Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Brief Stop in Ceský Krumlov, Czech Republic

Vienna, Salzburg & Hallstatt - Although I spent at least a day in each of these cities which might consider to be rush and short, but I glad that finally all these three had been ticked off my from bucket list. Will I be back again? Probably yes for both Salzburg and Hallstatt but nope for Vienna. 

So after spending three nights in Austria, I continued to the following country which is Czech Republic. It is a small landlocked country in Central Europe, located southeast of Germany and bordering Austria to the south, Poland to the north and Slovakia to the southeast. However, getting out from Hallstatt to the capital city of Czech Republic could be quite inconvenient as there is no direct transfer via public train or bus. At the end, my one and only last resort is by taking CK Shuttle.

CK Shuttle Hallstatt to Prague

Why I choose CK Shuttle?
  1. Convenient, easy and comfortable way to reach Prague from Hallstatt
  2. Affordable and reliable fully air-conditioned 8-seated van 
  3. Friendly and experienced English speaking driver
However for a transfer from Hallstatt to Prague, the capital city of Czech Republic, there would be a few hours stop in Cesky Krumlov. I never bother to check out this town until I reach there. Frankly speaking, I was utterly regret for didn't plan my trip here cause I never knew this historical town is exceptionally beautiful and spectacular. Silly me! 

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 01

Cesky Krumlov, an old city in the south of Czech Republic is a little like Prague in miniature. It is the second most visited town after Prague and in 1992, it has been listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site. This picturesque town is surrounded by rolling hills and the Vltava River along with a stunning castle and charming old town square.

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 02

Cesky Krumlov is one pretty compact, dense and convenient to getting around the town by foot. As I only had less than three hours to kill, I didn't wander too far away, or else I will miss out my second shuttle van to Prague. Due to uneven cobblestones path, it is advisable to wear comfortable walking shoes.

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 03
The charming old town square where filled with numerous of restaurants, cafe and shops. 

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The architecture of the town is a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque.

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 07

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 05
Magnets - one of the best momento besides postcards and keychains

2017 Europe Ceský Krumlov 06
Skechers - my favourite pair of comfortable walking shoe


Conclusion, in case you are planning your trip to Prague, don't forget to include Cesky Krumlov too for your Czech Republic visits - at least plan a day trip there. Don't end up like me, I'm absolutely regret for not planning wisely to visit here, which claim to be one of the Europe's most beautiful and marvelous cities to see.  

One way from Hallstatt to Cesky Krumlov via CK Shuttle cost CZK700 (approx. to RM140) and the journey takes almost 3 hours with a short stop for toilet break.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Harry Potter Studio Tour London

"Miss Diana, can we go to Harry Potter Studio in London?"

This is what my two students requested when we went to London two years ago for International Girl Guides and Girl Scouts camp held in Leicestershire. Although I'm not big fan of this series of fantasy novels but I watched all the eight fantasy films instead. Plus, I thought it wasn't a bad idea after all to include this as one of my London itineraries since we had three days to explore and discover London before entering into the camp site. 

Purchase Tickets In Advance
From what I research, the tickets are not available for sale on the spot, hence you need to purchase in advance and pre-book the desired time and date you intend to visit. For more details about the latest admission fee, availability of date and time, you can check out Warner Bros. Studio Tour website here. I would advise to book at least 2 months in advance because it's so popular that it might sold out quickly. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 02
#1: Purchase your tickets in advance cause they are not available for sale on the spot

Once you receive your booking confirmation via email, don't forget to print it out and bring along for the trip in order to print out the actual tickets from the kiosk nearby the main entrance. 

How To Get Here From London
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is situated quite distance away from London city. It takes at least 45 minutes to an hour from London itself to reach here via train. The Studio Tour's nearest railway station is Watford Junction which departing from London Euston. From Watford Junction, look for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour shuttle buses which located on the left side of the train station. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London Shuttle Bus
#2: Shuttle bus from Watford Junction

Single trip for shuttle bus cost £2.00 while a return trip cost £2.50. Bear in mind that to ready your cash as credit and debit cards are not acceptable.  

