Malaysia won’t leave you speechless…

Malaysia is so much different from its neighbouring countries both on the north and the south. Landing in the dense, smoky urban jungle of Kuala Lumpur can be a massive shock, especially for me as I was coming from over a month spent on the pristine beaches and unspoilt natural beauty of Samoa and Fiji.

Malaysia isn’t beautiful – and this is the first time I say this of any country I’ve visited – sorry my dear Malaysian friends, no personal offence intended!

At the end of my Pacific wandering, I was looking for a place to meet up with my best friend and spend Christmas together. I shall be honest, Malaysia was our choice simply because for both of us (from Samoa and from Italy), it was the cheapest flying option.

Info about Malaysia

60% of the population in Malaysia is Muslim and you will find (and hear) mosques everywhere. But, you can also find temples too. Around 20 % of the population are Buddhist and Hindu.
Malayan is the language of the country and I recommend you learn a few words before heading there. It’s always nice to be able to say hello and thank you wherever you go.

Before heading to Malaysia

Currency

The local currency is Malaysian Ringgit and the current exchange is 1 USD = 4.46 Ringgits. Withdrawing money from  ATMs is easy and Malayan Bank doesn’t charge any commissions for foreign cards.

Safety

Malaysia is very safe. I’ve never felt at risk or in a dangerous situation while there. It’s like this in most of the countries in Southeast Asia I have been to.

How to get there

If you want to get by plane, there are many cheap flights companies coming from the countries around Southeast Asia. Air Asia offers good deals, especially flying to Kuala Lumpur. Check Skyscanner to make sure that you get the best fare if you are coming by plane.

You can also get to Malaysia overland from Thailand and Singapore. From Thailand, you can get there by train or bus.

Visa

Securing a visa for backpacking Malaysia isn’t going to be an issue. Most of the countries have free visa for 30/90 days to visit Malaysia. You just need to hold a passport with at least 6 months left, and you should get your stamp at the airport with no issue.

Weather

The weather in Malaysia is quite unpredictable and different from part to part. Peninsular Malaysia can be wet any time of the year even though the wet season officially lasts from November to March. The dry season is from April to October.

How to get wifi in Malaysia

Getting wifi in Malaysia is easy. You will find wifi almost everywhere. There are many places like malls, shops and bars where you will find wifi. And the connection is really good compared to a lot of countries in Southeast Asia.

Accommodation

Accommodation is very cheap in Malaysia. There are a lot of hostels where you can pay $4-5 for sleeping in a dorm and there are beach cottages for even less!

Below you will find my recommendations as always under the Dream section.

Kuala Lumpur

Initially, exhausted by 14 months of non-stop travelling, I spent almost three weeks in KL hosted by a dear Instagram friend from London who has relocated there with her husband. I lived the great life in her stunning apartment a stone’s throw from the Petronas Towers; I could actually see them while typing away on my Mac in her living room and while swimming from her awesome pool. Valeria totally spoiled me with her scrumptious and healthy lunches and I also managed to get back to the gym in the morning too. It was strange to finally settle back in the old home life and routine after so long on the road. It really felt strange to have a home, even if not mine, even if only for a short time. And it was amazing. Thank you, Vale! <3

The capital of Malaysia is a huge, messy, work-in-progress Asian city. Traffic jams are guaranteed every day and it’s far from being a pedestrian-friendly town. However, being the perfect shopping capital in South East Asia (after its bigger sister and architectural inspiration, Singapore), it’s a place worth a short visit (two or three days are enough).

Things to do in KL:

Petronas Towers and Marini’s on the 57

Sri Temple  

Batu Caves  

Brunch & Work at VCR

Get lost in The Rabbit Hole…. 

For some mysterious reasons, I have no pictures of this place even after spending several awesome nights there…I can’t tell you exactly where it is, but the Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole is here 🙂
Address: 16, Changkat Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Pulau Pangkor

After exploring KL, my best friend and I headed to the ocean for some well-deserved relax and beach time.

– Directions: take a bus from KL to Lumut and then the ferry from there.

 

Georgetown / Penang 

Georgetown is such a well-made cocktail of cultures, religions and history that my friend and I struggled to leave when it was time to catch our ferry north.

