Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Doha

Doha is like the other grand looking city besides Dubai in the Middle East but located in the country of Qatar. The moment I landed at the Hamad International Airport via Qatar Airways (fantastic airline by the way!), I was in awe. Big spacious and minimal queues. The view of the vast green and beautiful Mediterranean sea on the right as the plane comes to a halt on the runway as absolutely stunning.

As I got out of the plane, the temperature in Doha in March is very nice. I feel the cool air and nice breeze without the warnings of desert heat. Just before the heat of summer! The nights are cold, not so much from the temperature which was in the 20s Celsius, but more from the strong winds. And yes, did I mention the huge roads filled with nice fancy sport cars (mostly covered in sand dusts)?

Stayed at the Mövenpick Hotel West Bay Doha. West Bay is a nice area to stay. Beautiful view of the sea and with lots of nice surrounding hotels near by and did I mention the beach? About 20 minutes from the airport which is not too bad provided there was no traffic.

There is not much to do in Doha besides the usual sight-seeing buildings and structures, dessert activities, the museums and of course the market place. It was a short one nighter trip for me and I managed to only see the beach with the greenish blue Mediterranean sea and strong winds enough to blow me off the ground if I leap a little. Best view of this is from the Hilton hotel opposite Mövenpick.


And of course a trip to the huge shopping mall, City Centre Mall, which is a short walking distance from Mövenpick. Not bad but really, Doha is not a place for shopping. Too expensive. But can certainly grab a city tour bus from there.

I would return, mainly just for the sightseeing. Other than that, the rest from my first trip to Doha is just so so and dusty!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Bandar Seri Begawan

We have talked a lot about a lot of exciting places to travel in this blog. But what about the not so exciting ones? Lately have made a couple of trips to Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei. As you know, Brunei is a very wealthy country but a religiously strict one.

Upon landing at the airport brings the plane quickly to a stop with minimal taxi-ing due to the small airport similarly to those in small towns of Malaysia. Very new and modern airport, you will quickly whisk your way out to the taxi waiting area.


Stayed at The Centrepoint Hotel Gadong, with a shopping mall beside it and quite a lot of food choices.The place is very quiet aside from travellers that come in for business, mainly in the Oil & Gas industry which has seen a major slowdown of late.

Anywhere around town is just 5-15 minutes away. Strangely, there are not many Starbucks around but tons of Coffee Bean in every other corner including the airport. Activities a limited here and most establishments closes early. Latest maybe Coffee Bean which closes at midnight. No commercial nightlife, period.

You get view of elaborate and nicely architectured mosques like the Jame 'Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque. Worth the view and photo opportunities.

One thing that I found interesting is Fridays. Make sure you have eaten or have your food all packed before 11:30am. Most restaurants will close at 12 and reopen after 230pm or so due to the Muslim prayers time. 

And Singaporean Dollar is widely used in Brunei aside from the Brunei dollar due to the similar currency value.

Will I return? Only if I absolutely have to for business. For holidays, there would be a lot more exciting places to go to in Malaysia and nearby.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Toronto

When you land at Toronto Pearson International Airport (XYZ), first thing you see around a lot of stations with Apple iPads. There are meant for ordering food while waiting for flights. Quite nifty, quick and convenient.

Mississauga, the town where the airport is located is a very dead town. You do not get much there except for say offices and some restaurants. Even the TownPlace Suites by Marriott in Mississauga where I stayed was pretty quite.

One have to explore into the downtown for more action. A city is pretty much a city but there is quite a lot to see in Toronto, Ontario and during the winter, it makes it more interesting and challenging. The view is beautiful with snow everywhere. Some as high as 6 feet with sludge and mud everywhere. Looks pretty on pictures but very messy on the roads.

And while you are there, you should check out the Toronto Raptors play an NBA game at the Air Canada Centre. They are doing pretty well this season in the basketball league. A midsection ticket should set you back about USD150. Get your tickets early, else you may need to buy them online for a little bit more money. And while you are there, have your meal at the Air Canada Club. Nice view of the court before the game and the Seafood Bucket and Warm Nova Scotia Crab Dip is to die for!

A day trip to the Niagara Falls in the winter was quite an adventure. Slow drives, early sunset. The falls over at the Toronto side was said to be nicer than the American side.

