Captivating experiences in Ljubljana

Ljubljana first captured me with its beauty. Then I was literally captivated when I checked in at Hostel Celica. The building was originally built as a prison in the late 1800s, and held ground as that for more than 100 years.

Before Hostel Celica opened its doors in 2003, a group of local and international artists moved in. Each group was assigned a cell, and with limited budget, they had to think creatively. Many cells have freedom as an underlying tone in different sense. The symbolism is diverse. Some have art painted directly on the walls, while others are artistic in design and furnishing. All 20 prison cells are completely different, except for an important detail; the barred doors.

Cell 107 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 107.

Artistic details in cell 107 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Artistic details in cell 107.

Cell 117 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 117.

Cell 118 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 118.

At check-in I got assigned to my cell for the night, 101. A part of the concept is that you cannot choose which room you will be staying. Like the former inhabitants, you should not know what to expect.

I turned the key, went through the barred door, and found a small prison cell with a narrow bed along one of the walls. At the foot end, it was a small chest in dark wood. At the opposite wall, a wooden table and a chair. The bookshelf over the table had a few books wrapped in old travel maps. The space at the floor was minimal, and did not allow much luggage. The top of the chest saved me (and the luggage), along with the fact that I finally have learned how to travel light. The showers and toilets are naturally situated in the hallway.

Cell 101 at Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Cell 101.

A narrow ladder lead the way to the second bed, located over the door. If you want to have the room to yourself, you have to pay for both beds. If not, you will get an inmate for the night.

Hostel Celica is situated in the Metelkova area, with the alternative artistic community as closest neighbor. Many of them live as squatters in the former military barracks, but they are mostly left in peace. The area is quite colorful, to put it mildly, both literally and with the different personalities. But that is exactly what makes it so interesting. During daytime you can stroll around for hours and explore the countless details, while in the evenings different bars open, with totally different styles, both in appearance and music.

Colourful houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia Colorful houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia Details on the houses in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Look for the small details in the Metelkova area by Hostel Celica in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Look for the small details.

To stay at Hostel Celica and spend the day in the Metelkova area is definitely a fascinating experience I will remember for a long time.

Have you spent the night in an unusual place? I would love to know what kind of place and where.

 

Daytrip from Dublin to Bray and Greystone

Dublin is for many synonymous with bar, Guinness and whiskey. But both the city and the surrounding area has more to offer. We took a break from beer and did the cliff walk along the Irish Sea on the coastal path between Bray and Greystone.

The bus meanders through the streets, with traditional brick house on both sides. Every minute there is a new bus stop, and although it’s exciting to experience a bit of daily life and the great scenery, we concluded that it would probably be a better plan to take the train…

When we finally get off the bus in Bray, we strolled towards the seaside. The streets were mostly deserted, but when we got down to the beach, we understood that this is where it all happens. The restaurants are situated slightly in the rear, people and dogs wandering around, and brave child tests the water temperatures at the beach. (Un)fortunately we are not here to swim, and head towards the coastal path along the cliffs between Bray and Greystone.
Bray beach, the start of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

Despite my enthusiasm for views, we refrained from going up to the huge cross that looms on the mound at the start of the walk. The view of the beach and ocean is great from the trail as well. Besides, we were looking for something completely different; Europe’s first geocache. It was also my very first. Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt using GPS. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

Found Europes first cache along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

We found Europe’s first cache!

The excitement escalated when the GPS was signalizing we were approaching the goal. The number of meters to the target sank asynchronously with our crawl up the hill. We moved rocks, looked around a little more, and finally realized where it was. Under a small pile of rocks, we found the camouflaged box. The feeling of triumph by finding the “treasure” rushed through me, but what I liked the most about the idea is that you can learn so much about the history and the place you visit if those who place the cache has submitted this information. This is naturally highly variable from person to person. We logged in the book and at the app, and buried the cache again.