 

MUST – DOs in Georgetown: 

Upside Down Museum

Malaysia

Caffeinated break at Wheeler’s Coffee

Malaysia

Wander along Love Lane for some weird encounters…

Malaysia

Eat, Love and Eat. And Repeat 

Thanks to its Malayan, Chinese and Indian communities that gather to this peninsular country many centuries ago, here you can find incredible types of food that will never leave you hungry. Malaysia is truly foodies’ heaven and even the most sophisticated palates are going to find something new and delicious here.

malaysia

Dream at House of Journey

A cute, little hostel with an incredible vibe and staff. Minimal breakfast is included. Wi-Fi is weak but free.
 
Address: Pulau Pinang, 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia

After spending a few days in this little multicultural town, Fede and I got the ferry  to Langkawi 

Langkawi

Langkawi is the perfect place for relaxing that you can’t miss it when backpacking Malaysia. It’s a cheap place to buy alcohol and devices. And if you think about the usual party places of Thailand, Langkawi is not one of them. It’s a place for you to enjoy the beach during the day, and the quiet peace at night.

Do NOT Dream at Tubotel

I rarely leave bad reviews, but Tubotel really was a massive disappointment. The staff is poorly trained and far from friendly. Facilities are often dirty and despite they have and advertise having wi-fi, it is always turned off for some obscure reasons (even when politely requested…I work online!!!) The location is also inconvenient and next to the airport/port. No beach. We only stayed here because we made our booking at the very last second for NYE and it was one of the very few places available (we now know why!) The only plus of this place was the generous breakfast which was free and delicious.

Malaka

While backpacking Malaysia, Malaka or Malacca must be part of your itinerary. This old colonial town still retains the charm of the Portuguese influence and architecture. I loved this place maybe because it’s totally different from the other places in Malaysia.
friendship

Masjid Selat 

Work from 

Kaya Kaya Cafe

A very lovely cafe that serves excellent coffee and sumptuous meals. WiFi is quite good too.

Kaya Kaya cafe

Dream at 

Ringo’s Foyer Guest House
Address: Jalan Portugis, Kampung Dua, 75200, Malacca

The owner of this hostel is a character and full of life person who will take you to explore the town by bike and he’s always making sure the guests are having fun and are comfortable. The hostel is very nice and clean and in a OK position. I reccomend it ! 🙂

Directions: from Langkawi take the ferry to Kuala Perlis and from there catch an overnight bus to Melaka.

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9 – Must-Do Activities on the East Coast of Australia

As you probably already know, my 10-month Aussie adventure finished off with a long road trip down the East Coast in my beloved Jucy Crib, a koala named Bruno* and Mr Beard. And, after having gone through all the billion pictures and video I took on the East Coast, I’m here to share with you my favourite things to do if you are also planning to explore the same part of the world soon. Otherwise, feel free to bookmark this post to your wanderlust list for future reference. As always, please use the buttons below to share the love with your friends and family! <3   

 

1 – Gelato, Sweet, Gelato at Gelocchio in Cairns 

First and foremost: G E L A T O. All great road trip should start with a special kick, even better if this is a gelato snack. And I’m not talking about normal ice-cream here. I am talking about actual-home-made-Italian-gelato. Don’t get mistaken by the size of the little shop, they have a huge range of flavours, from the most classic like chocolate and pistachio to the more local and researched ones like macadamia and cashew nuts. How gorgeous! 

Address: 9/93 Aplin Street (just off The Esplanade), Cairns, QLD 4870

Follow them on Facebook

gelocchio
 gelocchio-2
 

2 – Koalas, Fish and White Sand at Maggie’s

This castaway-like paradise filled with palm trees, national park reserves and gorgeous hiddenMaggie Islandbays is just off the coast of Townsville, Queensland and it’s a popular tourist spot for both locals and foreign travellers. With only 2000 residents across its 52sqkm, Magnetic Island (locally know as Maggie Island) is the perfect getaway place for a relaxed week(end) away.

Bruno

It’s an easy 20/40-minute ferry from Townsville and you can choose between Sealink (20$ with last minute discount) or Fantasea ($30 pp). You can also opt to bring your car to the island, but it’s quite expensive and unless you are going for an extended period, it would be more convenient to use the public transports on the island instead.

