AsiaQuest

 

AsiaQuestfinallogodiafanes

Asia has always been pictured as exotic in our minds. Stunning beaches, beautiful landscapes, kind people, tasty food, special aura and unique cultures are only few of the things which attract us to explore this vast continent.

Actually our entire philosophy about life changed during our 6 month stay in India back in 2010 when we realized that happiness can be found through smiles and love, by traveling and gathering experiences, not money.

Keeping that in mind we decided that we must go back and get lost in the interesting Asian culture.

During our journey we will once again film a documentary with our experiences and do fundraising for the volunteering programs we will participate in Nepal, Cambodia and Vietnam.

So, we are going:

 

From New Delhi to Beijing!

10 countries

6 months

3 charity projects

xartis asiaquest-01

The route we are going to take is:

14.12.2015: Starting from the chaotic capital of India, New Delhi, we will get back to some crazy ricksaw rides and visit the magestic monument of love, Taj Mahal in Agra, our favorite Golden Temple in Amritsar, the home of Dalai Lama in Dharamsala and many more before we continue to Nepal.

There we will work for a few weeks with Social Impact, a local organization that helps rebuilding Nepal after the earthquakes recently. Our next station will be Thailand, the most accessible exotic destination on Earth! After immersing with the Buddhist culture and resting a bit in the blonde beaches, we will continue to the multicultural Malaysia, tasting every single dish of the Chinese-Indian-Malay mix street food, visiting the Batu Caves and the space-age high-rises of Kuala Lumpur!

The best of East and West combine to form the super-powered Singapore and we definitely need to check it out. Indonesia is also in our list, with Jakarta, Bali and Jogjakarta being on the top of it :)

After flying from Bali to Siem Reap, we are entering Cambodia, a country with a history both inspiring and depressing, a captivating destination that casts a spell on all those who visit. Angkor Wat temple complex is definitely on our list, as for every traveler that is wandering in this part of the world!

Our journey will continue to Vietnam, a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and subtle shades, exotic sights and curious sounds,  grand architecture and deeply moving war sites. There, we will charge our batteries organizing the third and last volunteering project of AsiaQuest.

Laos comes next, where we will explore the beautiful landscapes, the glimmering rice paddies and get to know the richly ethnic groups.. pure magic!

After all the amazing experiences, we will enter China for the final part of the trip. Erke, the massive Chinese sportswear brand who is sponsoring our clothes for the trip, motivated us to organize AsiaQuest and will host us in various cities like Hong Kong, Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing, when we will finish in 14.06.2015 and fly back home!

Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Mar 27 2016
IMG_1847

The AsiaQuest Diaries- Getting spoiled in Singapore!

Singapore, the world’s only island city-state!

In the map it may appear just as a small red dot, but is fact it is mighty! We had such a nice time cruising around this vibrant and super exciting city that we were for sure spoiled!

IMG_1803

Conveniently founded at the southernmost tip of continental Asia and peninsular Malaysia, the Lion City (Singa is “lion”, Pura “city” in Malay language), used to be  highly contested due to its strategic place for trade! After being colonized by the English and the Malaysian, nowadays it is a model society!

IMG_1918

The landmark buildings of the amazing Singapore’s skyline !

Once again our best experiences are related with amazing and kind people. Such were Charlie and his wife Cecilia who hosted us for the few days that we spent there. Their mindset amazed us with how open and hospitable they were, in their 60’s but with a much younger spirit and physique! Cecelia always made sure that we had enough delicious food and we felt like we were at home with them. As usual, this feeling is one of the best while travelling around and creating bonds with people!

IMG_1906

The cooking skills of Cecilia! We have never had so tasty food! <3

The city may be ultramodern but it’s not only high skyscrappers and high end malls that you should expect while visiting. For sure we can say we haven’t been in another city so full of green and numerous gardens! And in fact this was due to a greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens. Singapore is made to be explored by bicycle also as part of pollution reduction plan.