Back to the more obvious treasure; the nature surrounding us. Spring was coming on strong, the bushes and the grass was bright green and the yellow and pink flowers competed to be the brightest colored. Who wins is hard to determine. From time to time we heard the train that passed below us. Otherwise it was mostly quiet, except for the small talk between people who passed us. Even the wind held its breath.
Flowers and an old stone house along the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland The cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Bright colors along the path of the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, IrelandEnjoying the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland Nice view of the beach in Greystone from the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The trail has a comfortable steady ascent until the equally pleasant downhill at the point the long sandy beach at Greystone appears. The last stretch was frankly a bit boring and we dream of a glass of ice-cold white wine. The search for a suitable place in the sun started. We hit jackpot with “Summerville’s of Greystone”, a cozy cafe in a yellow house along the road, with white and flowered wallpaper and old-fashioned wooden table and chairs. A very cozy place, with lunch, cake and ice cream on the menu. There is also a colorful backyard with wrought iron tables and flowers hanging along the wall. But everything else than sitting out in the sun was out of the question, so we sat in the front and fried.
Summerville in Greystone. Perfect for lunch and white wine after the cliff walk between Bray and Greystone outside Dublin, Ireland

The small coastal village, however, has more to offer. Just a stone’s throw away, on the little bridge over the railway line, big wine barrels function as tables outside of small wine bar. Heat rises in the sun, and cooled wine is certainly appropriate.

The heat was rising in front of the ticket machine at the station as well, as the seconds were ticking and the train approaching. There is a saying there is always a train. But not necessarily when you need it. The moral is to be early for ticket purchase. When the hunger also arise again, it is best to be on the safe side.

Since we were on a day trip, we thought we could exploit it to the fullest. The best seafood is found along the coast, so we went to the small coastal town of Howth for dinner. The train went directly from Greystone to Howth via Dublin. The village itself seemed relatively calm and quiet, but I envision the bustling life outside the bars and restaurants along the harbor when the heat sets in. Now however, it was only us as stubborn Norwegians, and a few locals, who insisted on having a cold beer outside, while the rays of the sun decreased in strength.

Our wine day continued during the seafood dinner at King Sitric. We ordered a little of everything and shared it all. Absolutely perfect!
King Sitric restaurant in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

A little taste of the seafood in Howth.

The gorgeous day was about to end as we strolled relaxed along the water back toward the train station. The sun was setting in the sea and colored the sky pink behind the many boats in the harbor. For many of them this was soon beginning of a new day of fishing, while for us was yet another great memory of a beautiful day.
Sun is setting in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland Sunset in the harbor in Howth outside Dublin, Ireland

Three shades of the Pulpit Rock; sunset, sunrise and noon!

The iconic Pulpit Rock is growing in popularity, and more and more people are finding their way up the stone stairs. Positively, highly welcome wooden planks along the way occasionally replace them, as you will definitely feel the sensation of the rocks in your legs. But it’s definitely worth it!

The increasing popularity has its price, but also creates new thoughts. Sunrise Tours are also possible, either with a guide or on your own. I had not thought of that possibility until I heard about the trip to Outdoor Life Norway a while ago. Strangely enough, considering my fascination for sunrise and sunsets. Since I had walked to the Pulpit Rock earlier, I decided we could easily do it on our own this time as well. Since the weather was so lovely we brought sleeping bags and slept under the stars (or not really, as it never got properly dark). The idyll was impeccable with magical views over Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord, with sunset colors lighting the sky. National Romanticism bubbled in my heart, to put it mildly.

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Beautiful view and sunset on the way up to the Pulpit Rock.

I had prepared myself for almost everything. Dry change of clothes to the top as well as warmer clothes. Sleeping bag, sleeping mat, toilet paper and a bag to bring the trash down again, wet wipes, and a little bit of wine to celebrate when we reached the top. But the mosquitoes took me off guard. Unfortunately, mosquitoes love me, while I hate them! Luckily, my extra warm clothes included both a hat and a cloth to cover my neck, so I managed to slightly reduce the damage. Yet they succeeded sneaking in between, leaving approximately 30 mosquito bites only in my face, leaving me to look like a pimply teenager. Makes my appearance younger then, at least! Every cloud has a silver lining. Or something like that … I can only hope that development stops and do not bring me back to the year 1349…

Let’s get back to the beautiful. Our camp site for the night was slightly higher than the Pulpit Rock, a little away from the other peers who stayed outdoors. Since we are approaching midsummer, it was not ever really dark, it went gradually from sunset to sunrise. The latter colored the mountainside and trees golden, and the rays of the sun warmed both the morning dew and the early birds.

