Nakajima Island: The Neverland

I woke up on a wonderful sunny day, ready to go to Nakajima Island. I took a train to Takahamako port and I waited for the first boat to Nakajima. After a half hour trip, I got to the island. I thought I’d start my journey from the biggest one, and then try to reach the others of the Kutsuna archipelago on the same day.

On the boat, I met a very nice woman called Mayumi, who explained to me how it would have been impossible to go to more than one island on the same day because of the big distances between them. She said that I could have visited just one for a day trip. So I decided to stay in Nakajima, which was the most impressive. She offered me a ride because her husband was waiting for her arrival in the port, with their two children. I got in the car with them and she brought me to a very nice restaurant. I ate a delicious marinated fresh fish with little tomatoes – it reminded me of Italian flavors because of the tomatoes and the marinated sauce with balsamic vinaigrette – she ordered an amazing salmon sandwich with avocado and black bread and a pizza.

After lunch, I met a very interesting lady called Hiro, who was the owner of the restaurant. She came from Hokkaido island and she spoke English well. She said: “If you want to visit the island, there’re some people in the afternoon who conduct tours there”, “Of course I want to go!” I said. Therefore, she gave me an appointment for the afternoon. In the meantime, Mayumi introduced me to the English teacher of the school, so I could speak with him since she knew very few English words. He was a shy Japanese guy, who spoke good English and tried to explain everything about his island in the best way. They showed me a little part of the island, and we stopped on the seashore to take pictures and walk on the white sand. Even though I couldn’t bathe, it was a pleasure just feeling the sea breeze and the warm sun on my skin. Mayumi gave me a delicious ice-cream, and some figs from her garden, she acted like a mom and I felt so pampered. It’s unbelievable how people could be so nice and amazing, although you have never seen them before.

At three p.m. they brought me back to the restaurant, where Miss Hiro, with other two people, was waiting for me. There was Yuki, a pretty girl, who worked for the Japanese channel NHK. She was making a report about Nakajima, and she needed someone who brought her to the island. Then, there was Yuki – yes, they have the same name, it isn’t a mistake – a young farmer from the island, who came to picked us up with his little van. He had a lot of orange plantations and he knew the region very well. We went up and down the hills, seeing amazing landscapes unlocked in front of my eyes and impressing me with the beauty of nature. The hills were covered with the orange and green tea plantations, stunning green dales filled the horizon and came down till the sea. Yuki showed us a typical farm house, a very old house full of furniture and very, very cheap to rent. I was thinking to move to the island, and start a new life as a farmer! Life is very simple there because you don’t need many material things; it’s very different from the rest of Japan, and this dazzled me. On the island, there was just a supermarket, a school, few restaurants and beautiful nature. During the trip, they tried to speak English with me and we could have a great conversation about several topics, especially about the island activities. I found out that the cost of life there is cheaper than the rest of Japan, as they grow all the raw materials, and there’s a lot of sea products and water, so they don’t need anything from the mainland. The island is completely self-contained.

Before we went back to the port, Yuki took two fishing rods and a pair of rain boots for me. He brought us to the rocks to fish in the sea. For me was the first fishing experience in the sea and I was thrilled. Yuki caught two fish, but she was excited too. He demonstrated us how to cast the line and how to wait for fishes. Yuki caught out three fishes very soon, I waited a long time, before catching three too. Obviously, we set the fishes free in the water, but we enjoyed it so much. It was a great experience.

The time passed so fast and I had to come back to Matsuyama soon. I was very lucky because Yuki – the girl – came back with me and Yuki paid the ferry for us. We stayed on the deck and, while we were talking, an amazing sunset popped up in front of us. We looked at the horizon in silence because the scenery was stunning and we were totally absorbed by it.

The island is a sort of Wonderland, where people live together in harmony and seems they are all friends. It’s a very different reality, from the cities of the mainland. I saw beautiful white beaches that soaked into the blue water of the Seto Inland Sea. It reminded me of Sicily, the wonderful Italian island, with its orange plantations, the high hills, the green landscapes and the amazing sea views.

Nakajima Island is like Neverland and I felt like Peter Pan. I think that nobody could get old there.

Kyoto and Arashiyama… The most representative pictures

Kyoto and Arashiyama, two amazing places, where traditions and nature are mixed together in perfect harmony.

My Thailand

My Thailand…. here there are the most evocative pictures.