IMG_1770

As we were lucky to borrow bikes from our hosts, we wanted nothing else but to cycle around for the full day till late at night! The  East Coast Park is just right next to the beach, but it is not your usual park. It has seperate lanes for pedestrians, runners and cyclists, skaters and rollerbladers and it is easy to see why because of the amount of people that are out exercising! Other than than it feels great to cycle under the shade of huge trees while having a view of a tropical beach!

12894570_599016393587795_1374234337_o

Yes, the feeling you get when you can cycle without cars through nature! Indescribable!

IMG_1764

The enjoyable cycle path continues all the way to the city centre. After more or less 5 km you arrive at Marina East  and here you go, cycling again with a spectacular view to the Famous Marina Bay!

IMG_1794

Marina Bay has one of the most well known skylines of the world with its iconic Marina Sands, looking like a ship on top of a huge skyscrapper, as well as the first night circuit of Formula 1! The sight of the bay is spectacular day and night , from several spots,where you can lazily gaze at the sea and the views. At night we recommend the lazer show around 8pm!

IMG_1970

Singapore’s national icon, the mythical Merlion with the head of a lion and the body of a fish.

As if the nature was not enough, the Marina Bay features a garden that looks like it was taken from a sci-fi movie or Jurassic Park, the Gardens by the Bay complex. The entrance for the most impressive sights like the flower dome and the cloud forest is of course pricey, however, there is plenty to see without paying anything !

IMG_1832 IMG_1847 12443347_599019980254103_1268710137_o

Other than that, for sure, Singapore is a city of expensive taste in everything from clothes to luxury bars and restaurants. However if ,like us , you have a budget of maximum 15 usd /day , there are still plenty of choices! Scattered around the city you can find all the street food sellers in one convenient location, the hawker stall centre!

IMG_1865

That taste!!Hawker stalls around Singapore are serving Asian food exactly the way it should be!

The variety is big with delicious dishes from all over Asia , seafood, beef, noodles, soups, colourful stir-fries and many more new Chinese inspired flavours are awaiting for you to savor! Normally, dishes here don’t cost more than 3-4  SGD and there are also exotic fresh fruit juices  and tea/coffee for even less ! You’ll ♥ Singapore Food!

IMG_1880 IMG_1890

Defintely a must-see , mind blowing Singapore spoiled us for good before we where on our way to Indonesia back to the basics!

Special thanks to Charlie and his family for the wonderful moments we shared!:D

12899346_599036693585765_635192978_o

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone
Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Mar 03 2016
IMG_1217

The AsiaQuest Diaries- A bit of China in George Town – Malaysia

Malaysia. A melting pot of civilizations in one country.

The society of Malaysia has been described as “Asia in miniature”.Malay, Chinese and Indian elements surrounding you in Architecture , customs and the huge food variety! Situated just south of Thailand, Malaysia combines ideally the traditional and the modern!

IMG_1217

The main feature of our visit to Malaysia was that we were lucky to catch up with Chinese new year celebrations, some of the most magnificent experiences we have ever lived!

IMG_1025

First stop was, George town, the capital of the island of Penang, once an important Straits of Malacca trading hub, the city was colonized by the British in an effort to participate in the control of spice trade. The old town is protected under the Unesco Heritage flag and is preserved into the small neighbourhoods that characterise the origin of its residents.

IMG_1193 IMG_1169

Most evident and spread is the Chinese culture. The little roads are full of traditional chinese shops and houses, with their beautiful facades and elaborate wooden doors. Walking up and down the narrow streets, you can see tourists and locals alike inside the numerous Chinese Temples and Kongsi. The Chinese people from different origins (clans) belong to different small societies that gather in houses called Kongsi. The Kongsi are associations dealing with clan matters for the welfare of its members.

IMG_1086

A lot of the Chinese migrants in Penang built their homes literally on the water on jetties.

We also rented a tandem bicycle to explore around the city, even though walking around was really easy and enjoyable!

DCIM100GOPRO

Riding tandem bicycle in the full traffic of George Town was not as easy as we expected but very fun!