Whether you are on Magnetic Island for a day or for a month, there is enough to keep you busy. In fact, in such a tiny island there is so much to see and experience that I’m a little bit sad Mr Beard and I only spent a day there. Maggie Island Walking, snorkelling, wildlife spotting, swimming, hiking and beach hopping it’s all there for you. If you are dreaming of seeing koalas in the wild, then the Forts Walk is the one you want to do or if you wish to see some cute wallabys then Geoffrey’s Bay is  the place to be. If you are more of an ocean baby, then dolphins, turtles, rays and sharks all love cruising around Maggie in various season. Remember to take your snorkelling gear! Additionally, if your tan needs a little top up, stunning Radical Bay, peaceful Rocky Bay and gorgeous Arthurs Bay are all there for the taking.  Even if you are not a pro hiker, you should really wear your boots and hit the numerous trails: the gorgeous scenery, lookouts and wildlife, make up for the heat and steepness of (some of) the walks.

3 – The Whitest Beach in the World with Cruise Whitsundays

In early September, another dream of mine came true, as I stood at the Hill Hinlet Lookout looking across the spectacular view over the Whitsundays and Whitehaven beach. In front of me, the greatness of the nature in a million shades of blue was showing off. There are no right words to describe what I saw, I can only hope my pictures will you give an idea of its perfection. There are only a few places in the world where my consumed and well-travelled eyes have gone wet and this is one. Here, where the magnificent beauty of white sand and blue water has overtaken imagination. Thank you to Cruise Whitsundays to make my dream possible and thank you for your outstanding boats and crew.

Oh! And for the backpackers out there, you can also check out the tours on Awesome Whitsundays for huge discounts: I know what it means to travel on a budget, mate! 😃

Follow Cruise Whitsundays on Facebook and Instagram #cruisewhitsundays

4 – The heart of the world with GSL AVIATION  

There are tons of tours and ways to see the glorious Whitsundays, but only a few offer such a spectacular view over this unique part of the world. Since the first time I saw a postcard of the Heart Reef, it’s been my dream and priority to make sure to witness its incredible beauty with my own eyes and it’s for this reason that we booked our scenic one-hour flight with GSL Aviation. The six seater plane is of most comforts, their pilots of incredible local knowledge and professionalism and well…the flight was simply incredible. Not only I got to tick yet another item off of my dreams list, but I also managed to see from above the gorgeous Whitehaven beach where I chilled a few days before and many other sights, all from up in the air.

Follow GSL Aviation on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

5 – Test your Survival Skills on a Deserted Island with 1770 Castaways 

Since watching the famous Tom Hanks movie, I always wanted to experience life as a survivor on a deserted island. Bruce, the founder and pilot, and his brilliant team have managed to recreate exactly that wild adventure just off the cute town of 1770 / Agnes Water. Ok, so the flight first. This wicked adventure starts of with a literally breath-taking flight to Middle Island which alone is worth the experience. My tip? hold on tight 😛 Once arrived at destination, a very basic camp has been set for us, modern castaways and from there you are left (almost) on your own. There are loads of activity to fill the three days on the island, like kayaking (who knew those things were so heavy!!!!), cave exploring, boating, fishing and sand dunes (so much fun!!!). We shared some very amazing moments during our days there and I can definitely reccommend adding 1770 Castaway to your East Coast adventure.
PS: the beef stew in the evening prepared by Luke is to die for! 😃

Follow 1770 Castaway on Facebook and Instagram

6 – Face to Face with Whales with Blue Dolphin 

As the names suggests, Blue Dolphin Marine Tours offers more than a simple tour, it offers a once in a lifetime Experience. Aboard the luxury Sailing Catamaran, founder Peter Lynch will make you comfortable and go the extra mile to make sure all guests are lookedfv after and having the best time. Seeing the whales jumping and playing just a few meters away from the boat was simply incredible and one of the best way to see them in their natural environment. The super plus is Peter’s in depth knowledge of these cute giants since he spent 30 years working with them, 14 of them as a marine mammal trainer and the fact that he doesn’t keep it to himself as, helped with some whales toys, explains and describe the differences of the all on the way to them.

Follow them on Facebook  and  Instagram

7 – Get Sandy on K’gari with  Drop Bear Adventures

One of the highlights of my 10-month travel around Australia is definitely my trip to  K’Gari with Drop Bear Adventure. K’Gari is most commonly known as Fraser Island – sign the petition here to give it back to its original name given to them by the Butchella people (aboriginals).

Mark and Hana, the founders, have managed to create a team of friendly, fun, funny and knowledgeable people who all love K’Gari in the same way, and share the love with the small group who visit the island with them. 

During our tour we managed to see some pretty stunning sights and beautiful landscapes, while also having lots of fun 4WD driving along the beach and in some rough paths inland.

