Wednesday, January 27, 2010
One of the things that should be high on the priority list when visiting the picturesque city of Stockholm has to be the famous Stockholm archipelago.
To be frank, I never knew anything about the archipelago prior to stepping foot in the city itself. I'd heard about the historical Old Town, the massive amount of eye candies and the unforgiving cost of living that would empty your wallet (it eventually did), but nothing about the archipelago.
So, it was fortunate that I visited a tourist info centre and was recommended to have a day trip to one of the islands by ferry. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to sit back, relax and enjoy what nature has to offer.
Two problems though. First, the archipelago consists of close to 25000 islands. Spoilt for choices would be an understatement.
Second, it cost almost 160-180 Krona (Approx RM 100) for a return trip to one of the closest island by ferry itself. Quite a hefty price to pay just to visit an island 2 hours away.
It took me a while to decide between two of the nearest island (what to do, insufficient Krona): Vaxholm - a small touristy 'city' with a cool castle, or Grinda - island mainly for campers and known for its lush greenery.
After 2 months of city hopping, I figured a little greenery would do me good. Grinda it was then.
The trip on the ferry was a relaxed as it could be. Sitting all by myself by the deck marvelling at the perimeter of Stockholm, the beautiful mini islands passing by one by one and the cool summer breeze on my tanned skin. I even got a glimpse of Vaxholm when the ferry made a pit stop there.
Before long, I realised that I'd arrived at Grinda.
There sure weren't any false advertising by the tourist centre when they said Grinda is green and wonderful for nature lovers.
Except for a tavern in the middle of the island and a group of sun bathers by a lake, everything was as green as it could be. Especially when you're all alone and walking aimlessly around. Pure tranquility.
I even made friends with a couple of sheep and rams that seemed a little lonely. Baaaa.
After immersing myself in the lushly environment for close to 90 minutes with my trusty camera, it bloody rained leaving most of the people no choice but to head to the dock and await departure on the next ferry.
Pretty anticlimatic I would say. Just when the lambs were about to tell me a fantastic tale. We bonded well, you see.
I believe my trip to Grinda did not really exposed what Stockholm's Archipelago has to offer due to my limited time and budget.
If I really have another chance at Stockholm (perhaps when I'm filthy rich), I would love to really bond with one of the world's most spectacular archipelago once again.
No more bonding with sheep.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Ba Kut Teh
Being stranded in Sandakan for close to a week and deprived of my weekly Klang Ba Kut Teh, I just couldn't resist trying the Sandakanian version when I see one.
I know that Ba Kut Teh differs from region to region and did not expect the one in Sandakan to be anyhow similar to the one I'm so used to. True enough, the soup is pepper-based instead of being cooked with chinese herbs. Tasted more like pig maw's soup with soya sauce to me.
Nevertheless, there is something in Sandakan's Ba Kut Teh that you can never find in Klang.
These tender pieces of meat right here that taste like a combination of fish and chicken.
No wonder they have a huge mascot in town promoting their finger licking good flesh.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
I believe the Vatican City needs no introduction whatsoever.
Centre of Roman Catholicism, the place where the Pope rules and resides and the smallest country in terms of size and population (yes, the Vatican is an independent country within a city), the Vatican City is rich in history and definitely on the must-see list when you are in Rome regardless whether you're a Catholic or not.
Surrounded by high fortress walls, the Vatican oozes superiority and is definitely the mother of all cathedrals. I have visited countless churches/cathedrals during my time in Europe and none of them is as huge and impressive as the St. Peter's Basilica.
There was a ceremony involving the Pope and cardinals going on inside the Basilica during our time of visit (no idea what it was, can't understand Italian or Latin) and it was almost impossible to manuever ourselves among the sea of tourists and worshippers alike in the non-restricted area.
A shame really as it was really difficult to marvel at the amazing sculptures, artworks and architecture in the enormous church if we are bumping shoulders with other tourists every millisecond. Well, at least the St. Peters Square is huge enough to accomodate our photo taking sessions.
Just like most places of worships, the visitors were required to dressed decently especially the ladies or you will be refrained entry into the Vatican City. So, ditch the idea of wearing miniskirts or sleeveless attire under the unforgiving summer sun, ladies.
