Discovering the world with relentless curiosity

Hello Munich!

After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two…

Munich-Germany (7)

After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two days in London with Adlee and Owen in their cosy home near Ealing Broadway. We were treated like king and queen with superbly delicious meals served every evening and a super-sized guest room to hibernate in!

Touching down in Munich meant ‘serious backpacking’ all the way… until we leave lovely Europe at the end of January. It was also our first real challenge as Munich had most of their signs, instructions, directions, in German! To our surprise we were given a warm welcome and given specific directions to get to our hostel by an absolute stranger who saw the question marks in our eyes.

Munich is the most expensive city in Germany, but it is also the place to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of traditional Germany. This city apparently is the heart and soul of Bavaria. The city carries with it 800 years of history tucked in the every side alley, cobblestone, signpost and window. Stories of love, vengeance, bloodshed, victory and the like fill the air. Munich’s history is a long, important one – it was the central hub of the rise of the Nazi power. Adolf Hitler, a person renown for his dictatorship and heartless acts is not something that people in Munich keep a hush on. Apparently it is encouraged to talk about it so that history does not repeat itself and lessons could be learnt from generations of suffering.

Not only is Munich filled gruesome history, it is also a city of victory as the city saw its surroundings crumble into rubble during WW2, however today walking into the city, you can only see buildings restored to its former glory, having taken years of meticulous reconstruction.

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Travel Tips In Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a fantastic city for tourism, rich in history with castles and museums dotted all over the city. However, for budget travelers, it can be an expensive city, with…

Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a fantastic city for tourism, rich in history with castles and museums dotted all over the city. However, for budget travelers, it can be an expensive city, with entry fees to all those places adding up quickly. So after 7 days of exploring the city by foot, here are some recommendations:

Affordable accommodation

  • Caledonian Backpackers on Queensferry Street – The building is just off Princes Street where the buzz happens. Free (and great) breakfast from 6am – 12noon. Free wifi and internet access. Super cheap bar. Mini beanbag cinema with an endless list of movies. Hot showers, comfy beds, generally clean. And the wall murals are great for pics.
  • Budget Backpackers on Grassmarket – There are over 700 pubs just along Grassmarket if you’re into pub crawling. Grassmarket used to be a trading place and a place for execution way back. Creeps for those whose imagination goes wild! The facilities are a lot newer, room prices are cheaper however everything else is on a paid-to-go basis. Breakfast is at 2 pounds, internet access 1 pound for ½ hour, baggage storage 1 pound per locker…

Food, Glorious Food

  • Maggie Dickson on Grassmarket – they serve really good chilli con carne, great for a hearty hot lunch. They offer discounts for students at 7.95 pounds for 2 mains.
  • The Last Drop on Grassmarket apparently serves mouth watering haggis (haag-geese) but the line was always too long for the wait, so we skipped it. Try it If you’re around and let us know if it’s really that good. Haggis is the traditional dish of Scotland, it is hot peppered minced meat served with a gazillion other spices. Usually served with Neeps and Tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips).
  • Rose Street is a street filled with pubs and restaurants. Go there if you have exhausted all places for food. From Mexican to Japanese to (obviously) Scottish food!

Things to do

  • Free walk tour by SandemansThe New Europe tours are designed for any kind of travelers for a first-hand introduction of specific cities in Europe. It is fun, engaging and educational – best of all it’s free. It’s quite impossible to download the entire history of a city but this tour dissects years of history into sizeable bits for all. Tour guides work on a tips only basis, which means we get to rate our tour guide and tip what we think he/she deserves.
  • National Museum of Scotland is a great place for knowledge thirsty folks. There are 5 floors to explore and you should visit the remains of the first cloned sheep, “Dolly” stuffed and encased in a glass box on a rotating plate. Admission is free.
  • Edinburgh Castle – The castle at Edinburgh perches on volcanic rock and dominates the city skyline. During the medieval period the castle at Edinburgh became the chief royal castle. State records and crown jewels were housed there. The room leading into the crown jewels is very impressive (take particular notice on the ‘Stone of Destiny’) and do a google search to find out its amazing ‘adventure’. Tip: Book online!
  • Climbing Arthur’s Seat or surrounding hills. The view from the large volcanic hill in the center of Edinburgh is a wonder on its own. Situated inside Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat takes approximately 1 hour to climb. Since it way icy and slippery we opted to climb other surrounding hills, but if you’re in Edinburgh in summer, spring or autumn – make sure you climb it!