IMG_1021

George Town is also famous for its street art!

George Town is also famous for its street art!

Penang is also famous worldwide for its cuisine! It is so much different from what we are accustomed to in Europe when it comes to Asian food. The flavours are stronger and the contrast of sweet and sour most prevalent in each dish! However you don’t need to search much for the Famous culinary scene of Penang. Normally there are huge queues in the stalls in just about every corner!

IMG_0955

Chendul, or Cendol , the local desert that is mainly ice with coconut milk, a worm-like jelly made from rice flour with green food coloring ( usually derived from the pandan leaf) and palm sugar. Very nice!

Just walk along the famous Penang road or Chulia streets in George Town and get yourself prepared to be bombarded with scores of shops or restaurant selling delicious and hot Malaysian cuisine delicacies such as the famous char kway teow, the spicy nasi kandar, the sweet ice chendol and the tasty boneless hainanese
chicken rice just to name a few.

IMG_1043

Hawker stalls all in one huge venue! Food porn!!!

Among our favourites were the  The kway teow (flat rice-noodles) is stir-fried in a wok together with a bunch of other ingredients such as prawns, bean sprouts, garlic, chili paste some dark soy sauce.

IMG_1136

Trying Laksha and Hokkien Mee the traditional way!In the street!

 

This year is the year of the monkey and celebrations for Penang Chinese New Year were magnificent. There were stalls all around the city -a bit of rain – and lots of acts like dancing and martial arts!

IMG_1234

Preparations for the biggest Chinese New Year event in Penang Island! A boy dressed as a monkey- a man puts make-up for his costume!

IMG_1242

With Chinese comprising about half the population of Penang, it is the perfect place to experience this crazy, colourful, chaotic event. Almost every hotel was fully booked for these day as everyone had come to watch the events!

IMG_1369 IMG_1381 IMG_1320

There were red lanterns adorning every street, and giant sticks of incense burning outside the numerous Chinese temples and clan houses in the area. The Esplanade in Georgetown served as a focal point for much for the festivities, which is apparent from the visuals on display there for the holiday period.

IMG_1301IMG_1167

On the street side, hundreds of hand-made paper hot-air balloons hang from the arches of a pretty walkway – they were individually painted and decorated, truly make for an enchanting setting when all lit up after darkness falls.

Feeling charmed by what we have seen already, next stop is the capital, Kuala Lumpur!

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone
Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Feb 23 2016
12443864_584991338323634_1976138097_o

AsiaQuest Diaries – Thailand- Exotic Bangkok !

Of course Thailand is one of the easiest and most accessible ways of initiation to the South- East Asia region. And how can’t it not be, a country with such a unique culture, Buddhist temples, amazing food and beaches to die for! Here we go! :)

12443864_584991338323634_1976138097_o

After the winter days we had in India and Nepal we were totally ready for what was waiting for us in Thailand! Our first port of call the city of Angels, Bangkok!

IMG_0490

Thailand’s emblematic capital, or Krung Thep in Thai, dates back to the 1782, and though touristic still holds traditional elements. Bangkok is pretty much flat with numerous canals and the famous Chao Praya river offering much variety for exploration!

IMG_0327

For a traveller though, the first point for cheap accommodation in Bangkok is the area of Banglamphu and the famous Khao San Road. The area seems always busy with countless restaurants, bars and stalls filling up the roads. After we settled in a basic room with the cheapest rate ( here prices are based upon the existence of fan-AC and hot/cold shower) we set out to eat!

IMG_0137

IMG_0265

Banglamphu area day and night!

At the side of the street many Thai have set up their small businesses selling delicious food. Marinated skewers of pork, beef , chicken or fish, fresh fruit and the most famous street food dish the pad thai are among the immense variety of choice.

IMG_0268

IMG_0297

Pad- Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish made with soaked dried rice noodles, which are stir-fried with eggs and chopped firm tofu, and flavored with tamarind pulp, fish sauce , dried shrimp, garlic or shallots, red chili pepper and palm sugar, and served with lime wedges and often chopped roast peanuts. Yummy! Soon enough we found ourselves overwhelmed with this bit of the city and ventured further.

