domenica 21 ottobre 2012


This evening I should publish a post about temples, rice paddies and children ...
I should write a nice page on Cambodia describing places that make you dream.
But I will talk about a page of my life, and I will devote it to an angel I met tonight.
It's 10 30 pm and I am in a remote village near Bangkok.
I left from Cambodia at 7 am and I was supposed to get to Bangkok at 7pm...On time for a very important skype interview at 10 pm.
But that’s what happened:
- phone lost on the first bus:
- seven minivans changed on the way to Thailand;
- accident with a truck overturned on the road,
- four-hour delay;
- Almost missed my job interview (for which I gave up three days of relax on an island...)

What happened then ...?
I met one of those angels who wait at the roadside, who doesn’t speak your language but understand your heart, who doesn’t need your ID card to trust you and  watch your sadness healing your pain…
My angel’s name is Amp, she doesn’t speak English and doesn’t even know my name.
I met her on the street: she was coming home from work, I was walking on the roadside, desperately alone, seeking for an internet cafe '.
After realizing that I would never be in Bangkok before midnight I went off the bus in a remote thai village.
Amp saw me, tried to understand what I was saying and finally took me to her house.
She gave me the keys (!) and guided me into a fantastic internet point.
Tonight she will to sleep at a friend’s: I will sleep in her house, a perfect stranger that she has welcomed home. The only thing I managed to say was the warmest thank you form my heart…

lunedì 8 ottobre 2012

Phnom Pehn

Describing Phnom Penh is difficult: you end up with a bitter taste in your mouth, sucked into an inevitable memory, submerged in a future development, insatiable and unchecked. Radical chic restaurants and bio-ethical shops, wide streets and shopping malls, Lucky supermarkets and Happy Herb Pizza.
It’s easy to find yourself lost, disoriented, wondering in which part of the world you happen to be. But there are a couple of things that can help you to make up your mind: the Tuol Seng Museum and the Choeng Ek killing fields are places that you will never forget.
April 17, 1975: the Kmher Rouge entered Phnom Penh establishing a new government. In three years of power more than two million people were killed.
"I am legally responsible for the deaths of more than a thousand people and I pray for their souls." We read in the testimony of a hierarch of Democratic Kampuchea.
How to accept, how to understand this?
Let’s drink the bitter cup of the memory, swalloying it with Angkor Beer, while listening absent-mindely to a Coldplay song. We stare out in front of a city that we cannot understand, without identifying its boundaries of sense, wondering if it is kneeling to capitalism or hiding its true nature in narrow streets, drowing it in open sewers, forgetting it in fashionable clothes and mixed fruit shakes.
We are leaving tomorrow, heading to Siem Reap, to admire the enigmatic smiles of Angkor temples.

giovedì 27 settembre 2012

Remebering Saigon

5.25 am
The sun rises on the coast of Vietnam, while my taxi run to the airport of Danang.

What am I looking for in Ho Chi Minh City?
Maybe just memories.
Colonial memories hidden in few ancient buildings, in the Christian churches, along the wide tree-lined avenues. Remembrance of a past that burns in shreds, concealed in awkward memories of a war, covered up by the traffic and the rows of motorbikes.
And then the silence: a guilty, empathetic, resigned, still silence in the eyes of visitors of the War Museum. Torture, dioxin, napalm, malformations.
Forgotten words of declaration of principles.
They are disappearing, running far away, falling empty in the centuries, reflected in the horrors of today’s wars, so similar to pictures of forty years ago.
The wounds remain, without words.
We will learn one day.

Meanwhile, we try to be reassured by the other face of this land, by the green fields of the Mekong Delta, by its light blue sky. Floating markets, tropical gardens and water hyacinths, rice fields, boats, bananas and children, suspended wooden bridges: a motorbike darting through lotus fields, fighting cocks and ducks shepherds.
I close my eyes on top of a mountain, curled up in a hammock, facing the sunset.
And a bell rings far away…

domenica 16 settembre 2012

Smell of ginger...

