Marrakech - The Souk & Place Jemaa-el-Fna -

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The souks, or suqs, are the typical covered markets that you can find scattered throughout the Medina. They are one of the main attractions of Marrakesh. As soon as you enter, you’ll get lost in the small alleys full of tiny shops, colorful stalls, exotic smells, sounds, and the loud voices of the merchants trying to tout their wares- all sure to leave a lasting impression on any visitors. Remember the golden rule in Marrakesh, NEGOTIATE for EVERYTHING! The market stretches from the Ben Youssef Mosque in the North to the famous Jemaa-el-Fna square in the South. It is organized into areas dedicated to specific goods and activities: leathers, wool, jewelry, produce, lanterns, apparel, dried goods, spices etc.. Take a break afterwards in one of the many terraces to sip on a mint tea and admire the sunset.

Of the souvenirs available I suggest: some small bottles of argan or rose oil, spices (curry, turmeric, etc), the famous black soap used in hammam for a quick scrub or the iconic Morrocan slippers worn by none other than Aladdin.

Jemaa-el-Fna square is the true epicenter of all the chaos that is Marrakesh. During the day, you’ll find snake charmers and stalls selling dentures (yes, you read correctly, dentures), street artists, monkey trainers, henna tattoo artists, horse drawn carts, and vendors selling dates and freshly squeezed orange juice.

By night, the market makes way for stalls serving up fresh local cuisine. It is definitely worth trying at least once! Although there are seemingly an infinite number of stalls, they are all in fact numbered which is helpful to find specific ones. The most famous that I tried was the“Aicha N°1” read here to learn more!

The square is dominated by the Koutubia mosque, the tallest in Marrakesh. A few steps from the mosques is the Cyber Jardin on Avenue Mohammed V, and L’Embsemble Artisanal, a sort of artisans quarter where prices are fixed and there is no bargaining. It seemed a little too touristy for my liking.

Marrakech - Useful Info -

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If you live in Europe, Marrakesh is the perfect destination for a long weekend or quick getaway. Although it is a very lively city, here you will still have the chance to unplug and escape hectic day to day life back home.

Marrakesh Meanara airport is quite near to the city, only around 10km. This makes transportation to and from the terminal rather quick and efficient.
Taxis should be relatively cheap, even for trips within the city. From my personal experience, they can also be wildly inconsistent.  When I took a taxi from my hotel to the airport, it cost me only 2€, meanwhile, my trip from the airport to my hotel came out to 27€.

When it comes to overnight accommodations, you must have already heard of the famous “Riads” of Marrakesh. These are traditional Moroccan style buildings with internal courtyards that usually house a swimming pool or a hammam. I absolutely recommend spending some time in one of these. As for neighborhoods, there is no doubt that the Medina is by far the best. The Medina is the historic heart of the city surrounded by the ancient fortifications. It is made up of winding alleys and lanes that make up an impressive labyrinth.

The Aya Riad is an excellent choice for those who want a little peace and quiet while at the same time not compromising on location. It is a few steps away from the chaotic markets of the old town! The Riad is composed of 8 rooms decorated in traditional Morrocan style surrounding a courtyard and a spectacular terrace. The terrace is the ideal place to have breakfast while taking in amazing views of the famous rooftops of Marrakesh or the breathtaking sunsets. Sofia, the manager of the Riad is very friendly and organized. She can be reached by email at: riadaya.marrakech@gmail.com - tell her that Giulia referred you!

Kuala Lumpur - Central Market & Merdeka Square -

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The Central Market (Pasar Seni) is a gargantuan building housing hundreds of shops offering batik designs, the wares of local artisans, and every type of souvenir you can think of.

Exiting the Central Market and heading north, you’ll find 3 of the most important buildings in Kuala Lumpur. The first is Masjid Jamek Mosque. You may enter to have a look but be aware that a strict dress code in enforced: men must wear pants and women must cover their hair with a veil. On the other side of the river, you’ll next find the Merdeka Square. At 100m, the giant Malaysian flag at the center of the square is said to be the tallest in the world. Adjacent to the square, you’ll find the Royal Selangor Club; a historic building that has hosted some of Malaysian high societies most important meetings and celebrations since 1890. On the other side of the square, the Sultan Abdul Samad mosque is one of the oldest in Kuala Lumpur.

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Kuala Lumpur - Little India & Chinatown -

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Little India and Chinatown are among my favorite neighborhoods!

LITTLE INDIA
In Kuala Lumpur, there are actually two different Indian neighborhoods: one in the South close to KL Sentral, called Brickfields, and another a little more off the beaten path, located just North of Chinatown.

Brickfields will leave you speechless. Just a couple of steps away from KL Sentral Station, the main drag, Jalan Tun Sambanthan is teeming with bars and shops. I was especially struck by the rich colors, sounds, and good vibes of the area. One particularly interesting experience that I happened upon by coincidence was a blind massage in Jalan Thambypillai. Yes you heard right, a massage performed by a visually impaired masseuse. I would have never imagined myself getting a blind massage! I was simply amazed by their expertise and extremely sensitive touch. Although the building may seem a little run down and by no means is it a luxury spa, don’t let that put you off :) 

Little India, is the other colorful neighborhood. It consists of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the Sogo shopping center, and all the smaller roads in the vicinity. Here you can truly immerse yourself in a Bollywood environment full of colorful buildings, blaring Indian music, textile shops on every corner, beautiful flowers lining the streets, and the intoxicating scents of spices and curry. Altogether creating a beautiful atmosphere sure to leave you in awe. I suggest heading to Jalan Masjid India, another very lively area not too far away. Stop to enjoy a refreshing cononut milk before continuing to have a look at the India Mosque.

CHINATOWN
Masjid Jamek
station marks the edge of little India and the beginning of Chinatown, another captivating and very traditional neighborhood.

Medan Pasar, a small square with a clock tower, is a great place to start your exploration of the neighborhood. I recommend walking along Jalan Hang Kasturi all the way to the Sze Ya Temple, Kuala Lumpur’s oldest Taoist temple. Here you’ll come face to face with a myriad of flowers, the perfume of which can sometimes be overpowered by the incense burned by worshipers.

Afterwards, on Jalan Benteng, you’ll have the opportunity to visit my favorite temple, the Sri Mahamariamman, one of the most impressive Hindu places of worship in KL. It consists of a 22m tower featuring many representations of Hindu deities.
Don’t forget to also have a look at Jalan Petaling. This street is well known for its various markets, the most interesting being the night market.

Not far from here, the famous Old China Cafe serves up delicious local cuisine. Why not try the Nyona Laksa, a noodle dish featuring coconut milk, chili, sea food, and greens. Laksa ressembles Japanese ramen, only much spicier and with flavors native to South East Asia. Great for anyone, who like me, love anything with coconut!