Accommodation is included in your tour and I was spoiled by Hana as I stayed at one of their double ensuite at the Beachcamp Eco Retreat, an awesome glamping camp. This amazing spot is perfect for couples but also for independent groups and families with their own or rented vehicle. The team here was again super knowledgeable, but also caring, warm and charming and loving and prepared some very delicious meals for us during our stay. If instead you are more interested in a wilder night on K’Gari 😛  you can choose between the Beach House Hostel and the Drop Bear Camp. 

Also, if you want some real, honest and independent tips in the Australian jungle of travel agencies and promoters, have a look at Hana’stravel advice blog where you will not only find some very informative articles, but also some very honest tips and tricks about travelling down under. 

More Info & bookings: 
Follow DropBear on Facebook and Instagram

8 – Slide Away on a Kayak with Kanu Kapers

Make sure to save some energy and time during your trip down (or up) the East Coast, for this incredible adventure in one of the least known and off the beaten track areas in Queensland. Kanu Kapers is eco-friendly and they provide a variety (1/2,1, 2, 3 day self-guided or guided) of kayaking tours in the unique Noosa Everglades, the gateway to  the Great Sandy National Park and Fraser Island where a spectacular scenery mix with abundant wildlife, including 726 species of flowing plants and ferns. Another interesting fact is that these sustainable eco-tours are run by Vivienne Golding, former Australian Kayak Champion now MD of Kanu Kapers: could you be in safer hands than hers?

More Info & bookings: www.kanukapersaustralia.com

Follow them on Facebook

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9 – Get Comfy in a Sexy Jucy van 

There was no way for Mr Beard and I to do all these adventures on the East Coast if we didn’t have our own vehicle. Generally, I’m not a big fan of cars, but I can tell you that the comfort of having a van where we could eat, sleep and… off we go every day is what made out trip possible (and F U N ! ! ). Australia is made for road trips and camping so Jucy is the best option when it comes to travel down under. Make sure to check my road trip recipes here if you haven’t already! 😛

 

 

 

Thanks to  all my sponsors for allowing me to allow me to  take part to all these amazing adventures. Thanks to JUCY for helping me make this road trip possible. Find out more at www.jucyworld.com and follow them on social media @JUCYworld. I’ve travelled down the East Coast in a Jucy Crib – all views are my own.

Your Ultimate Guide to a Weekend on the Jurassic Coast

The Jurassic Coast, I’m sure you all know, it’s a beautiful part of England. But if you only have a weekend there, it can be hard to choose what you really want to see and experience. That’s why this guide is going to take off your shoulders the heavy duty of deciding where to go and what to do. In a very simple way, this is also the perfect route if you just took the impromptu decision to take off to Dorset on a Friday morning. Old Harry's Rock

Day One

Let’s say that you’ve left London (or your home town) early in the morning to start your long drive to Dorset, if you have been smart (and lucky) enough, you should hit the coast around lunch time. So, what’s best than a pub lunch to stretch your legs and get some fuel into your belly. The best place is  Banks Arms, an award-winning and stunning pub perked on the coast of Studland. Not only has a beautiful indoor area, but also has a grand al-fresco area looking into the sea. If you are a member of the national trust you can park here for free.* The Bankers Arms  Once you have recovered from your first leg of your road trip and you are finally ready to explore, gather your things, set your camera ON  and head to Old Harry’s Rocks. Leaving the pub behind you,  walk down the road on the right and take the first little path on the left. There you can enjoy a very first view of the stunning white cliffs and warm your camera and fingers with some first stunning shots. Once you’ve done so, walk back and carry on on the main path towards the coast. Take time to embrace the scene, the stunning coast changing shape and colour around you  and if you are not too scared, go up to the edge to see how high you are. Old Harry's Rock Once you are done, go back to the car and drive to Corfe where you can once again park for free* at Castle. You can then walk up the castle ruins and enjoy the view from there. It’s pretty impressive. Corfe CastleThe view from Corfe CastleBut once you are in Corfe, don’t forget to go to the train station for a short time travel when a on old-style train will pass by.  Check the train timetable as they are not very frequent.   Corfe Station While you are in the centre, you should also go and visit the little church in the main square and if you are lucky as we were, you might bump into a groom holding hands with his freshly wedded bride. Watch the show and maybe wish the couple well. And I know you are a bit peckish by now, so head to the bakery in front of the church and try their onion and cheese pies and yes, there is a fabulous Sweet Shop next to it. Buy some sugary fuel for the rest of your journey too. The Sweet Shop in Corfe If you didn’t have a very long lunch and didn’t spend hours at the sweet shop, you should be now ready to see the most famous part of Dorset, so go back to your car and drive to  Lulworth Cove.

