Saturday, November 24, 2007

Day 5 (Wednesday) : Road trip

note: Nudity warning!


I woke up – the usual time for me in Malaysia during weekdays. Had a good hot shower and prepared some food for the road trip. I contemplated on what to wear. Since I’d lost my glove, I decided to wear as thick as possible so that I could tuck my palms under my arms (a.k.a. my armpit). It helped me during my walks previous day, so I was counting on that method again.

Didn’t want to leave the warmth of my bed, I switched on the telly. There’s only a few channel in English. I settled for one of the news channel. There was this show ‘Hardtalk’. I can’t remember who was the show host and who was the guest. But the topic was great. It was about re-engineering how we use (and manage) our power. Power as in electricity and the likes of it. The guest was saying that instead of using the current centralized model where the power station generate and distribute power, we should opt for distributed model. The new model works very similar to the internet where everyone generate their own content and contribute to the internet. In term of power, say I have solar panel or some other bio friendly power generating system, but I don’t use as much as I generate, so instead of wasting the resource, there should be some infrastructure for me to share what I generated, with others who would want to use it. The guest acknowledged that it would cost a bomb, but we can’t afford not to do it. Our current methods (burning carbon base material to generate power) are producing ‘green house’ gases, which in turn contribute to global warming. At current rate of global warming, we might become extinct in a few years (actually he did mention some numbers, but I can’t remember).

I have to admit, I’m guilty of contributing to our extinction (how many time have I left the lights, telly etc. on when I was not using it?). Today, I truly woke up from my ‘sleep’.

Breakfast at the hotel restaurant. As usual, I ‘smuggled’ a bun and some other ‘smuggleable’ food into my backpack.

As promised, we were already on the bus for our road trip. Our bus driver, Dominic, knew a little English (too bad I forgot to take a photo with him). My fellow travellers were a bunch of punctual people. We are heading to Florence. I didn’t do any background research on Florence before leaving Malaysia. So I knew nothing about it and did not know what to expect.

We were on one of the bridges that I saw from the plane when we arrived Genoa on Day 2 (Sunday 11th November). The bridges actually part of network of highways that includes tunnels cutting through hills.

The bus stopped. The place was similar to Malaysian PLUS ‘R & R’. If I got the name right, the place is called Boronia. Temperature was around 4 degree Celsius. We had some problem with the engine. A wire that supposed to tie some hose in the engine was broken. The bus driver had to improvise. About half an hour later we continued our journey. We passed a place called Massa. This is where marbles we quarried for export to middle east.

The bus had to stopped again. This time it was in a place called Versilia Verst. We continued after about half an hour stop.

We reached some sort of tourist registration office. It was drizzling. My first rain in Italy! After a quick registration (I’m not quite sure if we were registering ourselves or we were registering the bus), we hopped on the bus.

We were caught in a traffic jam. My first traffic jam since I reached Italy!

We reached the ‘drop-off’ zone along a river. The driver explained to us in his limited English that the bus could not take us to the main tourist attraction and he could not wait there more than 10 minutes. We had to walk for about 500 metres. We agreed to meet him at the same spot at 2pm. And so we walked.

We walked and walked until we reached some sort of town centre. We did a little sight seeing before the rest of the group decided to go shopping. Too bad shopping and me don’t really go well, otherwise I would have really enjoyed their company. As I didn’t want to stray far from the group, I had to follow them anyway.

Most of the shopkeeper there knew some English – enough to sell their merchandise. There’s a lot of leather goods. I finally got to buy my leather glove. The guy only had burgundy (I have no idea what colour was that, it looked purple to me). Too bad I couldn’t find the one that fit my hands nicely. I got a small ‘man’ gloves as the stall didn’t have glove for ladies in the colour that I like.