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Sunrise over the Pulpit Rock.

Down at the Pulpit Rock plateau, I felt the fearing sensation when I peeked over the edge. 604 meters down, the azure Lysefjord looked dead calm. I sat down and enjoyed the view. And the silence. Even the hum of mosquitoes around my ears had subsided. A magical moment!
The Pulpit Rock is glowing! Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy! Great view from the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

Fearful joy!

Sensation of freedom at the Pulpit Rock, Preikestolen, Norway

The walk down was easier. Since we chose to go to the little hill to the right of the Pulpit Rock to get the view, we went a different way than the fine trail, but I think it’s a nice combination.

The sun was shining and the birds twittering. A wave of happiness washes through my body, and outshines the feeling of soreness in my legs.

Down at Preikestolshytten, you can buy the breakfast buffet, but since time began to run out, we went for the packed lunch offer instead, and packed a real Norwegian lunch including liver pate. Nice to enjoy in the sun before our next adventure started.

Rødne offers fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, so of course we had to try that as well. Since we were already at the “Pulpit Rock side” we chose to be picked up at Lysefjordsenteret by Oanes.

The boat ride through the narrow fjord has a nice balance of informative guiding and silence to enjoy nature. And performances of music by the Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” and “Nocturne” by Secret Garden. It was a bit strange to see Pulpit Rock loom high above us, and think that I myself had sat up there, swinging my legs over the edge just hours earlier. Although the water was relatively flat, the national romantic waves came continuously.

The only thing missing was a Kvikk Lunch chocolate, but fortunately, they had a kiosk on board…

Hengjanefossen waterfall in Lysefjorden

Hengjanefossen waterfall .

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there. Preikestolen, Norway

The Pulpit Rock is looming high up there.

Facts:
Take the ferry over from Fiskepiren in Stavanger to Tau. From here, both Tide Reiser and Boreal offer bus up to Preikestolshytten, which is the starting point for the hike. Buy either single or return ticket. We stayed overnight outdoor up by the Pulpit Rock, but it is also accommodation at Preikestolshytten, in various price ranges.

The hike takes about 2 hours each way, and naturally depends on physical fitness.

If you wish to do the sunrise hike to the Pulpit Rock followed by a fjord cruise on the Lysefjord, Pelles reiser drive a minibus from Preikestolshytten to Oanes ferry quay. From there it is only a few minutes walk to Lysefjordsenteret, where it is possible to be picked up. Fjord cruise on the Lysefjord concludes in Stavanger.

Magical Bagan

Morning haze is starting to ease. As a passenger on an electric scooter, I enjoy the view as we move silently among the countless pagodas and stupas scattered on Bagan’s plains.

A few hours earlier: the night bus from Yangon (which I just barely got to in time…) turns into the bus station a bit outside Bagan. I rub the sleep out of my eyes and continue out into the complete darkness before night becomes day. The search for a taxi driver who is not looking to trick me, starts. I try to pretend that I’m not “beginner” in Myanmar, I did after all ask the hostel what the cost of the trip should be. I find another traveler going to the same place, and we negotiate a common price. Ending up paying more than what I originally had managed to negotiate down to, though. The attempt to understand the logic fails, and we are both too tired to object. Both the luggage and we are pushed into the car. A drive through the unknown darkness await.

The other traveler is Carlos from Colombia, who is now driving the scooter. Despite the fact that we barely had exchanged a few sleepy words, we quickly decided to hire a scooter together, and then also be friends for a day. It’s often that way when traveling alone; you find someone to hang out with pretty quickly. With cameras around our necks and a map in my pocket, we were on the road. Tourists? Us? Not at all… And we were far from alone. Bagan is a very popular destination in Myanmar, and hundreds of thousands find their way here each year. Fortunately, the area is large, so it is still possible to find yourself alone at one of the smaller pagodas.