IMG_4401 You can once again park here to admire the untouched beauty of the cove and embrace the calm of the place. After this and depending on your energy level, you have a double option. You can either get into your car and drive to Durdle Door for sunset photo or if you have time you can walk your way there. It isn’t close nor easy, but surely is a great experience with some stunning views of this incredible coast. Take some beers and crisps and enjoy the sun go down sitting on the beach at Durdle Door, see the ray of light painting it and changing the coulor of the sea itself, embrace nature and its incredible, speechless beauty. IMG_4402You are almost done for the day, it’s time for dinner, so drive to Wareham and eat some burgers or sausages and mash at Hall & Woodhouse. Service is friendly and food is great. Remember that kitchens close early in the countryside (even earlier than London!), so make sure to hit here or any other restaurant in the same square before 8pm. Hood & Woodhouse

Lulworth Cove

Day Two
On your second day, go and explore the west side of the Jurassic Coast. Start your day with a delicious full English breakfast or, if your are watching your weight, some skinny pancakes at Cafe Blue in Weymouth.
Cafe Blue - Weymouth Weymouth looks like a city that stopped in time and when we were there we were lucky to stumble on the Armed Forces Seafront Parade with over 1,000 veterans, marching bands and historic military vehicles.Weymouth The ParadeThe Parade
After your breakfast, you should totally take a walk on the beach and maybe cool your feet in the water for a bit or maybe go for a swim if the weather allows it. But don’t chill too much! There is still so much to see 🙂
Weymouth beach
Once you are ready, head back to your car and drive towards the Isle of Portland. On the way there, drive slowly: safety first, but there are also some stunning viewpoints over Portland. The street can be narrow sometimes, but you should be able to find some space to park here for a couple of panoramic shots.
Once you get to Portland head to the still functioning lighthouse and maybe walk down on the rocks or take a  leisurely walk throughout the beach huts and do some people watching. There are some stunning views here both towards the sea and the countryside: in the summer the green is greenest and the blue is bluest.
Portland Bill Lighthouse
Nissan Figaro
Beach huts in Portland
Porland beach huts But we are not done for the day yet, so it’s time to go again and this time we are going to…guess.. yup another  beach! Well, probably the most famous beach in Dorset: Chesil Beach. If you haven’t read the novel by Ian McEwan, you should maybe bring it along with you so that you can read it while you sit on the perfectly-rounded stones that form this 29 km long, 200m wide and 15m high beach. I was told you cannot take these beautiful rocks with you as they are part of the protected UNESCO site that covers the entire Jurassic Coast, so…you’ve been warned!
Chesil Beach
Once you are ready you can hop back on your car and drive to one next and last destination for the day: Lyme Regis, another small, beautiful village by the coast. On your way there, if you have time, remember to stop in some of the small towns you will pass by; Attonsbury, one of them, is super-cute, and filled with colourful cottages. Once you get to Lyme Regis, park your car on top of the hill before entering the city centre so you can take a pleasant walk down through the main street. Grab your ice-cream from Parlour Stores on Cobb Road (it’s like proper Italian gelato) and walk along the Cobb.

 Once again, look at the fishermen and weekenders working on their boats and admire the landscape. Inhale the atmosphere and breath deeply. Take a wander through the little streets and the colourful houses or maybe chill in the park for a while.

Lyme RegisThe best way to close the day is to get some fish & chips and couple of drinks from Cobb Gate Fish Bar right on the beach and sit there to enjoy your food and the sun going down. But beware! The seagulls here are particularly hungry and brave, so make sure to protect your food and eat quickly!

