Why did I go to Albania? (Tirana in photos)

“Why do you want to go to Albania for?”

An Italian friend sneered after I told him of my backpacking plans across the Balkan Peninsula, where the plan was to start from Albania and finish in Turkey (in 2009). Travelling time: however long it takes.

“You want to see Albanians? Just go to Italy…so many of them. Dangerous people. Thieves, some of them.”

The plan came to fruition when Tim, an English friend, proposed of a slow journey across the isolated fringes of Eastern Europe, when he knew that I was about to finish one of my ship contracts. I didn’t know anything about the country till then but I jumped on the invitation right away. The less I know, the better. Far-flung countries with strange names compel me most. How am I supposed to know how dangerous the place is if I haven’t experienced it myself? Besides, British Airways had a special deal going for less than £100 one-way from London to the capital city of Albania, Tirana. It sounded just like the perfect place to explore and to kick off the trip.

“If you don’t hear from me on Facebook, then call 911,” I told my skeptical Italian friend.

The verdict? Check out the pictures of Tirana here.

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It was fun while it lasted (Reflections of an ex-crew member)

Costa Victoria is an old ship but one that has recently been refurbished with new balconies, terraces and windows. Elegantly furnished with a classical nautical style without the modern kitsch, the ship is refined and stately. Even if it’s only a mid-sized ship, it does have 964 cabins, 5 restaurants, 10 bars and at least 14 decks (storeys) to get lost in. For crew members, the Victoria supposed to be one of the better ships to work on after Costa Atlantica and Costa Mediterranea.

Ale showed me around eagerly as I’d never been on the Costa Victoria before. The main halls were decked with fairy lights, Christmas trees and other festive decorations.

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Catch the Spring in Busan, South Korea

Canola flowers in bloom

Spring dawned rather late in South Korea this year, but after a few days in Busan, the grey skies turned to blue and sunshine broke through the clouds. The crisp cool air became warmer and moister. What was perhaps the most apparent sign that spring has arrived were the blooming of canola flowers.

 

Along the banks of Nak Dong river in Busan, canola or rapeseed flowers were flourishing in mid April. Stalks of yellow waved under the strong wind, while locals were making preparations for the upcoming Canola Flower Festival in the southern port city of Korea.

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Waitressing In Melbourne (And How You Can Do It Too)

One of the most frequently-asked-questions on my blog is: How did I find jobs in Australia? Was it easy for me to find one? Did it pay well?

There are a thousand ways to land a job in Down Under but I can only share with you whatever I know from job hunting in Melbourne. My knowledge can be limited and the lessons that I’ve gathered from my experiences may not apply to everyone but let me tell you that it was an easy and painless process: I got a job in 4 days.

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Liquid In Pictures (Around The World)

When I think of liquid, the first thing that comes to mind is water, be it oceans of it or just a trickle, be it from an artificial or a natural source and most of all, I think about a hundred ways how we, the living organisms of this planet, use it.

I’m terribly familiar with liquid. Being a Cancerian (a water sign) and a Water Pig (Chinese Zodiac) and having spent close to five years, working on cruise ships and surrounded by bodies of water, it’s no surprise that I’m always fascinated by it. I even share Bruce Lee’s ‘Be water, my friend‘ wisdom, which as a vagabond, I can relate fully to. The skill of adaptation, of changing one’s form to fit the external surroundings is useful when I drift intercontinentally.

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Melbourne Graffitified (The Hunt For The Best Street Art)

Mister A and I have collected a rich, haphazard treasure trove of street art while walking randomly in Collingwood and Fitzroy (inner city suburbs of Melbourne), mainly along Smith St, Kerr St, Argyle St, Gore St, Rose St, Fitzroy St, Nicholson St and its surroundings. We have disappeared behind the dark alleys and local neighbourhoods and found, among the dumpsters and white picket fences, is some of the world’s best street art.

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Not Surfing at Boings Beach, Melbourne

I hate waves.

Arenzano Beach, Genoa-2008

A storm is brewing in the horizon. Ash grey clouds hover close together, the winds pick up and the salty air turns sultry. The mild waves that were lapping the shore previously are now picking up in speed and size. The tide pulls back further, faster than ever and returns to slam the shore, gathering up giant swells on its journey and smashing it to smithereens  when it breaks. I am paddling back furiously and curse Giorgio, my friend for getting me out in the middle of the sea in the first place. I’ve no idea where Giorgio is but panic halts my wandering thoughts. The only single focussed thought that I have is to survive.

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Cafe Hopping Around Melbourne

I wake, reach out for the glass bottle that sits on the desk next to the bed and gulp down the crisp tap water hungrily. An alarming thought comes to mind and I grope around for my watch but then remember that it’s my day off. Who cares about the time when you don’t have to work. Then, I roll on my side to kiss the unmoving Mister A, admire his messy three days’ beard and still huddling underneath the duvet, try to forecast the weather for the day by staring at the heavy drapes. Judging from the harsh contrast of the dancing shadow of my little basil plant against the drab brown, I decide that it could be very well be sunny and windy.

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Of Beginnings (Starting anew in Melbourne)

I squint when the lights come on and the captain’s voice booming over the loudspeaker, announcing that we’re about to touchdown at Melbourne Tullamarine International Airport. Already? My heart beats a little faster. The AirAsia flight was long, uneventful and uncomfortable, even for a pint-sized girl like me, but boredom had given way to fatigue and I’d slept the entire journey.

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bags

Of Endings (Leaving to Travel Yet Again)

A sturdy but slightly dusty 45L red and gray backpack, and an orange waterproof daypack are sitting on the floor, staring back at me. One weighs about 15kg and the other, about 5.

I’m ready. Here I am, standing and scanning at my almost empty and more spacious than usual small room. Most of the furniture are gone-I’ve either sold them or given them away. The other clothes, shoes and a barrage of knick-knacks have been packed away into two small suitcases while some books into a box. I’m no hoarder, as my nomadic lifestyle has never allowed me the luxury to, yet packing took longer than I’ve expected. In between my brief escapades, I’ve only lived in La Maison of Awesomeness (a name my housemates and I have given to our 3-bedroom apartment), for a total of 5 months, but somehow things found its way into my room. All those ‘stuff’-I’ve no more use for them anymore.

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