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.

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!