Speaking of attire, the Swiss Guards - bodyguards of the Pope have one of the most ridiculous costumes I'd ever seen. I can't believe they are there to protect the security and safety of the Pope with such colourful and jester-like attire.
If any of them has a great sense of humour, they will have no problem filling in as the Pope's personal jester/comedian.
The other interesting thing about the Vatican is they have their own, independent.....everything. From their own Euro notes, to their personal postal system. I was so tempted to post a postcard home from the Vatican itself just to have their postal chop on my postcard.
Regretfully, we never got to visit the famed Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel due to unexpected closure of the buildings. Perhaps due to the ceremony mentioned previously. What a disappointment indeed.
Well, if you look it in a positive way, at least our vacation in this country cost absolutely nothing.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
End of the year
One more day till 2010 and still clueless at what I'd accomplished in 2009.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
One of the most memorable experience during our journey was our fortunate and impeccable timing visit to Switzerland and Austria - right smack during the football frenzy, the Euro 08.
Okok, I know it is perhaps long overdue to be rambling about the Euro 08 when we are stepping into year 2010 but let's just imagine we just took a time machine back to good old year 2008 ok?
For a football fan, you will know that an unforgettable time is in store for you when you see an otherwise calm and peaceful city being transformed into a town decorated with everything football and houses hordes of fans in their national colours.
Seriously, you can't help but feel the amazing football atmosphere in every corner. Football and everything Euro were incorporated into every single object you see, from our favourite McD packaging, decorations on table to the street lamps.
There is even a freaking football at the top of the Jet d'Eau, the iconic Geneva fountain!
Everything just seems so happening.
Fanzones were erected throughout the host cities to allow the not-so-well-to-do-football-fans-who-can't-afford-a-match-ticket a place to gather, mingle, cheer and watch your favourite team battle it out on a huge ass screen.
Concerts, parties and events were all held in full force to cash in on the most happening sporting event in Europe every 4 years.
Even though we have no idea who those singers belting out in alien languages are on the stage, we still managed to soak in every bit of the atmosphere available and enjoyed ourselves tremendously along with the concertgoers and fans.
Speaking of fans, football fans have got to be the most passionate people. The would sing, cheer and scream in unison to protect the pride of their national colours.
Even to the extent of a football riot as I'd written here before. Which was a little too much for my liking. Especially when a missile missed my head by just a couple of inches.
If only Malaysian football fans have the same level of passion (without the riot and chair burning of course), we might actually be better. Well, at least we won in the SEA games this time around.
Oh, and I absolutely loved those roadshows that provide us free face painting. With a Swiss national flag on my face while watching the Swiss national team on the screen, I'd never had a welcome as warm as this from the fans. Absolutely brilliant.
Was so reluctant to wash off the face painting after that.
Well, it's time to step off my time machine and just reminisce the marvellous experience that was the Euro 2008. Looking forward to the World Cup in South Africa this time. Unfortunately, absolutely zero chance of me being there.
So fingers crossed I would strike a lottery and be on my way to Rio for the 2014 World Cup. That would just be sweet.
Monday, December 07, 2009
The Broken Chair
This is an enormous chair.
In fact, this is an enormous, broken chair smacked right in the middle of Place des Nations, Geneva. In front of the European United Nations.
Standing tall with only three legs, this eloquent sculpture symbolises the fight against land mines and cluster bombs, understandably with its missing leg. Where better to position the broken chair than in full view of the world's delegates entering the UN building.
It is a wonder how a structure so huge can stand straight with only three legs without tipping over.
Let's hope it doesn't. If it does and crushes somebody's leg, that will be ironic.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Judging by the demure outlook of the La Pedrera at first sight, I wouldn't have known that this is another masterpiece by the famous Catalan architect - Gaudi himself. Let alone paying 10 euroes to visit it.
In fact, I was attracted to another Gaudi work nearby with its remarkable facade and bonelike balconies - the Casa Batllo and almost decided to pay 16 euroes for a tour...
...till our trusty guidebook saved us. You see, due to limited funds, we had decided to only visit one of La Pedrera or Casa Batllo, if we had chosen Batllo, we would never see what La Pedrera had to offer.
And luckily we chose the demure looking one. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.
La Pedrera, once an apartment designed by Gaudi now houses a museum dedicated to Gaudi's many works and exhibitions. You would be able to see how he designed the various known buildings and his artwork ranging from chairs, tiles to even the doorknobs.