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The over rated places…

  • Tours to Loch Ness is way over rated, whilst the scenery there is beautiful, you literally spend 6-7 hours on the bus to and from Edinburgh. Loch Ness, (Loch in Scotland means Lake) is a pristine and quiet expanse of water with the famous legend of “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster surrounding it.
  • John Knox House – Unimpressive and very much over-rated. John Knox only stayed in the house for a period of time and only a percentage of what tourists see are authentic fittings from the original structure. Admission fee is 3.50 pounds.

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Welcoming 2010 In Edinburgh

Welcome to 2010 in Edinburgh (“Air-deen-brrrrrr”)! If you didn’t know Edinburgh is one of the best cities to count down and celebrate the new years – parallel to places like…

Edinburgh_fireworks

Welcome to 2010 in Edinburgh (“Air-deen-brrrrrr”)! If you didn’t know Edinburgh is one of the best cities to count down and celebrate the new years – parallel to places like Times Square-New York, Hyde Park-London, Sydney Harbour Bridge-Australia and the likes. Incidentally the Scottish capital of Edinburgh put on one amazing show, with festivities that start almost as soon as the Christmas turkey is off the bone. The city wide party is called Hogmanay (“hog-muh-nay”).

Despite the cold, tickets are sold for an outdoor street party on Princes Street (the street dividing the new and old town). Thousands of revelers fill the streets as they party, elbow through the mad crowd and finally countdown to an awesome fireworks display at over Edinburgh Castle. Instead of fighting our way through the crowd, we headed out only at 1030pm to scale the famous Carlton Hill where it’s said to have the best views of the city below. Little did we know that fireworks were to go off on Carlton Hill as well!Edinburgh

We were awe-struck by the colourful rainbows on the black silhouette skies as tonnes of fireworks burst into the air.

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Dream Come True

(Guest Post by Terence Ooi)  As a boy growing up, soccer pretty much consumed my life. I had many dreams and a visit to Old Trafford was on top of…

(Guest Post by Terence Ooi) 

As a boy growing up, soccer pretty much consumed my life. I had many dreams and a visit to Old Trafford was on top of the list. Those of you who know me, I’m a huge MU fan, though my enthusiasm today, cannot be compared to what it was years ago. I was probably a real fanatic then.

I even once contemplated and said aloud – “I just want to be the gardener at Old Trafford”. How silly and impetuous!
This dream once died, revived, died and…revived. It did seemed too faraway, or probably not possible. Well, just a couple days short of the New Year – I walked, toured and visited the Theater of Dreams. It was beyond a dream come true. It was my Disneyland. What I’ve seen only on magazines and pictures, was now reality right in front of me. Our tour guide mentioned countless of facts about United, and I nod to most of them in agreement to what I’ve read or known. Stretford End, the players dugout, their changing room, their friendly banter and the treble – were all sung and “glorified”. We even had a mock walking out from the dug out to the pitch, with cheers and singing (all recorded) from the fans. It’s still pretty vivid in my memory – never imagined my wife would have tagged along too. But she did say – “she enjoyed it!”

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White Christmas At Huddersfield

BBC reports that in 4 years, this is the first time it has snowed just before Christmas making it a white Christmas this year in Hudderfield, England. All that chime…

BBC reports that in 4 years, this is the first time it has snowed just before Christmas making it a white Christmas this year in Hudderfield, England. All that chime about global warming, I can be sure it’s not only global warming but it’s a prayer answered! We woke up to a white cold wintery day with the sun shining every so brightly on the coat of white fluff. After wishing Terence a Blessed Christmas, I scrambled down to find Aunty Kim sitting on her leather chair sipping tea.

We had come all the way from London to spend Christmas with Aunty Kim, Uncle Philip and Antony at their home in Huddersfield, approximately 4 hours from London. Their home is set in the countryside overlooking rolling hills and acres of green pastures. A cozy fireplace welcomes us in the living room with a typical Christmas tree with a shining star set on top of it. The home is decorated very Victorian like with pretty floral designed carpets, bell shaped lamps and leather chairs with big arm rests.

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Since arriving, it has been a bliss – feeling all homey and warm and a serve of the ever tasty curry fish and chips. Terence has been raving and craving over the battered fried fish and the delicious thick and hot curry sauce. I must say – I was not disappointed at his rave, it was mouthwatering to say the least.