Matsuyama and Gogoshima… Starting out in the Shikoku region

This summer I saw stunning sunsets and wonderful landscapes in Japan, and most were in Shikoku and its little islands. I was alone, and I often spent my time sitting down on a rock or on a beach or simply on a bench, just enjoying the view and thinking about my life.

I took a direct train from Okayama city, which has a long bridge that connects the mainland with Shikoku island. The journey took about two hours by bullet train, and I arrived in Matsuyama in the early afternoon. I walked for twenty minutes to reach the Apa hotel, and I was extremely tired because of the weight of my backpack. I really don’t know why it always grows heavier as I move about. Anyway, the hotel was very convenient and in a wonderful location. It was in front of a green park and the paths to the castle. The Apa is a famous Japanese chain of cheap hotels, and all the rooms are fully equipped with many amenities. In the common areas there are some vending machines, a Laundromat and a microwave. It has also a dedicated manga, in which the characters of the story stay at the Apa hotel. My room was on the seventh floor, so I had a wonderful river view, and I could see also the castle.

At five in the afternoon I left the hotel, and went walking through the park. When I saw one of the paths to the castle, I tried to follow it. The slope was a bit steep, but the weather wasn’t hot, and there was a pleasant breeze. I’d stopped in front of a historical building, which was the gardens of the castle, but it was closed because of the late time. I could hear classical music coming from inside, and, considering that there wasn’t anybody around, I started to dance in front of the big wooden doorway. I felt like a princess, dancing for my king… but there wasn’t any king. Then a boy ran through the path, and broke the magical atmosphere! Then another person arrived, and I realized that I wasn’t alone any more. I started to walk again, certain to reach the top of the castle. On the street I met a very strange Japanese man, who was talking with some Smurfs – some plastic miniatures representing the blue creatures from a famous cartoon – which he put on a big felled tree trunk. He really scared me, because he had been having a serious conversation with them, and I found it a very strange behaviour. I started to walk faster and pass behind him, scared he could follow me with his Smurfs. I think that it’s very funny now, I’m laughing while writing it, but in that moment it was very frightening. Anyway, I left him behind, and finally I reached the top of the hill and what I saw was amazing. The view up there was stunning, and I could see through the city till the coast. The sky turned orange and then red… It was the sundown time, a marvellous sunset. The atmosphere turned weird, and a lot of black birds were flying all around and broke into the red sky. Suddenly, everything changed and I found myself moving into a fairytale. The lovely cold wind raised my hair, and I stood on the top of the castle looking down to the sea, where it met with the sky and both turned into one. I had a lump in my throat because I was surrounded by the beauty of nature, and I was completely pervaded by emotions. Even though there were few people up there, I felt thoroughly alone, just me and myself, fighting against my demons and trying to find the answers to my life. With a dark sky I went back through the path, so I was in the wood, and I heard the real sounds of nature, as a beautiful soundtrack for my return downhill. When I entered in my room, I was quite shocked from the sensations I felt, but also reassured.

The morning after I walked through the city for a while, then in the afternoon, I decided to go to the coast and see the sea. I took a train to Takahamako port. The journey was about 40 minutes, but while the train was running it started to rain. I was a bit worried because I wanted to sit down on the beach and breathe the sea breeze. When the train stopped, I was so happy because the rain also stopped. While I was walking through the pier, the sun started to shine and I could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays all over my skin, a pleasant sensation. I climbed over a little wall on the sidewalk, and I fell from a ladder into a white and deserted beach. I went up the rocks, which formed a sort of bridge over the sea. I sat down there – me, the sun, and the wind. I live in a city, so for me it’s very strange to find deserted places where I can sit down and think. I spent about one hour there, dancing and singing, then I went back to the pier and took a little boat, and I reached one of the islands in the Seto Sea. It was the nearest one because it was already 4 p.m. I arrived at Gogoshima island after 15 minutes. It is very little, but extremely beautiful. I walked the road over the sea, searching for an isolated place to sit down. I saw a little, lonely beach under the road, but I should have come down from the top of the street. I held a rope, secured firmly to the railing, and falling down to the beach. I gripped the rope and I dropped from the rocks, even though I had some problems reaching the ground, and I scratched myself on the rocks. I did it and I felt so lucky because nobody could have known where I was, and it seemed I was abandoned on a desert island. I sat on the sand for a while, before trying to reach the top, climbing the rocks with the rope. The wall was very steep, and I found it harder than coming down. Anyway, I loved the adventure and I felt alive when I did something that few people could have done. Sometimes my friends think I’m mad, but I love the way I live, even though it’s a bit unconventional. I went back to the little port and I waited for the boat to the mainland. Another day had passed by, but it was another amazing day!