                                                                                          Vietnam, Hoi An

Smell of ginger ...

Of ginger and fresh fish, the stalls lichi, avocado and dragon fruit. Tourist shops, T-shirts, bookmarks and sleeping bags. Triangular straw hats, colourful vegetables, smiling old ladies: a kaleidoscope of emotions.
"Come, look for a scarf" "Do you want a foot massage?", "Italy, football."
And then a narrow little street, a door to another world.
So I enter it slowly, allowing time to admire the life that flows on the river.
I sit on a plastic chair, sipping a fruitshake, suddenly realizing that I don’t need to run in order to understand. On the contrary, there are lots of things that can be grabbed only when we stop.

Tonight I said a prayer to the river.
A little old lady looked at me and gave me three coloured lanterns, which I let go away…

How to describe Hoi An?
A caress of warm wind, soft lighting of candles on the water, live music on the roadside.
I cannot describe the magic of red lanterns, colourful lamps on the trees, the poetry of Chinese kites on a bridge.
A spell for tourists, maybe ... But it is still magic.

sabato 8 settembre 2012

Goodbye Cat Ba

It's raining over the bay: It has been raining all day long.
And for various reasons It Is raining also in me.
Smell of fish, intermittent bursts of water, a warm wind, a sky spotted with black clouds. Some boats are still in the harbor, little lights moving away. Among them there is also our little junk, where we will spend two days, probably under the rain.
"There is no bad weather: it’s all a matter of suitable clothes”, The Norvegian motto came back to my mind. Surely this time I haven’t a suitable dress. Flip-flops, two shirts and a pair of trousers: that’s all I brought, keeping in mind that “The lighter you travel, the farer you will arrive”.
True, but not this time.
Luckily, my three Hawaiian friends lend me a k-way, a real treasure in these days of monsoon. A small red junk that seems to have just came out of a fairy tale book, a crew composed of two Vietnamese who don’t speak English, a young local as a cook.
Let’s the adventure start.


Islands, islands, islands, like falling stars in the dark water of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Unexpected visits to underground caves that we explore together with groups of Chinese and Thai. They talk all together, louder that the pop music of underground tourist shops: a picturesque affresco of different cultures mixing together. And then a good swim in secluded bays, a close encounter with transparent jellyfishes, morning showers with rain water and canoeing among colorful houses, guard dogs and bamboo bridges.
We sail zigzaging between remote islands, admiring their tropical vegetation, greeting other colorful boats, dreaming above this incredible turquoise water.
A strip of blue sky, and the sun rises, just when we are coming back to the port….
Goodbye Cat Ba: we will come back soon…

mercoledì 29 agosto 2012

Luang Prabang: candles, monks and gold dragons 9.30 pm. A full moon night.

Luang Prabang, Laos 

The sound of raining is mixing with the note of gong from Buddist temples, while the city is preparing to rest. Here life unfolds with other times, other rhythms, a different consistency. Small candles illuminate gardens and stone guardians of Buddha temples, their faces lost in an ethereal smile.
Monks walk around dressed in orange, their head shaved, their dark eyes speaking. Three coats, three baskets for offerings, a belt, a razor, a toothpick, an umbrella: they are not allowed to own anything more.
They walk barefoot, quiet in the streets.
At dawn, they receive offerings in a silent procession through the streets of the city.
In silence they pray, bowing in front of high statues of Buddha.
You can see them learning English in their monasteries, running under the rain or chatting under a tree, smiling at curious foreigners. They work in their courtyards, make jokes with children, getting angry with dogs, smoking a cigarette in a moment of privacy.
On the other side of the river there are restaurants and clubs, shops and bars with live music, selling crepes and pancakes, coffees and Lao Beer. Laundry services and wi-fi, Tour operators organising eco tours, trekking, kayaking, massages and aromatherapy, cooking classes and elephant riding: the other side of a city of temples, candles and gold dragons.

giovedì 16 agosto 2012

Flying thoughts, between buses and boats ...