At an entrance fee of approximately 10 euroes (I believe mine was cheaper thanks to my almighty student card), you would be given an audio guide which explains in detail everything through your journey in La Pedrera along with the how the apartment rooms once looked like.
However, the charms of La Pedrera does not lie within the museum or the apartments. What's interesting is on the roof!
No doubt this is one of the most photographed rooftop in the whole wide world (as I'd read somewhere). Cause I can't stop myself from snapping away at the distinctive view.
The rooftop just oozes uniqueness and eccentricity as I trust that nobody would like their chimneys looking like those nostalgic Ultramen or Easter island statues.
The view from the top of the building over a dense but organised looking Barcelona city enhances the amazing feeling I had on the rooftop at a UNESCO heritage site.
Never would I have known that such a demure outlook has an amazing rooftop.
La Pedrera is definitely one of my recommended place to visit if you are ever in Barcelona - just for the rooftop itself. Furthermore, its cheaper than a tour to Casa Batllo which according to hearsay, doesn't have that much to offer in the building compared to the bonelike facade.
Nevertheless, I would totally pay Casa Batllo a visit if I'm ever gonna be in Barcelona. Good to see what I have been missing eh?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Colours of the Aegean
20 plus years of city life, I have never seen such bright pastel colours since pre-school.
Stepping foot on those Greek islands, I can't help but feel that I was transported into a fantasy land that only exists in childrens books.
Bright white houses painted with eye catching pastel blue. Grey well painted pebbly walkways. Brown. Yellow. Red. It seems like all buildings are painted within the lines, just like how a child would with a pack of crayons.
No rust. Nothing fades. No boring looks.
If you remember Mamma Mia, that is how most Greek islands looked like.
The quaint and charming looks of the islands' architecture warrants a visit whenever you are in Greece. If the beautiful beach and amazing party life ain't enough to tempt you already.
It is a shame really that we didn't had the chance to visit Santorini, the most popular tourist island in the Aegean Sea. But 2 of out 3 most popular and prettiest Greek island ain't too shabby after all.
With such gay colours every nook and corner, I suppose I finally solve the mystery of the gay crowd abundance at those islands. Hmm...
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Tipping in Budapest
One thing great about dining in most 'standard' places in Europe is that you know what you are paying for. No service tax, no government tax and the hassle of recalculating your budget - everything is inclusive.
Unless the service is top notch, it is not compulsary to tip either especially for frugal students like us.
So, there were we sitting in the wonderful Cafe Vian in Budapest sipping the local goulash and savouring the Hungarian styled duck meat with paprika counting our lucky stars that food in Budapest ain't as pricey as other parts of Europes.
The waiters were nice too and spoke decent English!
After a hearty meal, we asked for the bill. The waiter brought us the bill with such a presentable smile. Hmm, pretty reasonable price considering the nice food and cafe we were in so we counted our Forints (Hungarian currency) and paid the nice man.
The waiter thanked us and returned back to the restaurant while we continued sipping our sky juice (which happened to be free!). Then, the waiter reappeared with the menu and a not-so-presentable smile. Must be a demanding customer next table ruining the waiter's day we thought.
Shockingly, the waiter returned to our table. To refill our free sky juice perhaps? He looked, mumbled something and smiled at us. We looked back at him puzzled. He flipped open the menu and pointed at a not-so-fine print in the bottom corner of the menu.
Something along the lines of:
"Compulsary to tip at least 10% of the total bill price." Wow, didn't know we were in the States! Needless to say we paid only the exact amount previously.
Sheepishly, we digged our pockets for some extra Forint coins (exactly 10 percent of course, lol), apologized and went off like the wind.
Piece of advice - Always read the fine and not-so-fine prints on the menu before making a fool out of yourselves. Damn those kiamsiap asians, the waiter must have mumbled.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
22 years of age attempting to stay young forever.
Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
SJK(C) Hin Hua, Sek.Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Taylors College, University of Nottingham
TV addict, Online junkie, Slumber. Idolize Juan Pablo Montoya. Supports Chelsea
Full time student, Part time member of Anti Assignments Society.
Entries with an * indicates advertorial
blogdrive for engine.
blogskins for the skins.
serendipityq for layout.