Old Bagan seemed like a good starting point. Just inside the city walls, or more the ruins of it, we stopped at Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, dating back to the year 1203. The building bears the ravages of time, but personally I think it’s just the way it should be. A structure built 800 years ago, shall not appear new, although large parts were restored after the earthquake of 1975. Inside, however, the modernization apparently started long ago, with small electric candles in front of the Buddha for prayers.

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya.

Gaw Daw Palin Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Majestic Ananda Phaya Bagan is a sacred and important temple, with four huge statues in gold plated teak inside. Also this temple was severely damaged in the last earthquake, but restoration work here has been done historically accurate. The exterior is elaborately decorated with lions and dragon heads, but also flowers.

Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Ananda Phaya.

Roof of Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Statue in gold plated teak inside Ananda Phaya, Bagan, Myanmar

Statue in gold plated teak inside Ananda Phaya,

From Ananda we found a dusty back road, which leads us to some more deserted temples. After the crowds at Ananda it was lovely to wander by ourselves, only with the sporadic company of locals strolling past on their way to their daily routines.
View of temples in Bagan, Myanmar Locals strolling past on their way to their daily routines. Bagan, Myanmar

The map in my back pocket was mostly intended as guidelines to ensure that we did not miss the obligatory highlights. The fun of exploring a new place is getting a little lost. We took turns on determining the direction each time we came to an intersection, and suddenly we ended up down by the river, where the local were doing the laundry.

Locals doing laundry by the river. Bagan, Myanmar

Locals doing laundry by the river.

We drove on, passing the everyday life. Shops of all kinds along the streets, small food stalls filled with guests hungry for lunch. Craftsmen, fruit sellers and improvised gas stations, which in fact were old soda bottles filled with fuel. We pass silently on our electric scooter, heading to explore more pagodas.

A gas station in Bagan, Myanmar

A typical gas station in Bagan.

Horse and carrage is common transport in Bagan, Myanmar

Shwe san daw pagoda was next. The tall building definitely stands out in the landscape. The sun is burning, and I’ll admit that the idea of climbing the high steps to the top, was not very tempting. But the view was. Pagodas and stupas close together as far as the eye can see, with lush green trees around them. That this is the most popular place to watch the sunset, I’ve absolutely no difficulty understanding. We, however, had a better plan. At least that was what we thought then… Anyway, we still had many hours to go before the sun would color the sky red.

Shwe san daw pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Shwe san daw pagoda.

View from Shwe san daw pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Our lojal electric scooter was still in good spirits with great energy, and took us further through the plains on the sandy roads.

Towards Dhammayangyi tempele. Bagan, Myanmar

Heading towards Dhammayangyi tempele.

Shwezigon Pagoda is considered the prototype for many Myanmar stupas. Strangely enough, this was here we met the smallest number of tourists. Or, let me rephrase – less foreign tourists. The area swarmed with people, but most of them were local students on a school trip.

Shwezigon Pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Shwezigon Pagoda.

Sunset over Bagan is often described as a magical experience. With my fascination for sunsets, this was obviously something I had to experience. Fortunately, Carlos shared this opinion. Unfortunately, so did almost all the other visitors… Despite the fact that we had done research on where we should go, nothing could prepare us for what we experienced.

Sunset means rush-hour in Bagan, and traffic is at a complete standstill. Major tourist buses, private cars, tractors, horse and carriage, scooters, bicycles, mostly things on wheels really, compete to get through on the narrow sandy roads. All others than those with scooters and bikes have to realize that they are out of luck. The latter mean of transport is most likely to sneak past the queue, but is probably too far away from the goal and must recognize that it is too late. In other words, get there in VERY good time if you plan to watch the sunset from one of the most famous places. It applies for anyone anyway, since you often need to go via the major roads to get even to the remote places.
Along the road. Bagan, Myanmar Early morning goats in Bagan, Myanmar

Nightmare at sunset by Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

Avoid this nightmare! According to what we found of recommendations online, Pyathada pagoda should be less crowded. Completely wrong…

Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar Sunset by  Pyathada pagoda. Bagan, Myanmar

But do not despair. Sunrise in Bagan is also beautiful. In fact, even more beautiful. Learning from the sunset experience, I chose to spend the dawning morning hours at a smaller pagoda along with a small group from the hostel. A totally different experience!