In my room I planned the boat trip for the day after. I wanted to go to Nakajima island and visited the other islands nearby.

From Thailand to Japan… the beginning of my travel all alone

I left Thailand after spending six days in Prachuap Kiri Khan, which is a quiet city on the coast – about 400 km from Bangkok – and three in Bangkok. I felt the difference from Chiang Mai, but I enjoyed the peaceful life by the sea and I could appreciate the busy life in Bangkok.

I went to Japan in the last week of August, and started my real travel all alone. I reached Kyoto directly from Narita airport, after a six hour flight from Bangkok. I was so excited to start my new adventures, even though I was quite scared too. I’ve always known that taking trains is hard, especially in the big train stations like Tokyo or Kyoto, but I did it.

I was in Kyoto for three wonderful days. I know that it’s a short time, but I’d already been there twice, so I’d almost seen everything all you need to see. Last time I was been there, I wore like a Maiko and I enjoyed becoming another creature just for one day. I didn’t feel myself when they started to whiten my face and made me up. I chose a Kimono and an Obi belt, and then did a photo shoot in the garden. It was an amazing experience and stunning sensation.

Anyway, I found a city that I’d never been to, called Arashiyama. The city is famous for its bamboo forest, and I really wanted to see it, because I could imagine the amazing atmosphere I could feel there. I went to Arashiyama by taking a Keifuku local train from Omiya station, which cost only 210 yen (about 1,80 €). I started to walk around the little city and in the park, finding the famous bamboo path. It was extremely hot and I needed to sit down often, just drinking and taking a breath. When I reached the path I felt as though I’d turned up in an ancient and imaginary world, where everything was colored by the intensive green of the bamboo, and the sun on the top shyly sinking. The atmosphere was unreal, even though there were a lot of people walking through. I closed my eyes and imagined being the hero of the “House of flying daggers”, beautiful and brave. When I stopped my imagination, I followed the path. At the end I visited the Tenryuji temple with its beautiful garden, where I walked around the trees and the little river, and everything was perfect. I reached the station, because I wanted to go back to Kyoto, and I was very tired and overheated. I’d eaten a green tea ice-cream and I’d regenerated myself, so I decided to go to the monkey park. I wanted to see the macaques in their natural habitat, even though I knew it would be hard to walk into the mountain in 40° heat. I started my climb with a fan, which was given with the ticket, and a bottle of water. At the beginning I thought I couldn’t do it, but then the desire to be in contact with the amazing animals gave me the strength to go on. When I reached the top of the hill, I started to see a lot of big macaques, who ran around me. It was so fun, even though it was a bit dangerous, because the monkeys were extremely spiteful and you had to pay attention to all your stuff. There were a lot of guardians to protect people, but the animals were free to move where they wanted. I saw a big macaque diving into the water, a lot of baby monkeys suckled by their moms and most of them groomed each others. I stood in front of all of them and I was completely fascinated by nature. The view up there was amazing – you could see all the city of Arashiyama till Kyoto. I took a lot of pictures, before going back to the station. The descent was easier, also because I was so satisfied and happy with what I’d just seen.

The last day in Kyoto I spent time in a cat cafe and in an owl cafe. I love being together with animals. Of course, the owl cafe isn’t the best place where you can see the birds, because owls are night animals and they have to live in the forest, free to fly and hunt. I know that, but I really like owls and I really wanted to see them, even though I don’t agree with these cafes. I visited one regular cat cafe and one Bengal cat cafe, in which there were only Bengal cats. These are an amazing breed of cats. Their fur is just like a leopard’s and they are beautiful. I cuddled one for half an hour… I love cats and I would like to have remained there longer.

I’d walked though Nishiki Market, which is a street full of delicious food shops, and Teramachi street. I saw some real Geishas walking on the Gion area and I spent time on the river to see the fabulous sunset. Kyoto is an amazing city – so traditional, but also so modern. Spending time there, even though only for few days, is regenerative, because you are in a city, but you are surrounded by nature and historical places.