Day Three

You are on your third and final day of your weekend away and it’s time to explore the east side of the Jurassic Coast. The best way to start your day is to head to Clavell’s Cafe in Kimmeridge’s; a super cute family-run restaurant. The food here is amazing and prices very reasonable

Covell's Cafe Covell Cafe

After you have filled your stomach, you can either walk up to Clavell Tower (about 20 minutes) or drive at the bottom of it. Whatever you decide, make sure to stop on the way to take pictures of the cutest cottages right outside the restaurant.
Best house of KimmeridgeIf you decide to drive it’s 5£ for the toll road and parking there. We decided to drive as it was raining, but I guess it is a pleasant walk to the tower on a sunny day.
Clavell Tower Clavell Tower is a four storey circular tower that stands on the cliff overlooking Kimmeridge Bay  Built in 1830 its location has attracted many writers including Hardy and PD James and it was recently turned into a holiday accommodation with one bedroom on each of the four floor.
Clovell Tower
Jump back on your car and drive to Swanage. Park on top of the hill for long car park stay and take in the view over the bay. Walk towards the beach and pay 0.65£ to stroll to the new pier and take some pictures of the fishermen in action. The wooden floor of the pier is filled with plaques with names and words dedicated to beloved ones who’ve passed away. Sit on one of the benches and let your cheeks be caressed by the wind for a while and maybe give some thoughts to your own beloved ones who are no longer here.
The Pier
Walk along the beach up to the other end of the cove and admire the colourful beach huts and stop somewhere for people watching and for taking in the scene and the sky.
The PierSwanage
But a trip to Dorset wouldn’t be complete without an afternoon tea, so head to Swanage city centre and sit at a table at Love Cake Etc. Beware that portions are very, very generous so keep that in mind before ordering.  Staff is incredibly nice and genuine too.
Love Cake Etc Menu
Love Cake Etc
Love Cake Etc
Have a safe journey back!!
——–
During this weekend we stayed at an amazing converted church in East Stoke, kindly sponsored by AirBnb. You can see a few pictures of this property below and book here. *All views on the the accommodation or the places mentioned above are my own. 
AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb AirBnb
Notes to the reader:
*Car Parks: many of the locations and sights mentioned above offer free car parking to National Trust members, if you are one remember to bring your sticker, if you are not, but are thinking to explore more in the next few months, if might be worth getting a membership ahead.
**This guide is tailored for a long weekend away – obviously, if you are travelling during the week, it can also work, but please double check opening times of the places listed above.
*** In order to really enjoy and explore the Jurassic Coast, a car is necessary; this was the way I managed to see so much in such a limited amount of time. If you do not own a car, I recommend you to rent one through one of the most popular rental cars or ask a car-owner friend to come with you! 🙂
*** *If you have some extra time or even an extra day, add the Blue Pool to your itinerary. We couldn’t see it, but the pictures of it are very promising!Did I forget anything? Would you add something to this guide? Let me know below!
Copyright © 2015 Sabrina Andrea Sachs. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials on these pages are copyrighted by Sabrina Andrea Sachs. No part of these pages, either text or image may be used for any purpose. Therefore, reproduction, modification, storage in a retrieval system or retransmission, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, for reasons other than personal use, is strictly prohibited without prior written permission. If you are interested in buying any copy or prints, please email me to thestorytellerphotos@gmail.com

Greece Off Season

There are some obvious advantages from traveling off season, for example flights and accommodations being much, much cheaper, less crowds around and shorter queues to museums and restaurants. And I have traveled “off peak” a few times now to be able to affirm that is, by far, my favourite way to see places. I love avoiding the rage of cheap airlines’ hostess if my hand luggage is 0.8cm longer than allowed, or having that extra sit in between me and the next fellow passenger where we can both put our stuff. I love peace and calm. It might well be because I live in one of the most populated cities in the world, but when I travel, I don’t want to have the same stress I have at home. I want to be able to find peace in a peaceful place.

Santorini

Anyhow, having said that, when you go to Santorini off season is totally different.

It is like being on a movie set but before the stars and director arrive. It’s like being there with the scenographers, the costume designers, make-up crew, before the start day. Everything is getting a fix, a new layer is being put, the set is being finalised: walls are freshly painted in white, doors and windows fixed, steps and stairs re-done. Wherever you look, there are painters and handy men doing their things. And there no actors (aka= tourists) whatsoever. I mean to say the complete truth, while I was in Oia, there were 8 (eight) other people, clearly not locals,  who were also exploring the beautiful island in an awkward (or less popular?) time of the year. It was just fantastic! Can you imagine having one of the most famous islands in the world just for yourself (and very few others)? Well, that’s the feeling when you go to Santorini in January. The advantages are others too. A friend of mine who was there with me this week, who also visited it in the summer, said it was impossible to take a singular picture without head, arm, leg or a** of someone suddenly walking in front of your camera. She also told me that on some spots it was necessary to queue for 40/50 minutes to take that specific, famous pic. Now, I ain’t a patient person, that wouldn’t have gone done well with me at all. I would have skipped the picture and gone home without. A local we met told us, like it’s written in the Frommers guide to forget about Oia postcards-looking sunsets during the summer as there are too many people and it’s impossible to get a nice spot, unless, of course you are lucky (and rich) enough to have rented a cave house with a terrace or you are staying at one of those luxurious hotels with a swimming pool on the balcony.