In almost total silence we sat patiently and looked ahead of us in the twilight. At dawn we could see the hot air balloons being inflated in the distance, before they cast off at sunrise and drifted slowly along the horizon as peaceful shadows.
Magic sunrise in  Bagan. Myanmar Magic sunrise in  Bagan. Myanmar

Many earthquakes throughout the centuries have placed much of the area in ruins. Extensive restoration work is implemented, but unfortunately a lot of work has been done without taking into account historical fidelity and accuracy.

A cool breeze mixed with historic atmosphere as the morning mist again disappeared and Bagan’s countless pagodas come out of the veil. It is indisputably a beautiful sight to see the peaks of the pagodas glowing in the colors of the sunrise.
Morning haze after sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar
Morning glow in Bagan, Myanmar

Where to stay:
If you visit Bagan in high season, it might be vise to book your accommodation in advance, as the city is  completely fully booked some days.
I stayed at Ostello Bello Bagan, simply because I had great experience staying at their hostel in Milan a few years back. The rooms are super nice, and they even have a resting area with a few beds on the roof terrace if you arrive early. The locals across the street offer all kinds of service, such as e-scooter rental, laundry, bus/boat tickets, etc. Very convenient.

Getting to Bagan:
I took the night bus from Yangon to Bagan, run by Joyous Journey Express (JJ-Express), but there are many other companies running the same route. I booked the ticket very conveniently by chat on their Facebook site. The ticket is paid directly at the bus station when you arrive.

See more information about Bagan.

Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur is a popular connecting hub for plenty other destinations. I can think of quite a few other large cities I like better though, but it is nice as a stopover for a couple days on your way.

As I have been to KL two times before, I felt I had done the “must see” things. And as I was quite tired from the flight, I decided to just go for the “hop on/hop off” tour. Usually this option is quite all right, but to be honest, this route was rather dull! There were long streaks of driving, and the information given was not too interesting. It did of course stop at the major sites KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers and a few other attractions, but as I had already visited earlier, I decided to stay on board for the full three hour loop.

Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Petronas Twin Towers

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas twin Towers, Malaysia

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas Twin Towers

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from Petronas twin Towers. Malaysia

KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

KL Tower.

View of Kuala Lumpur seen for KL Tower, Malaysia

View of Kuala Lumpur seen from KL Tower. Photo taken in 2005, so the view is probably quite different now!

Kuala Lumpur Skyline with Petronas Twin Towers and KL Tower. Malaysia

View from the Market Street Bridge in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

View from the Market Street Bridge.

The Old Market Square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Old Market Square.

Street in Little India in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Street in Little India.

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque.

The National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The National Palace.

As I love trying the local food while travelling, I signed up for the food tour offered for the guests at Back Home Hostel. A great way to combine eating with seeing other sides of the city that I probably would not have visited on my own. Simply because I did not know about them. Eating your way through Chinatown and Little India is also good if you have more time.
Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Butcher at Farmers market in Jalan Raja Alang, KL, Malaysia. Food tour in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

If it is your first time in KL and you want to do the “mandatory” things, I would recommend to stay somewhere downtown. I stayed my first night at The Traders Hotel, right next to the Petronas Twin Towers (the world’s highest twin towers). If you book well in advance you can get quite reasonable prices, also for the suites that include entrance to the lounge, offering free snacks and drinks. And of course a magnificent view of the towers and the park in front. If you are more on a budget, Back Home hostel is a good option. It is however one of the more expensive hostels, but also the one with the best ranking. It has a nice reception area and also its own movie room if you want that. If you fancy a party hostel, the Reggae Mansion right down the street would probably fit. I went for one drink at their rooftop bar, and for me that was more than enough.

The last nights a group of friends came, so I joined them at The Nomade Residence in Bangsar. It is a nice area with a local “village” with shops, bars and restaurants. If you have been to the city before and don’t want to hang around downtown it is ok to stay there. But it is about 15 min taxi ride from the Petronas towers.
The blue taxies have better standard and are a bit more expensive than the red ones. However, they fit up to 6 persons without luggage.