I left Kyoto to reach Okayama, before going to the island of Shikoku. I’d arrived in the afternoon and I’d immediately gone to see the caste. It is small, but the architecture is stunning, and it has some parts of the roof in gold, but with a totally black exterior, earning it the nickname of Crow Castle. I then visited the Korakuen gardens, thinking to see the same boring gardens… Unexpectedly, when I entered from the main entrance I stood in another world, in the wonderland world. I felt exactly like Alice when she fell in the hole, following the white rabbit, and she went out in another reality. The view in front of me was breath-taking, a huge green meadow with many rounded white lights all over, a lot of streams and beautiful trees. I dreamed of following my personal white rabbit, talking with the Cheshire Cat, drinking tea with the Mad Hatter and running away from the Queen of Hearts… And yes,I lost my mind for few minutes. I went back to the hotel, where I found myself again. The hotel Maira is a very nice and cheap one, and they offer some sweet bread every morning till 9.00 a.m., all day free hot and cold drinks and a free massage chair in the hall. The room is basic, but clean and bright.

The day after I’d been to Kurashiki city, which was recommended by my Japanese friend. I spent twenty minutes by train from Okayama station to reach the city, and the most interesting place to visit is the Bikan historical area, which is the old merchant quarter. It contains many fine examples of 17th century wooden warehouses painted white with traditional black tiles, along a canal framed with weeping willows and filled with koi. The area has no electric poles in order to make it more closely resemble the look of the Meiji period. It seems to live in another century, and there’s a magical atmosphere all around. I walked through the shopping street, where I saw some interesting dress shops and a cos player’s photo shooting. I went back to the hotel, spending my last night in Okayama.

Okayama was my last city on the mainland. After that, I took a direct train to Matsuyama, where my travel around the island of Shikoku started.

Bye bye Chiang Mai…

My last day in Chiang Mai arrived, and even though I was sad I thought that it was time for a change. It became my new “comfort zone”, but I realize that happiness is always outside of one’s comfort zone!

It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve learnt much. For instance,living every moment in the best way. I’ve met a lot of people, and I’ve learnt to live together and share with them. I’ve always thought that I did it, but obviously I don’t. I was so doleful saying goodbye to everyone but I was leaving with the hope that I would find them once again in the future. It was sad also leaving my room that had been mine for almost two months, but eventually everything ends and everything begins!

Putting aside the homesickness, I went to the old city in Chiang Mai with Abby, who has been my classmate for two weeks. I’d spent the other five alone. She comes from China, from a city called Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. She’s so lovely and we had great time together during our lessons.

We were both free from lessons on August 12th, because in Thailand it is a national holiday. It’s the Queen’s birthday, better known as mother’s day. So we decided to go to the city together, eating and visiting some temples! We took her motorbike and we started out, but the fact was that she isn’t so good as a driver, especially on the Thai roads. I think I risked my life because I didn’t wear a helmet. But it doesn’t matter… I’m here telling the story, so clearly I’m still alive. I know it isn’t a good thing to say, but sometimes living on the edge makes me feel alive! Maybe I wouldn’t do it again or maybe I would. Anyway, sometimes you don’t have the time to choose what’s the best. I think it was a great experience at the end, making me feel young and light-hearted.

We arrived safely at the chicken restaurant, where we ate boiled chicken, steamed rice, and vegetable soup. It’s one of the most famous chicken restaurants in the city, so it’s extremely busy and noisy. The waiters don’t write down the orders – instead they scream out loud to the small kitchen on the sidewalk. When we finished our lunch and took some pictures rode the scooter up to one of the oldest temples of Chiang Mai, which is called Wat Phra Singh.

There was a lot of gold in the temple, in contrast with the white and cloudy sky, a big golden Chedi outside the main building lighting up the area. Inside the temple a lot of people prayed, maybe because it was a Friday public holiday. We decided to walk and visit the smaller buildings all around which were amazing, too. I didn’t remember that I had to cover my shoulders and knees, and even if my shoulders were covered by a t-shirt I wore shorts, so my knees were bared. Being a fashion designer has its silver linings, so I brought my raincoat and I wrapped it around my legs and closed the zip. Here was a wonderful alternative skirt… And it was so fun to create! That’s what I call “sharpen the wits”.

Essentially the temple was beautiful, I found out that some wax statue of the most venerated by monks inside one of the minor buildings. There was a row of bells and a big gong that you could ring and receive the good vibrations. It’s, of course, one of many temples in the city, but I think that everyone has different hallmarks.