Well, I got both in January: one of the most amazing accommodation I ever stayed (in one of the typical cave houses), with a stunning view of the Caldera, the sunset and the rest of white & blue Oia, for a very, very reasonable price. On top of this, I also got the sun and the warmth, of course not the summer warmth, but warm enough to walk around in my t-shirt and get a shy tan on my face too.

Santorini There are obvious, but small, disadvantages too, I’m honest: for example there were only two restaurants and one bakery open in Oia. But hey, I hate taking decisions and having too much choice, so while we were there we made sure to try both and choose our favourite without too much thinking. If you are not a minimalist like me, and love your shopping while on holiday, you probably would go mental staying in a place where there are no shops open.  But for me, being totally uninterested in buying touristy crap, it wasn’t an issue at all, I actually didn’t miss it at all.

Fira, being the capital is a completely different story: shops, bars and restaurants were mostly open, the choice was much harder and longer, but we easily decided to have a very long lunch at Cafe Classico, one of the best views in the whole island. Food was lovely, local white wine too, the view spectacular and we also managed to had a nice chat about the island with the owner as he only had other few guests while we were there.

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The other thing I love while traveling off season is that locals have time. They are naturally inclined to spend more time with visitors, they aren’t stressed by the queues I was mentioning above and oftentimes they are willing to sit down at your table to share some funny or interesting facts about their city/island/village as it obviously happen in Santorini. It’s is a unique advantage you can never get in the hectic months of the summer and the one I love the most: being able to connect with the locals and scratch under the surface to understand the place and the people I’m visiting. That’s the difference between being a tourist and traveler, I believe and I obviously put myself in the second category.

Other interesting facts about Oia, this tiny cute village in the north part of Santorini, is that there are probably four wi-fi routers and you can basically connect with the same password wherever you go, or worse, your phone will connect letting you know you have a new email, whatsapp or something. As soon as I realised that, I made sure to turn off all my notifications 🙂
Holidays for me is time away from the “digital society” too. If I’m travelling solo, it’s the opportunity to connect with locals and meet other travellers, if I am with friends, like this time, it’s our chance to have quality time together. So it was this time too: I would only connect to post a couple of pictures and make my friends around the world jealous (joking! Or maybe not… ) But I knew, from experience, that all the rest could wait and so it did wait this time too.

Santorini

The last two days of our trip were spent in Athens, Greece capital, a city pregnant with history and social differences. It was there, outside the idyllic, almost-fake-looking Santorini, that I realised the poor state this country still is. Not only looking at the fading facades or scrappy buildings, but mainly looking into people’s eyes and faces. If you, like me, are an alert observer, you could see and feel the general resignation, disappointment, delusion and defeat that soaks Greek people on Athens streets.

Greece is not just ancient history, you must remember that its legacy had and has an incredible influence on our current global culture. Think of the Olympics, but also of philosophy, theatre, fashion and not lastly, democracy, possibly the most important heritage they left to the modern world. I was walking among the ruins where this word was born, and I was thinking about its origins : in Greek is “δημοκρατία” which combines the elements demos (δῆμος, which means “people”) and krátos (κράτος, which means “force” or “power”), basically “people power”. If you think that these ideals of fairness, personal freedom and ultimately governance by the population itself where born in the 5th century b.c., it is quite breathtaking and impressive.  As I was thinking all of this, it was also shocking to realise that Greece was, very unfortunately (and very similarly to my own home-country, Italy) let down by its own democratic government which spoiled itself with huge and unacceptable public spendings for decades. Since the global financial crisis which hit Greece in 2009, the Greek demos has been suffering six straight years of steep decline only rescuing 0.8 GDP growth last year.

Athens I really wish Greece the best with these new election at the end of the month. I really hope this amazing country will find the way to its glorious and shining previous outlook. I wish the stunning beauty and history that surrounds its cities and islands will help the Greek people to look up and find their smile again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on traveling off/on season, but I’d also love to hear your ideas on past, present and future Greece.

Live More. Do More. Be More.

More picture from Santorini & Athens here.
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