IMG_0358

The huge head of the Reclining Buddha

IMG_0384 IMG_0429

In short walking distance from Khao San, there is the Grand Palace complex and one of the most famous temples the Wat Pho, famous for the huge statue of the Golden Reclining Buddha wich is 45 metres long. Inside the temple complex the colourful tiles of the various buildings and stuppas are shining in the bright sun. For some historical facts , WatPho is the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. Even prior to the temple’s founding, the site was a center of the education for traditional Thai medicine, and statues were created showing yoga positions.

IMG_0211

Another temple worth visiting is the Golden Mount, or Wat Saket. Visilbe from a long distance this buddhist temple is at the top of an artificial hill . It takes some time to climb up and down the steps but the green surrounding the hill makes the heat less cruel.At the top there is a beautiful view of the city.

IMG_0226

The sound of this Gong at a terace on a way up was defeaning!

IMG_0244

The golden top!

Going around the city, there are so many markets to get lost in and see! Food markets and clothes markets selling everything it will take you hours to decide to leave!

IMG_0300

Night Market Food Stalls in Bangkok!

IMG_0299

Thailand’s largest wholesale flower market,Pak Khlong Talat is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Bangkok’s flower market is famous for its incredible selection of fresh orchids, roses and marigolds. People work relentlessly making intricately strung flower garlands and baskets for Buddhist ceremonies, or wholesale flowers for weddings and events.

IMG_0465 IMG_0484

We spent four full days in Bangkok and we wouldn’t have left hadn’t it been for our desperate need to get to the beach!

IMG_0252

 

 

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone
Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Feb 10 2016
IMG_0057

AsiaQuest Diaries -The GreenHouse Project in Takure, Nepal

Nepal was hit by a huge earthquake in April 2015 very close to the capital, Kathmandu.

The earthquake found the country not at all prepared for such a natural disaster. At its aftermath, a huge part of the historical Darbar Square was severely damaged, but the most important damage was to the moral of the Nepali people. The death toll was 9000 people, houses were destroyed and peoples’ life was thrown into disorder. Struggles of years were wasted and people had to find a way to survive. Rural communities were hit the hardest. In the area of Sindhupalchok, at the epicenter, where once stood beautiful 3 storey houses made out of  stone, now was only rumble.

12736842_580233578799410_1504898080_o

As we were ascending the mountains with the bus, we saw the tin roofs of the temporary houses people had erected next to or on top of their previous property. At first this didn’t strike as odd to us, because we were used to these type of houses back in Africa. However this was not the case here. As we found out, the traditional Nepali house had the basement for kitchen and as a stable for animals, the sleeping and common area was situated at the second floor and at the topmost , they used to keep a stock of grains and food for the whole year.

IMG_9065

The beautiful scenery of terraced hills !

So, we were on our way to Takure with all these thoughts, where assisted by the volunteers of Conscious Impact and YUWA, a local NGO, we would be engaging on The GreenHouse Project, our first volunteering project in Asia. The greenhouse project was suggested to us by YUWA. The vision of Deeraj, its 26 year old Nepali founder, was to help the local community grow stronger after the earthquake and use the chance to introduce to the area a new way of sustainable farming. Our goal was to fundraise so as to build a greenhouse that will be hosting avocado and coffee saplings. The locals would sell them and thus make a sustainable profit so that they can rebuild their homes.

12695092_580249215464513_2102104157_o

Aspect of the village

 

After a very long ride through rough roads we managed to arrive in the afternoon in the village of Takure, where Beth from the team of Conscious Impact welcomed us and took us to the camp where we would be staying for the next 3 weeks.

IMG_8839

Parts of the common areas in the camp!

