Category Archives: Travel

Rise and fall

Naples, Italy Europe backpacking trip Summer 2005

Naples, Italy
Europe backpacking trip
Summer 2005

I had first read about the infamous Borgia family when I studied European history for my Linguistics degree, and then again in Jeanne Kalogridis’ novel The Borgia Bride. Everything I had read about them — a family so steeped in corruption and treachery that they make Empire: Lebanon look like a Disney cartoon — sparked my interest in Naples, and made me put it on my list of places to visit when I planned my backpacking trip in the summer of 2005.

This is my favorite view of Mount Vesuvius, from across the Bay of Naples. I had planned to get a good view of it from the Castel Sant’Elmo, but on my way up to the fortress I happened to catch this view of it and it already took my breath away. Who would have thought that something so imposing could bring as much solace as it could destruction?

It speaks of the life I live now. For the last three months I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster that has taken me to heights I had long forgotten existed, and after a sharp peak, sends me plummeting back down in an almost 90-degree drop that I didn’t know I would still have to be subjected to. I bounce back and forth between the rare moments when I get to feel happier than I’ve been in a very long time, and the radio silence afterwards that leaves me wondering where I stand, and whether any of it will be worth it in the end.

Different eyes

Charing Cross Road, London

Charing Cross Road, London

I was never a big fan of London, having experienced it mostly in miserable weather all the times I was there previously. But when my mother wanted to go into the city during our 10-hour layover on the way back from Boston, it was a startlingly sunny and warm day.

As we walked along Oxford and New Bond Streets, through Piccadilly Circus, across Pall Mall and on to Trafalgar Square and then Buckingham Palace, I suddenly found myself looking at the city with different eyes. It was as if I had never seen London before, never realized what a beautiful city it was, even if it did spend most of the year shrouded in overcast skies.

My recent trip to the USA made me realize that the stage of life or frame of mind one is in influences the way one sees a certain place. The were so many things I saw now that I seem to have missed, say, 10 years ago, and sometimes it felt as though I was there for the first time in my life.

It doesn’t just apply to places. Being away this time around has made me see even people with different eyes, both during and after my trip. I’m not sure if it was because of the circumstances my life is currently in, or because I’m older and less tolerant of many things, but it’s definitely a welcome view.

Time-out in surrealism

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” – Salvador Dalí

Miami and Boston

Miami and Boston

I’ve always looked at going on vacation as an opportunity to discover things outside of where I live, explore new places, and learn about different cultures and histories. But my latest vacation, to Miami and Boston, was more of a chance to get away from my ramshackle personal life, pretend that the drama of Empire: Lebanon doesn’t exist, and attain some peace of mind.

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Española Way, Miami Beach

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The blood moon eclipse, as seen from Collins Avenue, Miami Beach

To a certain extent, it worked. For an entire week, I was alone in South Beach, Miami, doing nothing but lying on the beach and by the pool to work on my tan, walking along Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue and Lincoln Road to do some shopping, visiting museums, and catching up on sleep. I barely talked to anyone, except for two girls who were staying in my hotel, acknowledged those who complimented my latest tattoo, and felt, for the first time in a very long while, completely free. The following week, in Boston, where Shirley flew out from Buffalo to meet me, I relived some of my younger days, going back to familiar places and meeting familiar faces.

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Newbury Street, Boston

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Boston Public Library

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Boston Public Garden

It was one of those vacations that, were the circumstances of my life any different, would have concluded in me coming back to Malaysia well-rested, at peace and missing the life I have here. Instead, it has left me with a feeling of total surrealism, as though waking from an extremely long, extremely beautiful dream — and worse, waking up into the nightmare that I had waited five months for a reprieve from. I used my time there, especially the weekend in Boston, to forget that my life here — and the ruins surrounding it — existed, and when it was over I was left wanting more.


Providence, Rhode Island

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My old neighborhood on Beacon Street, Boston

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My greatest teacher and mentor, Cora Higgins

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My sister from another mister

Two good things to have come out of this vacation, however, are that I now have a fabulous tan, and that I have a clearer vision of what I’m going to do next summer. I know now, without any doubt, that there is so much more to life than what we see within our own four walls, and it can be ours if we just have the balls to reach out and take it for our own. This trip has helped me regain some — definitely not all — of my courage, and I hope it will only be a matter of time before I can snap out of this funk and concentrate on what I need to do for the future.

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Regent Street, London

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Piccadilly Circus, London

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St. James’s Park, London

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The Net-a-Porter hackney cab! Oh, and Buckingham Palace