Hence, it is advisable to plan your journey ahead due it's long journey to travel all the way from central London to Harry Potter Studio Tour. Even if you arrive the studio earlier, you are allowed to enter and you can utilise your time for more photo opportunity instead. But in the case you are late, there might be denied entry. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 01
#3: After the long journey, finally we arrived.

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 03
#4: Since we arrived earlier, we took the opportunity for photoshooting here and there

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 04
#5: Now get ready to explore the wonders of the wizarding world


The studio tour started by queuing on the line before we're escorted into a room. Even while on the queue, be sure to check your left because you will spot....

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 05
#6: The cupboard under the stairs - Harry Potter's first bedroom 

Right after we were escorted into a room, there is a short introduction video right in  front of Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's door. At first, we thought it's just merely part of the design for the studio tour but not until the door opened itself...

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 32
#7: Hogwart School of Witchcraft and Wizardry's door

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 10
#8: The Great Hall of Hogwarts - This is where professors and students gather for dine and congregate. 

Frankly speaking, my jaw was literally dropping when stepping into The Great Hall. I don't think it's just happened to me, probably my two students too. We felt like we're like somehow inside the movie itself. Features with all the original sets, costumes and props from the movie, the studio is completely stunning and amazing. The guided tour ended at The Great Hall and from there, we're allow to roam around at our own pace. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 06
#9: Hufflepuff House 

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#10: Ravenclaw House 

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#11: Slytherin House

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 09
#12: Gryffindor House - Can you guess who are in this house? 

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#13: Rubeus Hagrid costume

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#14: Professor Dumbledor along with Professor McGonagall and Professonal Snape

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#15: Yule Ball Ice Sculpture from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 

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#16: The common room for Gryffindor

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 14
#17: The Hogwart's clock pendulum as featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 

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#18: Statue staircase

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#19: Professor Dumbledor's office

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#20: Professor Snape's costume and the portions classroom

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#21: Hagrid's hut 

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#22: The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets

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#23: The game of Quidditch costumes and props 

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#24: Ministry of Magic Atrium

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#25: Umbridge's office - Decorated completely in pink with ornate furnishing and cat plates on the wall 

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#26: Shades of pink

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#27: Platform 9 3/4 - One of the popular shooting spot

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#28: Red Hogwarts Railways 

Right after we went through The Great Hall and The Big Room which houses variety of original sets, costumes and props, we came into The Backlot, home to several of outdoor exhibits such as the Knight Bus, Privet Drive Houses, Hogwarts Bridge and The Potter House from Godrick's Hollow. Here, visitors are allowed to enjoy their food and drinks at the cafeteria serving cakes, sandwiches and hot food. However, I found the choice of the food is relatively limited and when seeing the price, obviously be ready for the pricey price tag. Anyhow, don't forget to purchase a cup of Butterbeer, the drink that features in the Harry Potter books and films. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 26
#29: The Knight bus, the triple decker bus that carry Harry to the Leaky Cauldron

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#30: Hogwart's Bridge as seen in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

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#31: Room of flying letters

We then proceeded into the second indoor studio houses creature effects and art department.

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#32: A life-size model of Dobby

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#33: Diagon Alley set

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#34: Giant replica of Hogwart's Castle to end the tour

Just like any rest of the rides and attractions of theme parks, you will come across a gift shop when exiting. Harry Potter Studio Tour is part of that too. The struggle is real and trust me, it's not easy to control the shopaholic addiction inside of us. We spent like almost an hour inside the gift shop hunting for these souvenirs to bring back home until one of my students eventually said, "Shut up and just take all my money!". What to expect inside this gift shop; hoodie and T-shirt with the respective houses, wizard wands, books, cups, soft toys, keychains, magnets and more. We were totally spoiled by the choices but at the same time, we were dilemma with the exchange currency. 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London 34
#35: Gift shop that will make you go gaga! 

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour London Souvenirs
#36: A t-shirt cost me almost £23 (approx. to RM128) whereas for keychains and magnets cost around £7-10 each.

For almost four hours, my students and I were enirely immersed in this magical of witchcrafting and wizarding world of Harry Potter. Each and every details from all the 8 movies can be seen and experienced here. We really wish we could stay more longer but thinking of the long journey going back to central London, it's best for us to leave earlier. All-in-all, this studio tour is worth to visit and absolutely a memorable experience ever, especially for die-hard Potterhead fans. 

Date Visited: 28th July 2016

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Accommodations I Stayed Before

LATEST UPDATED ON 10.02.2018
 
List of the accommodations I stayed before:
(This list will be updated from time to time)

MALAYSIA
Sabah 
Johor
Kuala Lumpur
klia2
LCCT Airport
Malacca
Penang
Perak
    Putrajaya
    Sarawak

    AUSTRALIA
    Brisbane
    Sydney

    CAMBODIA
    Siem Reap

    CHINA
    Shenzhen

    HONG KONG

    INDONESIA
    Bali
    Bandung
    Jakarta

    JAPAN
    Osaka
    Kyoto
    Tokyo
    MYANMAR
    Bagan
    Inle Lake

    PHILIPPINES 
    Manila

    SINGAPORE

    SOUTH KOREA
    Busan
    Jeju
    Seoul

    TAIWAN

    THAILAND
    Bangkok
    Hatyai
    Hua Hin


    Phuket

    UNITED KINGDOM
    London
    VIETNAM
    Ho Chi Minh City

    Disclaimer:
    The reviews of all the accommodation above truly based on my own personal experience and are my genuine and honest opinion of this hotel, and that I have no personal or business relationship with those establishment.

      Thursday, February 8, 2018

      Hotel Review: My Place @ Hua Hin

      Finding a place to stay in Hua Hin is pretty simple for me - as long the location is nearby to the night market so that we can easily roaming around without have to worry about the transportation. After scouting around for the ideal hotel in Hua Hin, I came across My Place @ Hua Hin Hotel and my friends agreed to choose to stay in this hotel. 

      After three hours ride from Bangkok, the driver dropped us somewhere close to the night market. And from there, we walked towards this hotel which just few minutes walk away. It's not really that far - like less than 5 minutes walk. 

      My Place Hua Hin 00
      #1: Overview of My Place @ Hua Hin Hotel

      Monday, February 5, 2018

      The Magical Town of Hallstatt, Austria

      After spending a night in Vienna and another night in Salzburg, so what's next for Austria? Of course, none other than this fairy town known as Hallstatt which has virally shared in Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and more. So tell me now. How's that possible for me to miss out visiting this place when planning my trip to Europe? This little magical town is absolutely one of the must visit place in Europe and became a favourite tourist destination.  

      #1: Sandwiches between a calm blue lake and mountains, Hallstatt has became a favourite tourist destination. 

      From Salzburg to Hallstatt
      To get to Hallstatt from Salzburg, one can either opt by train or bus. 

      For me, I took bus #150 to Bad Ischl from the bus terminal which situated outside of Salzburg Haupthanhof (the main train station). Once I arrived at Bad Ischl, I boarded train to Hallstatt. But then, my journey didn't stop here. I continued by taking ferry to the old town. Sounds complicated, right? Oh well, it does and I almost boarded on the wrong train (again!) but I glad that I finally make it. All these means of transportation I didn't pre-book in advance and bought on the spot.

      2017 Europe Bus 150 From Salzburg to Bad Ischl
      One way bus ride cost 12. The ticket can be purchased either directly from the driver or the kiosk. The journey takes about 1.30 - 2 hours. For more details of the bus timetable, you can refer to this http://www.postbus.at/en/Timetable/

      2017 Europe Train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt
      Purchase the ticket directly from the kiosk once arrive Bad Ischl train station. The train ride takes less than half an hour only. For the train timetable, you can refer here http://fahrplan.oebb.at/bin/query.exe/en

      2017 Europe Ferry to Hallstatt
      In order to get to Hallstatt old town if travel via train, one must take ferry to across. One way cost 2.50

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 12
      #2: The first thing I saw when came out from the ferry.

      Immediately I went and looked for my accommodation which located less than 10 minutes away from the ferry station. Due to the reason I plan and booked everything quite last minute, therefore my accommodation in Hallstatt consider to be the most expensive I ever booked throughout my Europe trip cause not many choices left. But anyhow, I'm not regret with my choice of choosing to stay here. Why? Wait until you read until the end.

      Accommodation in Hallstatt 
      As I mentioned earlier, the one and only choice left for a solo traveller like me is Gasthof Bergfried. Although it's pricey, but I got the whole room for myself. And the best part, this single bed room attached with private bathroom - mean I have more privacy and can bath as long as I want. Another advantage of staying here - there is a supermarket situated just few steps away.

      Gasthof Bergfried Hallstatt
      #3: Gasthof Bergfried

      Date Stayed: 14 September - 15 September 2017 (1 night)
      Room Rate: €61.70 for a single bed room attached with private bathroom (Booked via Agoda)

      Exploring Hallstatt In Early Morning
      I settled my dinner by buying some groceries from the supermarket. Right after that, I head to bed earlier as there's nothing much to do at night. Plus, most of the souvenir shops and restaurant closed quite early.

      On the next morning, I woke up as early as I could. Imagine for someone who is not a morning person, I try my best to drag myself from the bed, put on nice outfit just for the sake to explore this magical town. Although the weather was slightly misty, but I beg it's still better than overrun with tourists especially when you are trying to take a nice photo of the town itself.

      So now get ready to be overloaded with the photos I took of this impressive and incredibly photogenic town:

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 05
      #4: Hallstatt Tourist Information

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 02-1
      #5: Houses decked with flowerboxes

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 06
      #6: There are local residences and private property. So always be respectful and don't trespass it. 

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 03
      #7

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 04
      #8

      IMG_20170915_071624
      #9

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 07
      #10

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 09
      #11: Market square where you can hunt for souvenirs around 

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 09-1
      #12

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 10
      #13

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 10-1
      #14:


      2017 Europe Hallstatt 12-1
      #15

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 13
      #16

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 01
      #17

      Hallstatt Fridge Magnets
      #18: Fridge magnets collection

      2017 Europe Hallstatt 14
      #18: Handwritten postcard will never go out of style 

      As I will be leaving to the next country, hence I decided to try few of Austrian cuisines like:

      Wiener schnitzel
      #19: Wien Schnitzel, one of the national dishes of Austria. Well, it apparently is a breaded, pan-fried cutlet. Some restaurants served beef, chicken and even pork. 

      Apple strudel
      #20: Apple Strudel, a type of layered pastry with apple filling. 

      How Much I Spent In Hallstatt
      PARTICULARS
      AMOUNT
      RM
      Transportation
      Bus 150 to Bad Ischl
      Train to Hallstatt
      Ferry ride

      Accommodation
      Gasthof Bergfried – 1 night

      Food & Beverages

      Others
      Souvenirs – magnets, postcards, stamps

      12.00
      4.30
      2.50


      61.70

      27.15


      24.50

      61
      22
      13


      316

      139


      125

      TOTAL:
      676

      Each and every corner of this magical town is insta-worthy. So I advise to spend a night here and try to wake up as early as you can. Cause by 9 am onwards, the town will be overcrowded with those tourists who travel in a group and it's making hard to get a perfect spot for phototaking. I believe you don't want any of your photos being photobombed by anyone, right.

      Besides phototaking, there are few things you can take into consideration when planning your trip to Hallstatt like enjoying panoramic views of lake and mountains from the lookout platform of Skywalk "Wolrd Heritage View" and exploring salt mine museum as Hallstatt is home to the world's first mine.  

      From the moment I stepped into Hallstatt, this town has instantly took my heart away. I think anyone who been here before experienced the same thing and it has becomes one of my favourite places in Europe I ever visited. I really love to return to this photogenic town again and on my next return, I wish to tag my mom along.

      "Once upon a time, it's just a dream. Now, my dream finally came true"