IMG_8828 IMG_8443 IMG_8830

 

Conscious Impact is an international, grassroots effort to bring resources to rural communities around the world. A group of passionate young guys from the US started this with the vision to expand horizons and create community by working together to learn, grow, and build (see more in their website www.consciousimpact.org ). The base of the project was a camp that the team has set up on the hillsides next to the village and has all the characteristics of a community. Living in a community was a new experience for us but we found ourselves feeling a sense of belonging there like a family! Volunteers from all over the world staying all together in tents and since April sharing knowledge on agriculture, building with different materials like cob and earth bricks.

IMG_9093

AcroYoga time!

IMG_8983

Sunrise Hike :)

IMG_8822

Nitzan’s Cob Master class!

IMG_8471

Pulling the brick maker machine was as hard as it looks!

The days passed and we were experiencing life to the full. Duties were shared as well as knowledge. We would all help to make breakfast, dinner , clean the dishes, carry supplies and duty we would wake up at 6.30 am just because we were cooking on fire otherwise we had yoga in the open air, eat and the head straight to work.

IMG_9099

We were working daily and what first was just a farmland came to be a proper plot were we could erect the Greenhouse. It wasn’t easy. With collective effort it took us a week to clear the space from roots and grass, and level it with shovels, removing shovel from one end to the other. Then we had to make sure the walls of the terrace would not collapse in the first rain so we had to put up rock barriers. This was the most tedious and tiring part. For 3 days unloading trucks of rocks and moving them to the site. Then stacking them up and making sure it was level.

IMG_9019

Namaste! Such a beautiful greeting..

At this point, the campaign was also a bit stagnant and we were thinking if we will be able to make it in time. At these hard moments, at the end of the day when it was cold and we couldn’t even get enough heat with 2 jackets and the blanket we would think at the local people. Look at us, we are feeling uncomfortable in this, while them they have lost everything and are still smiling through life’s difficulties. Being in Takure we came very close with the locals, some of them also working for the projects. It is not difficult to feel welcomed in this land because the people are so friendly, every time we met them in the street they were greeting us with such a warmth, and they were keen to learn more about us even if we couldn’t understand them. We would get stronger at the thought of these people and learning from their strong attitude.

IMG_9285

Days went by and the hard work continued. The steel frame of the greenhouse needed to be welded , something we had no idea about how to do it, but thankfully the volunteer team was there to support us in that. The electricity was weak in order to operate the machine and sometimes it would stop working simply because somebody was using the rice cooker in the kitchen! The team was keeping our spirit up at nights when we would all gather around and share our thought on what made us feel grateful each day! This was the most amazing gift from the Conscious Impact team! It happens so often that we forget about the gift of life and the energy that hides in living in the present. We need to find more things to be grateful about everyday and to us this was something like healing.

IMG_8732

Mama ! the heart of the project!

When we managed to have the plastic on top of the frame, it was so touching to see what power lies in a community, when people are together working for a common cause . On our last night in Takure, Mama , one of the most kindhearted and sensitive person we have met, invited us to his house for dinner with his family. His house even though small was very welcoming. He shared with us the story of his life and when we came to understand for one more time that there is nothing most important than feeling that we all ONE in this planet, that we were in tears both us and him.

IMG_0057

We left Takure with our hearts full , the fundraising complete (thanks to the amazing 239 people who got on board and helped us raise 5,701 euro) and the 26 x5 Greenhouse ready to hold the thousands of coffee and avocado saplings that would help the people of Takure gain back what they lost.

IMG_8841

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone
Dora Bitsi

Dora Bitsi

Feb 04 2016
Nepal5

AsiaQuest Diaries – Nepal – From Pokhara to Kathmandu

For many travelers Nepal is a lifetime dream.

Situated between the mountain wall of Himalaya and the steamy jungles of the Indian plains, Nepal is the land of yaks, Yeti, Monasteries and Mantras, Sherpas and snow capped peaks, temples and tigers, magic and mystery.

Nepal1

Last year, Nepal was hit by a disastrous earthquake that left thousands of people homeless. Our mission with the Greenhouse Project was to fundraise for the people of Nepal, which we intended to do in the month spending in the mountains of Sindhupalchok.