We made some hot toasts and suited up for a walk in the woods since the sun was out. We trudged pass small streams, walked on ridges and came up to a reservoir which was practically frozen from the cold. We made snowballs, tossed and swung them at each other and smashed them into the frozen waters to make pretty smashing designs. Met a couple of neighbours along the way, played with their dogs and carried on. We slipped and slide on the melting snow and finally crashed on the white fluff to make silly snow angles. Laughed, snickered and took loads of pictures to remember our walk in the woods on Christmas morning.

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And in keeping to tradition, Christmas and all its festivities would not be complete without a turkey, Aunty Kim roasted turkey with sausage stuffing and made ‘pigs in blankets’ and stuffed tomatoes and mushrooms with the rest of the stuffing. We had a table laden with a huge bird, roasted veggies and potatoes. We had so much to eat, yet that wasn’t the end. We had flaming Christmas pudding and apple pie for desserts which left us dizzy not from the brandy but from the plateful of food we had. Thankfully dinner had nothing on the menu. We fasted the next 15 hours before our next meal!

Thank you Jesus for a amazing Christmas treat, above all for giving us life and life abundantly…!

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Exploring London

Our day started with a hunt for winter boots as the first signs of snow herald our arrival. Being on budget travel does not permit us to splurge – so…

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Our day started with a hunt for winter boots as the first signs of snow herald our arrival. Being on budget travel does not permit us to splurge – so our hunt excluded shopping on the West End of London. Instead Chern recommended a place called Primark where she got her boots for only 7 pounds. Much to my delight shopping, everything was a steal and hard to resists. I finally found a pair for 5 pounds! Ah joys of great bargains.

Next, we hoped to catch the Queen at the Buckingham Palace for a cuppa tea but was quite unfortunate. Even the guards didn’t come out to play today – it was apparently too harsh a weather for them. Ah well – so we thought we could feed some pigeons at Trafalgar Square, again much to our dismay not a pigeon was found fluttering in sight. Wonder what they did to get rid of them! Sights were pretty nonetheless. European architecture is something I’m trying to appreciate and understand – especially since I’d be roaming in more than a couple of castles in the next few weeks!

The Big Ben and Westminster Abbey pretty to behold. It still startles me how old London buildings are and how well they are taken care of. Each building had a story to tell and each echoes a different line of history. This we found true as we were walking down the street on the West London and stumbled on a town house that Benjamin Franklin used to live in – how surreal indeed.

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Around London

Did I tell you that Chern is a great host?! Well she is! She gave up her room for us, made sure we had hearty breakfast before heading out and…

Did I tell you that Chern is a great host?! Well she is! She gave up her room for us, made sure we had hearty breakfast before heading out and made us packed lunch so that we didn’t grow hungry walking the streets of London! If you don’t already know, London is an expensive city to holiday in – so we try to save where we can. And packed lunch is awesome! Today we had tuna and corn sandwich overlooking the river Thames & the London Eye. Whilst feasting on the sandwiches, the cold had a bite at our fingers too… we quickly scurried for something warm at the Christmas Markets.

Little make shift shops lined the walkway along the Thames, each with its own design and flavor. Family come in throngs all bundled in warm coats, scarves and beanies as they hopped from one shop to another. The market was laden with Christmas goodies like German sausages, mulled wine, hot chocolate, Christmas candies, pretty trinkets and even Spanish churros. The buzz of Christmas cheer filled the air…

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We spent the late afternoon watching the sun set over the Thames and stopping off to watch buskers do some silly stunts. We were purely entertained by the showmanship of these street entertainers and our ability to brace the cold – laugh and cheer with glove fitted hands (clearly our claps didn’t make much noise!)

Our great host had another surprise for us – she had earlier bought Lion King tickets as Christmas presents for us. I was ecstatic as I remembered watching ‘The making of Lion King the Musical’ on TV when I was much younger and was in total wonderment at the stage play and props. It was my chance to watch it live now! As surreal as the thought of actually being in London, Lion King was a major dream-come-true for me.

Staged in Lyceum Theatre in West End, London, the 2 ½ hours show left us awe-struck and enthralled. The props were incredibly amazing and intricate Set against the majestic plains of the Serengeti and to the evocative rhythms of Africa (especially by Rafiki the baboon), this Disney’s multi-award winning musical raised my expectations of theatre. The show was a spectacular visual feast of dazzling animal characters, bursting colours, stunning effects and enchanting music. Everything in the theatre was electrified; the audience stuck to their seats throughout the show and burst in applauds as the actors came out for a bow. Bravo without a doubt!

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