Batu Cave
I had not been to Batu Cave before, so I teamed up with a few others from the hostel and shared a taxi. The first thing that caught my eye was the massive golden statue and the wide staircase leading up to the cave entrance. Then I noticed the people, swarming like ants…

Appropriately covered up, we started the hot climb, trying to avoid bumping into the other people and watching out for the light-fingered monkeys while taking a break and a sip of water. Entering the huge limestone cave, Hindu symbols were scattered around along the walls, along with a few temples. The inner part of the cave is naturally lit up by the open air hole, while the largest part has ugly streetlight poles, and to be honest, it looked more like a construction site. I was not very impressed…

With that said; one of the other Batu Caves – The Dark Cave – has a rich animal life, including almost 200.000 bats! So if you are interested in that, it might be worth your trip anyway.

The Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The Batu Caves.

Decorations outside the Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Inside one of the Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia The nicely decorated roof of one of the Hindu temples inside the Batu Cave outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Batu Caves, with view of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

New Years Eve in KL
Since it was New Years Eve, we decided to go downtown to watch the fireworks by KLCC. Arriving at 23 (we of course should have been there earlier) it was crowded! We tried to get to the front of the towers, but the closer we got, the more packed like sardines it got, so we decided to abort mission. It was simply too many people, and quite a few of the men around literally grabbed the opportunity to place their hands on places they should not….. No wonder they have separate carriages in the trains for women only…

We decided to try to get around on the other side and enter the park in front instead. Arriving at the back of the towers however, we actually could find space to stand and breath, without standing body-to-body with others, so we decided to just stay there. We figured we would be able to see the fireworks between the towers anyway. That was partly right. We did see some of the fireworks, but quite a lot of it was on the sides in the front and did not get high enough for us to see. So, my tip is to get there early and try to find a place by the lake in the park. As we never got there I have no idea how crowded it was there, but it is a big park, so I am guessing it was not too bad. Correct me if I am wrong… And if I am, there is always the option to go where we were. See for yourself.
Happy New Year! The fireworks seen from the backside of Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
An other option is of course to make a booking at one of the rooftop bars (note that they are all inside) and watch it from above.

Rooftop bar at The Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Rooftop bar at The Traders Hotel.

After the fireworks we planned to take the LRT back to Bangsar to celebrate in the bars there, but again it was so overcrowded that we decided to have a drink downtown instead. It took forever to get it (no idea why, the place was far from full), so by the time we got out of there, it was already 2am and the subway closed before our eyes. The impossible hunt for a vacant taxi started, yet another reason to stay somewhere central so you are able to walk home. Eventually we went to the Mandarin hotel and got one from there. We all agreed next New Years Eve should be spent on a beach somewhere…

Transport from Kuala Lumpur airport to city center:
When arriving at KL you have different options to get into town. There are “luxury” taxis, metered taxis, the KL express or buses. For the taxis, you should go to the counters and get the coupon to ensure the right price. It was a long line at the luxury taxi stand, and the budget taxi counter was closed, so I decided to go for the option with the KL express to KL central, and a taxi from there. On my way down to the train however, I found another taxi stand for the budget taxis. Since I had already bought the ticket for the train, I just asked for the price. It would have been between 70-80 MYR.

The KL express was fast and convenient, 28 minutes non stop to KL central. The price is 35 for one way. However, the price changed to 55 MYR from 1st January 2016!
There is a taxi stand at the central station as well. Again, one luxury and one budget. I went for the budget version. Depending on what zone you are going to, you pay the fixed price in advance and get to coupon to give to the taxi driver. Smooth and convenient. They accept cash only though.

Local SIM card:
I have found it very useful to have a local SIM card while travelling, to be able to navigate from place to place, book accommodation along the way, search whatever I need online, and of course communicate and share the moments with the ones back home. Many of the operators had stands inside the airport (before collecting the luggage), so there is a good chance you will find one that fits your needs.

Pictures from Croatia

I just booked a ticket to Croatia in July, so what better way to “celebrate” than looking at photos from my previous trips to this magnificent country?

Have you been to Croatia? What is your favorite place?

Vis island

Vis town, Vis island, Croatia Vis island, Croatia View of Vis Town on Vis Island, Croatia Island views, Vis Island, Croatia Island views, Vis Island, Croatia Houses in Vis town, Vis Island, Croatia Poppy at Vis island, Croatia Relaxing cat at Vis Island, Croatia Seagulls at Vis Island, Croatia Bright red poppy at Vis Island, Croatia Beach and local beer in Croatia By the waterfront, Vis Island, Croatia

Fantastic sunset view from our room at Vis, Croatia

Fantastic sunset view from our room at Vis.

Fantastic view from our room at Vis, Croatia

View of Stiniva bay at Vis island, Croatia

View of Stiniva bay.

Stiniva bay at Vis island, Croatia

Itsy bitsy spider on the way to Tito's cave at Vis Island, Croatia

Itsy bitsy spider on the way to Tito’s cave.

Tito's cave at Vis Island, Croatia

Tito’s cave.

Sunset over Komiza, Vis Island, Criatia

The harbor in Komiza by night. Vis island, Croatia

The harbor in Komiza by night.

Komiza by night. Vis island, Croatia Nice and fresh seafood in Croatia

The blue cave by Bisevo outside Vis island, Croatia

The blue cave by Bisevo outside Vis island.

 

Dubrovnik area:

Stunning view of Dubrovnik Old Town

Stunning view of Dubrovnik Old Town

View of Dubrovnik old town

The market in Dubrovnik old town

The market in Dubrovnik old town.

Dubrovnik old town, Croatia

Quiet main street in old town Dubrovnik, Croatia

Quiet main street in old town Dubrovnik.

Old town in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Beautiful ocean view on the crossing between Dubrovnik and Lopud island, Croatia

Beautiful ocean view on the crossing between Dubrovnik and Lopud island.

Sunset, Croatia Dubrovnik sunset

More photos and information about Dubrovnik can be found in the posts Photos from Dubrovnik and LokrumHello and goodbye Dubrovnik and Restaurants in Dubrovnik.

Split and Trogir

View of the old town in Split, Croatia

View of the old town in Split.

The harbor front in Split, Croatia

The harbor front in Split.

Main square in Trogir, Croatia

Main square in Trogir.

Trogir bell tower, Croatia

Trogir bell tower.

Trogir houses, Croatia

View of Trogir, Croatia

View of Trogir.

Trogir harbor, Croatia

Trogir harbor.

Trogir by night. Croatia

Trogir by night.

Church in Trogir, Croatia

Church in Trogir.

The church on the mountain behind Trogir, Croatia

The church on the mountain behind Trogir.

Church on the mountain behind Trogir, Croatia Fishing boats near Trogir, Croatia

Hvar island
Hvar harbor, Hvar Island, Croatia Hvar town, Hvar Island, Croatia Street in Hvar town, Hvar Island, Croatia View of Hvar town, Hvar island, Croatia View of the harbor in Hvar town, Hvar island, Croatia The harbor at Hvar Island, Croatia

Sailing from Trogir to Kornati islands

The Cornati Islands in Croatia

The Cornati Islands.

Prvic Luka on Prvic island, Croatia

Prvic Luka on Prvic island.

The waterfall in Krka, Croatia

The waterfall in Krka. It was much more crowded than it looks…

Another sunset, Kornati islands, Croatia Boats on calm sea in Croatia Kornati islands, Croatia

A sheep or a dog.... Kornati islands, Croatia

A sheep or a dog….?

Bay of Kornat Island. Kornati, Croatia

Bay of Kornat Island.

Kornat Island, Croatia

Kornati island sunset, Croatia

Kornati island sunset.

A deserted restaurant at Kornati islands, Croatia

The moon and nothing else around. Kornati islands, Croatia

The moon and nothing else around. Kornati islands.

Clear blue water. Kornati, Croatia

Dive in! Kornati islands, Croatia

Dive in!

Preparing peka lamb. Croatia

Preparing peka lamb.

Peka lamb. A MUST try local food when in Croatia. Kornati, Croatia

Peka lamb. A MUST try local food when in Croatia.

More sunset, Croatia

Stary sky over Kornati Islands, Croatia

Stary sky over Kornati Islands.

Mir, the salt water lake at Dugi Otuk. Kornati, Croatia

Mir, the salt water lake at Dugi Otuk. Kornati islands.