Our adventure in Nepal was bound to be epic from every aspect!

Nepal2

Crossing from India to Nepal was easiest than we thought and we got our Nepalese visa without any delays! The officials were chatty and relaxed in Sunauli border. However, the news from the bus agency were not as good, the bus route to our first stop, Pokhara, was a 12 hour route for a distance of less than 200 km! Already tired from the train, we had at least a decent non spicy meal for the first time and in a few hours we boarded the bus. Indeed, we realised that the 12 hours ride was mainly due to the bus stopping every few minutes but also due to some of the most dangerous roads we have crossed so far. The road was not even wide enough for two trucks to cross with enough space, but still there were plenty of times we even overtook a bus that was slowing our way! Thankfully it was night, so we didn’t realise all of this at the time and we managed to sleep through the most of it.

Nepal3

The best part was when we stopped for food, an underground shack-looking building in the middle of the mountains. That was when we experienced the local food,dhal bhat, and it was good! With 150 Nepali Ruppes, that is 1.5 euros, you got endless refills of rice and sauces, typically, bean and lentil soup, curried vegetables and stewed greens! All you had to do if you were more hungry was to shoot Khana! And there was more!

Around 6am we arrived in Pokhara , managed to find a cheap room close to the main street and finally slept.

Nepal4

Nepal opened its borders to outsiders in the 1950’s. Nowadays, you will see legions of trekkers ready to conquer the world’s famous trails like the Everest Base Camp and the Annapurna Sanctuary but also hippies who come here to enjoy the energy of its atmospheric towns and meditate in its many ashrams.

Nepal5

Laid back Pokhara is the 3rd biggest city of Nepal and its main feature is the beautiful lake situated in the centre.

In the quiet streets surrounding the lake, one can choose from a wide range of activities like renting a bike to explore the area , hike to the nearest hills or simply just stroll along the streets, that come alive with people day and night! Organic cafes, shops selling traditional paper items, shops and restaurants playing live rock music made up a very relaxing armosphere!

Nepal6

We were there for Christmas and the town was full of locals that wanted to celebrate the day even though they are Buddhists! We managed to have a three day break enjoying the good vibes of Pokhara before moving to Kathmandu and from there to Sindhupalchok, our main reason for visiting Nepal.

Nepal7

In Kathmandu, the backstreets of Thamel, the foreigner’s area, countless shops with cheap hiking apparels are catering for the needs of the trekkers who are starting their explorations from here.

Nepal8

As were descending to the valley by bus from Pokhara we saw the vast size of the city expanding among the surrounding mountains. It seemed hazy at first but what we later came to realise was that Kathmandu had a terrible atmosphere, a mix of dust and pollution that was trapped inside the valley. The locals were walking around wearing facemasks something that made the situation better but seemed a very strange sight for us.

Other than that, we got to explore the ancient city of Kathmandu further than the tourist area.

Nepal10

The jewel of  Kathmandu and the best example of the trace history left in this city is the Durbar Square. Durbar in Nepali means palace and as the name suggests it was the place where the Kings were once crowned and ruled the country. The Square, a Unesco  World Heritage Site is full of beautiful strictures and temples, which unfortunately were ruined beyond measure durind last years 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Many of them collapsed and some of them were temporarily being held from falling with sticks. It was very sad indeed to watch a heritage of centuries almost destroyed.

Nepal11

The next few days we passed eating local delicacies like warm noodle soups and momos.

Nepal12

Momos can be found everywhere in Nepal. They are made from dough and filled with either chicken, vegetables or most commonly with buffalo meat which was the tastier option!

Nepal13

We were also lucky enough to spend a day with Apostolos, a crazy but amazing Cretan guy who is currently travelling the world on his bicycle. It was nice to exchange some crazy stories about both trips! With our batteries charged, we couldn’t wait to move to Takure and start working on our first AsiaQuest fundraising-voluntary project, the GreenHouse Project!

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone