Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Europe (2017): Solo Trip to Vienna, Austria

I can't stay longer in a place. Therefore after spending 3 days 2 nights in Budapest, I decided to proceed to the next country, the next city - Vienna, the capital city of Austria. Austria is not a new country to me as I've been before 9 years ago but at that point of time, I only managed to cover Tyrol, one of the cities located in the west of Austria. So for this time around, I included few cities of Austria in my list that I must visit and shouldn't miss out. 

From Budapest To Vienna
There are numerous way to get into Vienna from Budapest but of course for me, I would prefer the cheapest option, which is my main priority then following according to the time schedule which suit me. I took train from Budapest-Keleti Railway Station to "Wien". Bear in mind the station names of all stops in Vienna begin with its German name "Wien". I bought my train ticket in advance from MAV at www.mavcsoport.hu/en for €13 or HUF4,030 (approx. to RM69) for almost 3 hours train ride.

It's really hard for me to explain everything here, hence I recommend you to read this "The Man in Seat Sixty-One" - the best train travel guide which helps me a lot in planning most of my trips. 

2017 Europe Budapest Keleti railway station
Budapest-Keleti Railway Station, the main international and inter-city railway terminal of Budapest

Huawei P9 - Europe
I found the seats arrangement pretty awkward cause you sit face to face with other passenger. Imagine you accidentally fall asleep and he/she keep looking at you throughout the train ride. 

Here comes the confusing part. I never knew Wien has four train stations and for safety purposes, I booked all my train tickets arrive at and depart from Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Main Station). Only to find out my hostel is closer to the Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna West Station). Silly me! 

2017 Europe Vienna Main Station
Wien Hauptbahnhof (Vienna Main Station) - the most important national and international transportation hub in Austria

Few things you must take note when taking train from Budapest to Vienna/Wien:
1) Reserve your seat number in advance and arrive at the train station earlier. There are plenty of passenger couldn't get any seat throughout the journey cause they arrived late. 
2) Be prepared with your passport as there will be immigration officers checking every passport since the train across from one country to another. 

Where I Stayed In Vienna
Vienna is potentially one of the safest cities in the world for its size. So whichever part of the city you choose to stay, you don't have to worry much. Most of the times I prefer to stay closer to the train or bus stations. Hence, I picked Wombats City Hostel Vienna - The Lounge. Do take note there are three different Wombats Hostel in Vienna itself but I prefer The Lounge for its convenient and strategic location. Beside so close to Wien Westbahnhof (Vienna West Station) which I mention earlier, there is a large shopping mall, plenty of shops and restaurants and more. As for the hostel itself, the lounge and dining area are completely huge and I love their kitchenette. How I wish I could stay longer but I only stayed for a night.

Wombat Hostel Vienna

Date Stayed: 12 September 2017 (1 night)
Room Rate: RM116 for a bed in 6 bed female room ensuite with private bathroom. (Booked via Agoda)

What To Do & See In Vienna
Now let's start with the day pass or ticket. In the case you love to visit museums and art galleries, you should consider buying Vienna Card (24 hours - €13.90, 48 hours - €21.90 or 72 hours - €24.90) for unlimited public transportation ride and discounts for the museums and art galleries. I bought this but  however by end of the day, I felt not worth because first, I wasn't into all these historical things and it totally can't apply to all the museums. It's better to opt for other ticket instead; the 24-hour ticket for €7.60, 48 hour ticket for €13.30 and 72 hour ticket for €16.50.

Vienna Card 24 Hours
Vienna Card (24 hours - €13.90, 48 hours - €21.90 or 72 hours - €24.90) - It's freaking expensive and I found it's not worth for me.

1) Schonbrunn Palace - former imperial summer residence with ceremonial rooms and stunning gardens. Due to its historical significance, for its unique layout and magnificent furnishings, this palace has been listed in UNESCO World Heritage. To be frank as I don't know much about Austrian history, the only thing I know is this palace is related to Emperor Franz Joseph. What amazed me is there are more than 1,400 rooms in Schonbrunn Palace itself. However, only 45 rooms are open to public for visit.

2017 Europe Vienna Schönbrunn Palace

As for the ticket fee, you can choose the tour based on your preference and there is time limit for each tour. Why did I say earlier that the Vienna Card is not worth because the discount can't apply to few of the tours offer like Imperial Tour and Grand Tour. Another thing you should take note is no photography is allowed inside the palace. 

Getting To Schonbrunn Palace:
Underground: U4 Schonbrunn station
Trams: 10 and 58 Schonbrunn
Bus: 10A Schonbrunn station

2) St. Stephen's Cathedral - most important and symbolic building of Vienna. The 14th century Romanesque and Gothic cathedral is famous for its multi-coloured tiled roof and has played a part in Viennese culture over the centuries, witnessing many important imperial and social events.  

2017 Europe Vienna St. Stephen's Cathedral

Getting To St. Stephen's Cathedral
Underground: U1, U3 Stephansplatz

3) Graben Shopping Street - exclusive and noble shopping street in the heart of the inner city. Here, you can enjoy shopping like H&M and able to find a lot of different eatable souvenirs from Vienna. There are even plenty of coffee shops and restaurants tucked in between all these shops. 

2017 Europe Vienna Graben Shopping Street

Getting To Graben Shopping Street
Underground: U1, U3 Stephansplatz

4) Imperial Hofburg - impressive and incredible building at the Heldenplatz public space with long history. It's situated at Vienna's splendor boulevard, the Ringstrasse and is reachable from there through the Burgtor gate. It used to be principal imperial winter residence and today the the official residence and workplace of the President of Austria. 

2017 Europe Vienna Hofburg

Getting To Imperial Hofburg
Underground: U3 Herrengasse station

5) Wiener Rathaus - the town hall of Vienna. Built in a Neo-Gothic style, it houses the office of the Mayor of Vienna as well as the chambers of the city council. Among all the buildings I visited, I particular love this especially for its richly adorned facade. And before I arrived at this town hall, there is a spectacular city garden known as Rathauspark which manicured with beautiful flowers, monuments and fountains.  

2017 Europe Vienna Rathaus

2017 Europe Vienna Rathauspark

Getting To Wiener Rathaus
Underground: U2 Rathaus staion


6) Vienna Opera House - Ended my night in Vienna by visiting the worldwide known opera house. In here, the audience can watch daily opera performances, ballet shows and sometimes concert and one time a year an operatta which is the Fledermaus as traditional New Year's Eve performance. As I was arrived late, I unable to join the guided tour which costs approximately €9 for an hour tour. 

2017 Europe Vienna Opera House 01

2017 Europe Vienna Opera House 02

Getting To Vienna Opera House
Underground: U1, U2 and U4 Karlsplatz station

I love to do cafe hopping and if possible, I would try to fit in at least one cafe visit into my itinerary. As I unable to visit one of the most popular cafe in Budapest because it was too crowded, I decided to try my luck to visit one in Vienna. After reading few reviews from Tripadvisor, I picked - Cafe Central. If you are searching for authentic Viennese food like Wiener Schnitzel, apple strudel and hot Viennese coffee, perhaps this classic cafe is the right place for you to sit down, relax, unwind and admire the old world charm history.

2017 Europe Vienna Cafe Central 01
Go early or else there would be long queue 

2017 Europe Vienna Cafe Central 02
Cakes for the sweet tooth like me - Aren't they beautiful? 

2017 Europe Vienna Cafe Central 03
And more cakes on the other side. How I wish I can order more but I was all alone. 

2017 Europe Vienna Cafe Central 04
I ordered Wiener Melange - Viennese style coffee, extended espresso with fronted milk. 

Of course when comes to the price, expecting a cup of coffee to cost at least €5 as well as for the cake. Oh well at least it worth for the price I paid especially for its cozy ambiance and slow-paced atmosphere. Another thing you should take note when dining-in in Europe is expecting to give tips at least 10% from your total bill. I didn't know this until one of my hostelmates told me about it. No wonder the waiter didn't return my change when my bill is only €9.20 but then I gave him €10.

How Much I Spent in Vienna
Here are the breakdown:

PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
RM
Accommodation
Wombats City Hostel Vienna - The Lounge – 1 night

Transportation
Train from Budapest to Vienna
Vienna City Pass

Admission Fee
Schonbrunn Palace - Grand Tour 

Food & Beverages

Others 
Souvenirs – magnets, postcards, stamps & etc

-


-
13.90


17.50

22.30


7.10


116


69
71


90

114


36

TOTAL:
496

Exchange Rate: €1.00 = RM5.12 as at September 2017


Frankly speaking, Vienna is not my liking and luckily I only stayed for a night. It's indeed one beautiful city to visit especially for those who haven't been Vienna yet but somehow, nothing impressed me here. So what's next after this? Stay tune! 

2017 Europe Vienna 01
I crossed the road many times just to take this cute traffic light I spotted in Vienna 🚦💑

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Europe (2017): Great Market Hall of Budapest, Hungary

The thing that I like to do when travel overseas is visiting souvenir markets. I love to hunt for souvenirs such as postcards, fridge magnets, keychains and even their own local products. And when in Budapest, the most recommended place if you are looking for souvenirs for your family and friends back home would be the Great Market Hall.

2017 Europe Budapest 07 Great Market Hall

Also known as Central Market Hall, it is the largest and oldest indoor market in Budapest city. It consists of three-storey hall where the ground floor selling daily products such as fruits, poultry, vegetables and etc whereas for the upper floor where you can find raft of stalls selling variety of souvenirs such as Hungarian dolls, embroidered linens, glassware and more. Obviously the upper floor is my favourite section where I wandered for hours, until sensory overload kicks in. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Chasing Autumn in Hokkaido, Japan

In case you follow my Instagram, yes I'm on another trip to Japan again and I choose to be back to Hokkaido once again which I went last year during the end of winter and early of spring but this time around, I travel during the fall which is one of my favourite seasons after spring. 

My second trip to Hokkaido I went and discover new places such as Furano, Biei and Asahikawa which I missed out last year. Here are the sneak peek as usual:

Blue Pond
#1: The calm and serene famous Blue Pond in Biei

Hokkaido Furano
#2: Vibrantly colourful flower farm in Furano

Asahiyama Zoo
#3: Asahikawa Zoo in Asahikawa 

Of course some of the places I encountered and went back for the second time but it's really worth for another visit. Trust me, Hokkaido is amazing and mesmerising in any seasons. Planning to go for the third time.

Hokkaido Otaru 01
#4: Otaru Canal, been here before but I really love this small and calm port town.

Hokkaido Otaru 04
#5: It's sunny day in Otaru and I love the weather

IMG_3785
#6: A trip to Hokkaido is incomplete without having the famous King Crab. Five of us ordered the crab weighted 1.6 kg. It's so sweet and juice. 

Oh yeah! I haven't back to Malaysia yet cause I'm currently wandering around Tokyo alone while my friends went back home already. I don't feel like wanna go back home yet. This gal with itchy feet never stop wandering around. 

#7: The life-sized Unicorn Gundam statue in Odaiba

In case you haven't read my previous post on Hokkaido which I went last year, check out this:
9D7N Hokkaido (Japan) 2016 Itinerary & Travel Expenses

Sayonara!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Europe (2017): 3D2N in Budapest, Hungary


Honestly to say right after I purchased the airticket to Europe with Thai Airways, I was indecisive of which countries should I cover this time around. Besides Denmark and Finland, I have no idea where should I go and travel. There are so many in my bucket list - Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and more (I know I know I'm greedy) but it's impossible for me to cover all when I only have 16 full days in Europe. At the end I decided to go Budapest, Hungary when I stumbled upon flight from Copenhagen, Denmark to Budapest directly for as low as €49.20 (approx. to RM256) which included 20kg baggage allowance via Norwegian. There is another airline, Ryanair which offer more lower fare but unfortunately the flight is at night. Cause I travel alone, therefore I prefer to travel during the daytime.

2017 Europe Norwegian to Budapest
Although Norwegian is a low cost airline but the best part is it offers free WiFi to all passengers on its transatlantic flights. That's pretty cool man! 

From Airport To The City Center
The most economical way is by taking the public transportation. There are two buses you can opt for:
1) Bus 200E to Kőbánya-Kispest, which is the final and last stop and then change for the M3 (blue) metro line.
2) Bus 100E. The buses stops only in the direction of Deák Ferenc tér at Kálvin tér and Astoria. One way cost HUF900 and the ticket can be bought at BKK customer centers, cash desks, and ticket machines. The journey takes about 40 minutes. (I took this one as my hostel is nearer to Astoria.)

Currency
Hungary's national currency is the Hungarian Forint, or HUF. It's advisable to change to the local currency because Euro is not widely accepted is most of the places like restaurants, market and not forgetting when travel using public transportation. Try to change as little as possible in airport as the rate is €1 to HUF245. I'm not sure where is the best place to change local currency but from what I observed, I found out Great Market Hall offers the best rate. Fortunately, debit and credit cards are widely accepted even at a fast food restaurant. I rely heavily on my debit card to do my shopping when my luggage went missing. 

[Note: Remember to activate your debit card before travelling overseas especially if you are using local banks like CIMB, Maybank]

How To Get Around Budapest
Budapest city splits into half by the Danube river, the west side known as Buda and east side known as Pest. Majority of Budapest's attractions are within easy walking distance. Besides that, Budapest's extensive public transit system is generally convenient and easy to navigate. One can travel via metro but few major attractions particularly on the Buda area are served by buses and trams. As one single trip with metro cost HUF300, maybe one can consider to purchase the following travelcard:
  • 24-hour travelcard = HUF1,650 (Valid for 24 hours after purchase) 
  • 72-hour travelcard = HUF4,150 (Valid for 72 hours after purchase) 
Initially I plan to buy 72-hour travelcard but at the end, I didn't do so cause I keep walking and walking for non-stop. By end of the day, I think I walk more than 20km in a day.

What To Do & See In Budapest, Hungary
Here are few attractions and famous landmarks I managed to visit around Budapest:

1) St. Stephen's Basilica - Budapest's largest church houses Hungary's most scared relic. It is named in honor of Stephen, the first King of Hungary whose supposed right hand is housed in the reliquary. Admission fee is free but kind donation of HUF200 is appreciated.  

2017 Europe Budapest 01 St. Stephen's Basilica
This Roman Catholic basilica just located very close to my hostel. 


2017 Europe Budapest 01 St. Stephen's Basilica 02
Altar of St. Stephen's Basilica 

2017 Europe Budapest 03 Rose Gelato
Gelarto Rosa next to St. Stephen's Basilica 

Getting To St. Stephen's Basilica:
Arany Janos utca under M3 (blue) metro line.

2) Szechenyi Chain Bridge - The oldest suspension bridge that spans the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest. Trip to Budapest is incomplete without walk through this bridge.

2017 Europe Budapest 02 Széchenyi Chain Bridge

3) Matthias Church - This is one of the finest churches in Budapest and the most unique churches in Europe I ever came across. What amazed me is the coloured tiles roofs which making this church is totally different for the rest of churches I've ever seen. 

2017 Europe Budapest 03 Matthias Church

2017 Europe Budapest 03 Matthias Church 02

Getting There
Bus: 16A Bus from Szell Kalman Square (M2 metro station) or 16 Bus from Deak Square (M1, M2 and M3 metro lines)
Funicular: From Clark Adam Square to the Castle Hill and an approx. 10-15 min walk from the Funicular. 
Admission Fee: HUF1,500

4) Fisherman's Bastion - Just east of Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastion is a terrace in neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque style. This looks alike fairy-tale castle offers amazing and marvelous panoramic views of the entire city of Budapest. 

2017 Europe Budapest 04 Fisherman's Bastion

2017 Europe Budapest 04 Fisherman's Bastion 02

I only managed to visit 4 attractions and landmarks on the first day arrived in Budapest because I was busy shopping for my clothes, toiletries and necessities. So on the next day, I woke up as early as 6 am as I can't wait to wander around the charming city of Budapest. 

5)  Liberty Statue or Freedom Statue - Early morning without having any breakfast, I hiked up the hill alone for the sake of this monument - a lovely lady with a palm frond stands atop of the Gellert Hill of Budapest. It commemorates those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom and prosperity of the country. Hiking up was indeed exhausting but the view from the top is breathtaking. 