Yet another nice day, sailing in Croatia

Yet another nice day, sailing in Croatia.

A short hike at the island Zirje. Kornati Islands, Croatia

A short hike at the island Zirje, Kornati Islands.

Primosten, Croatia

Primosten.

Sunset in Primosten. Croatia

Sunset in Primosten.

 

 

The Pattaya area

When I visited Pattaya 11 years ago, I was quite certain I would never go back. However, it just so happened that a good friend of mine moved to Thailand to work there, so I of course had to visit.

When thinking of Pattaya, I believe many people (including me) first associate with the sex industry. Obviously for a reason.

Luckily there is more to it. My friend’s apartment is in the Naklua area in the north of Pattaya, a nice and quiet area, not at all as the city center.

As I really love Thai food, on the first night we went to a nice local restaurant, I.M.F in Naklua Road. It look more or less like a large garage, with simple tables and plastic chairs scattered around. It is a part of the charm, and the food was delicious! Having a hard time choosing what to have, we ordered quite a few dishes to share. God have I missed the Morning Glory!

Enjoying a tasty meal at I.M.F restaurant

Enjoying a tasty meal at I.M.F restaurant.

Another nice place is the cafe The Hopper, situated in a garden between the high-raised apartment buildings. A nice oasis to sit and relax with an iced drink or an amazing smoothie.

The nice garden cafe The Hopper

The nice garden cafe The Hopper.

For a different food experience, go to the Naklua fish market, buy whatever tempts you, and have one of the grilling stations prepare the food for you. Picnic in the park right beside, or as we did, by the seafront. A good way to enjoy the sunset. Just remember that the food market close as the sun sets, so be there a bit earlier. And; bring wet wipes to clean your fingers after the meal!

Buying dinner at Naklua fish market

Buying dinner at Naklua fish market.

Food in progress Spice you own tastGetting around Pattaya:
Songtaew run back and forth all the time, and charge 10 Baht per person. You simply just wave your hand as they drive by, and jump on. However, know that the each street have different routes, so make sure to get on at the right one.
It is also possible to hail your own as a taxi, just remember to agree on the price before you get going.
Another alternative is of course also the motor bike taxi.

Koh Larn:
Right of the cost of Pattaya, you find the island Koh Larn. As the beaches in Pattaya are not the cleanest, we had already decided to go there. The boats leave Bali Hai Pier, crossing to the island in about 30 minutes. The ticket is 30 Baht one way, and can be bought either in the ticket booth or directly as you board the boat. There is one approximately every hour (on the hour), but to be honest I am not sure if the one we took was the very late 11 o’clock, or the one at 12 leaving early. What is certain was that it either way did not leave on time. So, you should arrive a little bit early to be sure. And the same goes on the way back; do not plan for the boat to leave when it is scheduled, in case you depend on being back at shore at a certain time.

Koh Larn is a relatively small island, but there are several beaches to choose. A Thai friend of mine had recommended us to go to Tien, and so we did. Jumping on to a motorbike taxi, driving us over the hill to the other side of the island, we paid 50 Baht each. Prices vary depending where you are going.

The water was crystal clear, and we just could not wait to get in! There were several restaurants along the beach, but all of them were in the back, mostly hidden behind shade-giving trees, so you actually can forget they are there. Out of sight, out of mind. Until you need a cold drink or some food. As many beach bars, the food was nothing special, but it gets you through the day.

Tien Beach at Koh Larn

Tien Beach at Koh Larn

Tien Beach at Koh Larn

Another alternative to the dirty Pattaya beach, is Sai Kaew Beach, about 30 min drive south. It is situated in a military area, so in order to drive through, the driver has to hand in an ID. From the parking lot, there is a shuttle driving continously to the beach. The beach is clean, the water clear and cooling. There is a 100 Baht fee per person (50 for children) to enter, and deck chairs can be rented for 30 Baht. Toilets and showers are available, as well as a few restaurants. Or if you prefer to bring your own food, there are picknic tables scattered around. Or do as most of the locals; relax under the shade of the trees.

Sai Kaew Beach outside Pattaya, Thailand

Sai Kaew Beach outside Pattaya.

Experienced in April 2015.