We wait on the bus: it will leave when full. Many women on board, young girls coming home after school, ladies with shopping bags and an old man with a military green hat, the word “Vietnam” on his t-shirt, a packet of fried bananas in hand.
The women talk, leave their plastic bags on the bus and continue shopping while waiting for the departure. They pass each other leaflets and visiting cards: I imagine them sharing advices on hairdressers and phad thai shops.
Looks, smiles, a few universal gestures: coming back to the essentials on a old bus with no door.
A bow to the king, who looks at us in front of the market: we are finally ready to go.
Let’s the journey start.

Crossing into Laos: slow boat from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang, sailing on the Mekong with Italian, Spanish, Hawaiian ...
Water, wind, sun: so many hours together with strangers, which are strangers no more.
Finding yourself talking about God, in the middle of nowhere, remembering the things that really matter.
A small village to stop for the night: the boat for Luang Prabang docks here every night.
It has brought Internet, cappuccinos, mini-shampoos and hostels that at sunset contend for the arriving tourists. However, not far from the port old wooden houses remain, together with wild gardens and exotic flowers, with cocks giving the good morning and a lush forest.
The brown waters of the Mekong flow quiet underneath: it will be a beautiful day tomorrow.

mercoledì 8 agosto 2012

Chiang Mai's Memories

Silence within the walls: the recall of a near hoopoe, temples hidden behind white walls, suddenly standing out against the sky. An old, knobbed woman on a street corner: she looks at me, begging a smile, immediately returned.
Statues of elephants and temples of dragons: too beautiful to be captured by a photo. Buying sparrows and turtles in a temple, and then taking them to the river with a prayer.
Loosing yourself cycling through the small streets of Chiang Mai: a city of shrines or temple of a city?
A mass in a Thai church: certain glances looks the same in every corner of the world, some gestures as ciphers of a universal language. Voices of monks behind the windows, measured bows, words whispered with folded hands: "Kob Koon Ka", I repeat.
Suddenly a fragile silence, emphasized by the delicate sound of small bells… Forests and mountains as far as the eye can see: the sun colouring of gold sleepy dragons, as the light fades away in the sky, in a shimmering rainbow broken by the sharp orange of a Buddist Monk, passing away with a smile…

giovedì 2 agosto 2012

ยินดีต้อนรับ Bangkok

                                                                                  Bangkok, Thailandia

ยินดีต้อนรับ Bangkok

"Can I help you? Are you studying your guide book? I always did the same at your age ".
Thus Thailand welcomes me, through the genuine smile of a young woman of Bangkok, who is travelling across the globe as me.

A pink taxi from the airport to the city centre: a trip on seats with the face of Hello Kitty, passing shopping centres, Mac Donald’s and highways. Then a minivan takes me to Chinatown: no posh stores, no air conditioned restaurants, no girls with Longchamp anymore: far from Siam Square, centre of “the Good Bangkok” there’s a different life going on.
I walk among temples, statues of Golden Buddha smiling, reclining Buddha, emerald Buddha, food stalls and nests of birds, thai massage and rainbow ice-cream, tea vendors and pomegranate juice.  
Taxis, old, coloured buses and tuc tuc (the asian version of tricycles), fish markets and fruits street traders.
In the meanwhile, a fat fake gold pig wishes good luck moving his little paw.
The lights of skyscrapers light up in the distance, in this hot night in a city that never sleeps.
It looks like rain: Chinese monsoon is coming…

It’s 5.40 am: I can’t sleep.
I take a trip to Talad Noi, the local market of Chinatown: fresh fish, salted animals, papaya, chicken wings and slices of watermelon: toothless old ladies say goodmorning to me.
For 15 bahts (less than 40 euro cents) I make the first purchase of the day: two excellent ham sandwiches with salad and crab: today I will have my lunch box, as has Thai people do.
I take a boat and at 7am I am at the Wadi Arun: a scent of jasmine and the sound of bells, in this temple still empty ... My eyes are wide open while I stare at the prang that rises to the sky: a spiral 79 meters, colourful ceramics in the quiet serenity of dragons and guardian spirits.