When we finished our trip to the temple we went back to her motorbike and headed for the Thapae Gate. We stopped by a nice little market on the road because I had to search for a new bag. The day after I would have to leave the school and take a flight to Bangkok, but my big suitcase wasn’t enough for all my new purchases… So I needed to find a new one to carry all my stuff and also to try to have less weight. I didn’t want to pay again for the extra weight at check in! So we started walking into the market. I had thought I wouldn’t find it when I saw a little stand with some bags and suitcases. “That’s it,” I thought I found it out! I haggled for the price (from 850 to 550 baht which was about 13 euro). I bought the bag and a padlock for 60 baht (about 1.60 euro). I was so happy, I was ready to pack my luggage! But the day ended, so finally we reached the Thapae Gate and we sat down eating and drinking a fresh coconut. We went into a used book store near the gate, where I bought another English book by Haruki Murakami – I added other weight to my luggage but it didn’t worry me, as I had another bag now!

Now it was time to say goodbye. She went back to school and I waited there for Hailey, my teacher. We wanted to spend my last day in Chiang Mai together. When I met her it was raining and we had to wait before buying something to eat. We bought a delicious chicken soup with vegetables, some fruits, and a packet of salted fried bananas. We ate and talked a lot. Finally, it was my last night. When we came back to school, I had to greet another special person and even though I knew we could keep in contact, it was still so sad!

That evening I felt blue because I was leaving a place that was my home for almost two months and I knew that the morning would be sadder.

However, it is important to say goodbye to things and people, because it’s the circle of life, and honestly I think it must be!

City views… Chiang Mai

I come to Thailand every year for the holidays and sometimes twice a year, but this time has been different. I came to Chiang Mai to spend seven weeks studying English at International House, and now is the six week mark. I can say now that it’s been one of the best experiences in my life. At the beginning, I got to know a lot of people from all over the world. Talking with them and trying to understand what they said seemed to me a huge problem, but after the first two weeks I could understand all of them and I could have a conversation with them, which means I reached one of my goals.

I stay in the countryside, in a lovely place called San Phak Wan. I have to take a taxi to reach the city, but I have found a very cheap way to go there. I walk for twenty-five minutes on a lovely quiet local road and when I reach the main road I take a yellow truck for ten Thai Baht (about $ 0,28).

Walking along the streets in Chiang Mai I have discovered some city views that I couldn’t have imagined, or maybe I could’ve… It’s a city where the old and the almost new are mixed together, where bright colors collide with the blank buildings. The temples makes magic all around and behind the gates you can glimpse the gold of the statues of Buddha. The ruins surround the borders of the city and they skirt along the roads showing the historical background and bringing you back to old times.

Keep on walking I hear a pretty girl, who is singing and playing ukulele. She’s sitting behind a desk at an open air travel agency and it’s a pleasant soundtrack against the city traffic. That’s one of the magical things in this city… lovely smiling people help you to understand the simplicity of life, so we don’t need a lot of material things to reach the happiness but only the consciousness of being what we are.

I realised that to cross the roads is one of the most complicated action you can do here, because nobody takes care of pedestrians and so it can be a bit dangerous. Anyway, I can also appreciate that as a symbol of a different culture.

The flowing river that lines the roads, the little wooden bridges, and the colorful flowers all around give an enchanting atmosphere and make you forget you are in a busy big city.

I came to Chiang Mai once before – a long time ago – but I didn’t appreciate then how interesting it is. I remember I went to the mountain to see the most famous temple, Doi Suthep Wat, on the top of Mount Suthep, which is massive and amazing. Anyway, this time I didn’t want to see the same things and I didn’t want to be a tourist, so I have lived as a normal citizen. I go to a dance school every Saturday and Sunday, I go out three times a week to buy something at a shopping center or visit parts of the city.

Being a fashion designer pushes me to buy a lot of very cheap dresses which I find every time I go out in the lovely shops all around. This could be a problem when I’ll have to pack my suitcase, but I’m a bit crazy and so I don’t care about it now. I want to solve the problems at the right moment! I’m always in trouble with things I bought because a lot of times I’ve had to pay an overweight fee at the airport. However, nothing can stop me…

Last thursday I came to the city to get  new tattoos. I had an appointment and I was very excited about it. I went alone and I got two tattoos done. It was a little bit strange because usually when I go to a tattoo studio I’m not alone, but this time everything was different and I enjoyed it. I think that sometimes we have to trust ourself and not be scared. Now I have new pieces of art on my skin and the total now is ten… I have a piece of Chiang Mai on me and it’s here forever!

I’m a visionary; I believe in fairytales. I’m an artist, and this city brings out the best of me, of my soul. It will be very hard to leave this place!