From the postcards sold in many stalls there, I gathered that the statue of David by Michelangelo must be somewhere in this city. I’ve seen it numerous time in Discovery Channel. It is a detailed sculpture of a man made of a single slab of marble. It was said that the upper portion of the statue was slightly bigger so that the upper portion would not appear to be small when view by normal people from below. Anyway, I couldn’t found the replica (in the original site), neither the original statue (moved into some museum to protect it from the environment).

correction: I was at the original site of David in Palazzo Vecchio. I didn't realize I passed a replica of Michelangelo's work (the were many statues). Only have one 'accident' photo with the replica at a corner. The rest of photos have us convenietly blocking the statue. :(

We were on the bus for our next destination: Leaning Tower of Pisa! Half an hour later we had a break in a ‘R & R’ the bus driver stopped for a bite. I managed to buy a non-refrigerated mineral water (in this cold weather, I really wonder why people need a cold mineral water).
Me: Inglese? (English?)
Cashier: No.
Me (pointing a bottle of mineral water): Aqua minerale, no freddo? (Mineral water, not cold?)
Cashier: Aa… Si. (Aa… Yes)

Back on the road (in the bus)! I opened my packed food – instant ‘Rendang’. Another person brought a loaf of bread. My travel companion asked don’t we have to ‘cook’ (dip the packet in a hot water) the instant ‘rendang’ first? I told him I already did it this morning in the hotel room and he was amazed on my preparedness. We share the bread and the ‘rendang’. In a matter of minutes, everything was finished.

We reached the main parking lot. We were suppose to ride on the feeder bus to the Pisa. Our bus driver followed us on the feeder bus. Upon reaching the next stop, he explained to us that the last feeder bus back to the parking lot is at 4.45pm. We have to either take the local bus, or walked back to the parking lot and showed us where to take the bus.

Got to see the tower! With the clear blue sky, it was beautiful. Unfortunately the late evening sun caused other building to cast some shadows. After a few photos, the rest of the group moved to the souvenir shops. I was hoping they would go to the tower, but no, they stayed at the shop for shopping. Very touristy! I reluctantly joined them a bought a few souvenir (I didn’t bring a lot of money and had to budget so that I don’t spent more than my daily ‘allowance’).

We started walking back to the bus. Along the way, I stopped to buy shawls and a pair of leather shoes. The shoes were for my brother. Everyone (including the shopkeeper) laughed when I took out the outline of my brother’s foot on a piece of paper! I believe that’s the best way to buy shoes for some one else as size number would varies from one continent to another. The price? Let’s just say the guys agreed it was cheaper than if bought in Malaysia.

We were on the bus. 2 persons were missing. The group leader tried telephoning them and discovered that they were kind of lost. It was already dark. The rest on the bus either worried or angry with the missing guys. After 20 minutes, they finally reached the bus. The bus left Pisa.

We reached our hotel. I was suppose to have dinner with a distance relative. I gave her a called as soon as I reach the hotel. Her husband would fetch me in half an hour. She told me to wait at the lobby. Just enough time for me to freshen up and change my clothes. True enough, half an hour later I saw her daughter coming to the lobby!

We reached her apartment on the top floor. Her house is located on one of those hills that seemed to surround Genoa. It’s a cosy place. She cooked an Italian dinner. A lasagnia followed by a succulent roast lamb. Dessert was a Tiramisu cake. I have a small stomach and I don’t normally drink coffee (neither eat it). But since she had already made the dessert especially for our dinner, I cleaned my plate.

We chatted. She pitied the guys who can’t seem to eat anything Italian here. She offered to bag the lasagnia and the roast lamb. At first I declined. But then she ‘painted a grimed picture’ of the guys, I took her offer. She also packed a loaf of bread and a bottle of chilli sauce (from Malaysia). Then she and her husband sent me back to the hotel. By 11pm, I was already in my hotel saying goodbye to her and her husband.


Anonymous said...

laicheekang: I did visit florence (firenze)and pisa back in the summer in year 1998. Mana gambo pisa?? upon reaching the pisa building, in the bus, nampak le aksi2 yg pelik orang nak amik gambar, yg baring le, yg bengkok le, rupa2nya they try to lean on the pisa or supoort the pisa. its look funny but i did the same :)

Me said...

I posted photo of Pisa la. It's the cylindrical building behind the church. I purposely post that photo because many are not aware that Pisa is some what a part of the 'Church complex'. Pisa is the 'bell tower'. And it has been leaning since the day it was built. If we look closely, you'll realized that the columns are not of the same size - an attempt to 'unlean' the tower.