At 8am I head for the Royal Palace: so may tourists on the horizon, umbrellas in their hand, bottles of water in their backpacks: it’s a hot, humid summer day. A slice of watermelon and a cold coffee and I am ready for the Emerald Buddha, remembering of his life in search of freedom from world and passion...
What is there a path to salvation? Seeking for nirvana or choosing an existence as Bodhisattva, who renounce to nirvana to help others achieve it?
Enjoy the treasure or abandon it to share our discovery with others?
Go back to the world after founding the light to illuminate the cavern?
Outside the Royal Palace a market of amulets seems to suggest that the answer will not be easy ...

mercoledì 25 luglio 2012

Towards a Bay of dragon and a land of lanterns

                                                                                Vietnam, Halong Bay [1]

Time to leave…Again.
Months ago, walking in a park in a early spring afternoon, a friend asked me where I would like to go next, which part of the world I would elect as my next destination.
Thus, We both found ourselves dreaming of ethereal temples of the East, travelling with our minds on wooden little boats at sunset, our hearths captured by a thousand silent prayers.
This was the way this trip was planned: maybe by chance, or because of the destiny, surely thanks to my resolution.

So I am now leaving for Bangkok.
From there, I will head to the North, to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, approaching the "Golden Triangle", dreaming of Burma from a distance. Then river crossing into Laos: a cruise on the Mekong, up to Luang Prabang , a fabulous city of wanders, ensnared between temples, wooden houses and mountains, that made the Buddha smile. Abandoned the idea of a 24-hour bus trip to Vietnam, on the 5th of August I’m landing in Hanoi.
There, one of my dream will eventually come true as I’ll discover a stunning bay where a family of dragons defended the country from a foreign invasion. According to the legend, they cast jewels into the sea, which turned into dozens of islands, thus making Ha Long an impregnable fortress, a treasure of incomparable beauty. Then I might go for a boat tour of the island or I will just chill out on a beach, approaching a fairytale reality: I guess it will be hard to leave.

At the end, I will follow my the track again, curious to see the ancient capital Hue, and Hoi An, a small port of bridges and lanterns...Then I’ll head to Saigon (which is now called Ho Chi Minh city, but that with the former name holds a total different charm). Over there another journey will begin: I’ll continue my travels with to friends, moving to the Mekong Delta and to Cambodia.
Now the question is: “Will I be alone until you reach Saigon?”
Well, yes, but I do think we are never alone, if we learn to recognize the little signs of so many fellows, silent angels by our sides ...

martedì 24 luglio 2012


"Welcome, take place: there is space, if you can adapt."
…The world whispers.

Your baggage prepared, the route traced, a map in your hands: time to leave, ready to go.

Maybe we will became friends with lute players, we will follow painters and loose ourselves in invisible castles, we will get to know the art of Indian massage, we will listen to fortune tellers who will look at our future unravelling our past…We will be fascinated by distant fires burning in the night, we will look at the sunrise on a fairytale island, listening to forgotten stories in a distant fragment of the world…

It was about "A furious and indecent thirst for life" that Ivan Karamazov used to talk…

Trapped in two worlds, the traveller is searching for his place: out of his universe, he studies the vocabulary of different lands, crossing the slippery limbo of the unknown, seeking for the cipher book of the universe, of understanding of another, he travels through the promised land to report back to those remained at home.
Man on the border, slave of his binoculars, observer from a distance ...
But he cannot remain still: he is always asking for more, his eyes widening, his look embracing the horizon. In his thoughts are visions of strange lands, sounds of unknown languages, memories of invisible worlds. Beyond the border in order to get rid of the everyday life.
Seeking for the essential, he has the look of butterfly, pledging to fly high. 
Courageous creator of himself, he believes he can capture dreams.

When I was seventeen I bought a painting of barefoot Buddhist monks walking on a path.
Since then it has become my metaphor for life.