200 miles stuffed between boxes full of god knows what. I tried to fall asleep but the strong wind wouldn’t let me and for the first time in this part of the world, I even had to dig deep into my backpack to pull out a jumper. When I finally started to feel a little comfortable, the truck suddenly stopped and I got the chance to get a very intimate contact with the content of the mystery boxes. Of course, I was unlucky enough to have the one with fish inside spilt all over me. All my clothes, including my backpack, were soaking wet and I was sitting there in a puddle of fishy water. I really didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry so I decided to just ignore the situation because there wasn’t much I could do once the truck hit 100mph again 🙂

The family dropped me off at the train station in Chumphon and I finally heard good news. The train for Bangkok leaves in 35 minutes! I sat down on a bench, patiently awaiting my train and trying not to think about what I smell or look like. I was really looking forward to getting some sleep on the train. I had no fucking idea what the hell was going on when the timetable suddenly showed a 6 hour delay for my train. When this information turned out to be right, I really thought I was gonna pass out. I managed to kill some time talking to a guy who’d been waiting for that train for three hours already. In the end, the overnight train turned itself into an overday one and after 9 hours of waiting at the station, I finally left Chumphon at 9.35am.

I got to Bangkok eleven hours later after travelling in the third class on the train full of Thai people leaning on each other, on the train where air con was a rude word and of course I sat down next to a window that wouldn’t open, on the train on which for the first time in my life I wished I was a boy so I could pee into an empty bottle and not come anywhere near to what was supposed to be a toilet and on the train where I realised that smoking really can kill when I almost fell under the train while standing behind two carriages 🙂

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