During the winter, you'll witness the falls frozen over. For the first time in 2015, a climber Will Gadd became the first person to climb the frozen Niagara Falls. Read all about it at in this article.

The frozen falls is an amazing sight. And the town is full of vibes too. You get casino, museums, food, and fun. Must stay at least for a night to fully enjoy the place and soak up the experience winter have to offer. Stay safe!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Taipei

Winter time in Taiwan sounds like an excellent plan with temperatures at 13-16°C (55-61°F). Perfect for those who come from warmer countries and enough cool air to put on all those fancy jackets. Unfortunately, the 8 days I was there in December 2013, it rained every single day. Light rain but still rained and an umbrella may come in handy. Doesn’t dampen the spirits though as this country has lots of offer.

You’ll find plenty information of Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan on the internet, but let me note the key points of places I visited and wished the internet told me more before I went.

Accommodation
Stay anywhere within the train network. The train network is well routed and English labeled.Taipei Main Station surrounding hotels and apartments would be good. 

I stayed at a 4-star FX Hotel along Nangjing East Road Section 3 and was about 200m stroll to the train station. A very chic boutique hotel and certainly worth a stay. 

Night Markets
Taipei is famous for it’s street food – Night Markets like Shihlin, Ningxia, etc… and pretty much every other block within the city with a 7-Eleven offering delicious warm food too!! Night Market is a culture of the Taiwanese and aside from food, it has plenty of activities. Go with an empty stomach, a very empty one. 

Try everything you come into sign with especially those with a queue. If it did not taste nice, leave it and don't waste space. Go on and try the next stall. The Taiwanese are very passionate about their food and it will be very difficult to find a place that doesn't serve decently good food.


Yeh Liu
A bunch of rock formation created due to sea winds and the constant hammering of the waves and under current. Best to rent a day taxi driver (about NTD3,600 for 10 hours) to bring you to Yeh Lie, Keelung, Jiufun and Shifen including surrounding tourist spots. A good driver is critical for this experience as he will be able to introduce you to the places and show you the best spot and plan the route with you.. 

Keelung
Another street of food here. Must try, the stall No. 5 Thick Crab Soup! If you have less than 2 bowls, I will be presently surprised. Supposedly the original thick crab soup in Taiwan (they all claim they are the original but this is by far the best one I've tried). You be the judge but we all had double portion crab per bowl!!

Jiufen
Streets of shops located here with all sorts of snacks, souvenirs to buy. Lots of steps and things to see. The shops are located on both sides of the street which is an uphill walk but have interesting scenery and things to buy. You will not go home empty handed from this visit.

Shifen
The famous train which still passes through a small town every 15 minutes or so with shops located close beside it. This is where you can paint your good luck charm on this colorful Chinese lantern for NTD200. After which you set it off to fly off into the sky but it was thought to bring good luck based on what you wrote on it. Have you ever wonder where all these lanterns land at! But sure is a beautiful sight.

Ximending
Plenty of shops and shopping here. Ladies boots for NTD360-720. Besides the plentiful of shopping and activities, there are the food and there is one store here famous for the strange duck parts! Try the deep friend duck tongue. Sorry Donald.

Taipei 101
Experienced the food at Shih Yeh restaurant on the 85th floor. Higher end Chinese cuisine with beautiful ambience and a splendid view of Taipei. The food was above average but does not justify the high price tag and the requirement for a minimum spend at the restaurant of NTD1,280 per person for lunch (easily achievable depending what you order)!

Ding Tai Fung
This famous restaurant for its Chinese dumplings. Long queue in every branch you go to. Certainly well worth the wait. The restaurant is available all over the world but the original restaurant is in Taipei. Must try!

Beitou Hotsprings
Nearby Taipei town is famous for their hot springs especially Beitou. You can take a train from down center and arrive as this town. There are the public hot springs or the private ones. Private ones are pretty much those you rent a room for X number of hours for your hot-spring session. You pick the size of your room and the facilities with it. Recommended to stay a night as besides the hot springs, you have the usual night markets and plenty of food and shopping.

The Top
This is a restaurant on top of a hill with fantastic view of Taipei. The food is not the greatest but the view is extraordinary. It is located in the Kaixuan Shihlin District and best way to get there is by car. There are bus system there too but that will require a bit of navigation. Book a private tent or outdoor bbq area. For the best view, a night trip would be best.

**Note that the names of the places listed here are close to the names of how it should be in English. Taiwan still predominantly speak in Mandarin and hence some of these places are recognizable in Mandarin only. Anyhow, most younger generation speak very good English. The train stations and most places have very good English directions and instructions as well.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Szentendre

Whenever I got a chance to go around and see some places in a European country, I always like to go for small towns with a charming old town centre, historic buildings and cobblestone streets. Szentendre became the obvious option for a day trip while I was visiting Budapest with a Sunday to spare. Even better, the journey took only about 40 minutes on the suburban rail (HÉV) from the capital city. Szentendre is small and easy to find places, the town centre with beautiful old houses and cobblestone streets is just a short walk from the train station. Take a slow walk while you admire the colourful old house along the way. Also, on your way to the town centre, try to get yourself a Lángos which is a Hungarian flatbread at one of the shops; this ought to be an item in your to-do list.

The main square area centred around Fő tér is where the discovery of Szentendre should start; it offers a very well-preserved 18th century colourful Baroque townscape. The Baroque Memorial Cross was dated back to 1763 to commemorate that the town had in fact avoided the plague. As one of the landmarks is the small but stunning Serbian Orthodox Blagoveštenska Church that was built in 1752; the church together with the cross and other 18th century Baroque style houses around the main square are what make Szentendre a pretty and charming little town. It was worth spending some time here enjoying the view of the townscape and browsing through the souvenirs displaying at many of the shops around.

I then continued on the narrow lane lead off from the Main Square in front Serbian Orthodox Blagoveštenska Church, heading for Church Hill (Castle Hill). At the top of the hill is the Parish Church of St. John that was last reconstructed in 1710. The church ground is where you get great views of the town and the Danube. Many tourists and professional photographers alike were busy framing picturesque views, making “souvenirs” and masterpieces. Nearby, not far to the north, the tall red tower of the Serbian Belgrade Cathedral dominates the view amongst century-old trees. This cathedral and surrounding walls were built in the 18th century.

Szentendre is compact and can be easily covered in a day; as a tourist town, there are also plenty of restaurants around the historic old town and shops offering local handicrafts making it the best bet for a day trip from Budapest.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Krabi

Many would ask which beach to go to in Thailand? After all there are so many of them there. First being the 3 main holiday spots located within the same vicinity and share some tours to similar islands around the Southern Thailand and Andaman Sea. Krabi, Phuket and Koh Samui are popular among tourist visiting Thailand. Having personally been to Phuket before, Krabi seems like a good next stop. Probably Koh Samui next.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Taiping

Since the first article on this site was simply a brief one about the town, I should write a little bit more about it. I visit Taiping quite frequently, so let me try to put together some information which is hopefully helpful to interested travellers.

No visitor leaves without visiting the Lake Gardens. Being the primary attraction of Taiping, the Lake Gardens is a perfect place to take a walk and for photography.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Bukit Tinggi

Bukit tinggi (Berjaya Hills, what it's now called) is a themed hill resort just less than an hour drive out of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. It's an easy and cheerful getaway for the city dwellers because it's cool (more than 2500 feet above the sea level) and surrounded by lush tropical rain forest.

One very recent Saturday, I decided to give it a try taking a day trip to Bukit Tinggi. After entering the resort area, I first drove straight to the Japanese village and then to Colmar Tropicale. Oh! I forgot to mention that there's a 16 ringgit entrance fee to the resort area (for admissions to Japanese Village, Colmar Tropicale and Rabbit Farm).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brussels

I have been to Brussels a few times before but never really did visit the city. Neither did I spend more than a couple of hours in the city previously, as it was always a place for transit. This trip, though meant to come here to catch the plane to London, we deliberately made it here a day earlier wanting to see the city a little bit more.

After securing a room with a budget hotel,

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Interlaken-Jungfraujoch

Interlaken means “in between lakes”; the town is located between Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Interlaken is famous amongst tourists from all around. The town itself has simple appearance but to be compromised by the snow-capped mountains around it.

Travelling up to Jungfraujoch was my main purpose of coming to Interlaken. Arriving by train from Basel via Lucerne, my first impression on Interlaken - "this place is really touristy