2017 Europe Budapest 05 Citadella

Solo Trip to Europe

6) Liberty Bridge - In order for one to get up to the Liberty Statue, he or she should across the Liberty Bridge first. (Just kidding! I know it sounds lame.) This is another popular bridge besides Szechenyi Chain Bridge. Although it's the shortest bridge in Budapest, but it is the most important and busiest bridge in the city. 

2017 Europe Budapest 06 Liberty Bridge 02


7) Great Market Hall - Also known as Central Market Hall, it is the largest and oldest indoor market in the city. It consists of two floors where the ground floor selling daily products such as fruits, meats, vegetables and etc whereas for the top floor, there are a raft of stalls selling tourists favourite souvenirs such as Hungarian dolls, embroidered linens, glassware and more. This is one the place where I wandered for hours, until sensory overload kicks in. (I should blog more of this in the next post instead

2017 Europe Budapest 07 Great Market Hall

2017 Europe Budapest 07 Great Market Hall 02

Getting to Great Market Hall:

Tram 2, 47 or 49 or 5 min walk from Kalvin ter (Blue metro line). Alternatively, one can walk through the famous shopping street called Vaci utca, starting from Vorosmarty Square which takes about 15 min walk and the Grand Market Hall is right at the end of Vaci Street.

8) Shoe on the Danube Bank - Stroll along at the east bank of Danube River and you will come across one of Budapest's most moving memorials. It was created to honor those who were killed during WWII. They were ordered to take off their shoes and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank. This memorial is not far away from Hungarian Parliament Building.  

2017 Europe Budapest 08 Shoes on the Danube Bank

9) Hungarian Parliament Building - The most notable and well-known landmark which represents Hungary. It's another magnificent example of neo-Gothic architecture, besides Matthias Church which I mentioned earlier. 

2017 Europe Budapest 09 Hungarian Parliament Building

2017 Europe Budapest 09 Hungarian Parliament Building 02

Getting To Hungarian Parliament Building:
The nearest metro station is Kossuth ter on M2 (red) metro line.
Admission Fee: HUF4,000 for non-EU citizen which I found quite pricey, hence I skip of visiting inside. 

10) Hősök tere - Known as Heroes Square, it is one of the major squares in Budapest noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian national leaders, as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

2017 Europe Budapest 10 Hosök tere

2017 Europe Budapest 10-1 Hosök tere

Getting To Hősök tere:
The nearest metro station is Hősök tere on M1 (yellow) metro line.

11) Széchenyi Thermal Bath - Budapest is well-known for its thermal bath and the most popular is Széchenyi Thermal Bath which claimed to be the largest in Budapest. Not just that, it is also one of the biggest natural hot spring spa baths in Europe too. No wonder it was so crowded and packed when I was there. 

2017 Europe Budapest 11 Széchenyi thermal bath

12) Buda Castle - It is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings in Budapest.

2017 Europe Budapest 13 Buda Castle

Where I Stayed in Budapest
There are plenty of options when comes to choosing lodging in Budapest - it just a matter of the location and budget. I chosen to stay in Essential Hostel for a bed in 4 mixed dormitory room with private bathroom. 

2017 Europe Budapest 14 Essential Hostel

Date Stayed: 10 September - 12 September 2017 (2 nights)
Rate We Paid :  HUF5,000 per night for a bed in 4 mixed dormitory room with private bathroom. And breakfast is included (Booked via Agoda.com but full amount paid upon check-in). Approx. to RM92 per night

Pros:
1) Location - It's very close to Kobanya-Kispest on M3 (blue) metro line and St. Stephen's Basilica is just behind the hostel building. There are even few supermarkets and restaurants in the immediate neighbourhood.
2) Friendly, kind and helpful staff. The check-in process was fast and smooth.
3) Spacious and huge storage facilities.
4) Bed with curtains that can be pulled which I can have more privacy.
5) Private bathroom attached within the room. So, just need to share with the other 3 instead of 10.

Cons:
1) Slightly unorganised and dirty kitchen.
2) The lounge area always fully occupied.

How Much I Spent
Here are the breakdown of how much I spent for my 3 days and 2 nights trip in Budapest:
PARTICULARS
AMOUNT
HUF
RM
Air Fares
Norwegian from Copenhagen to Budapest (€49.20)

Accommodation
Essential Hostel – 2 nights

Transportation
Bus 100E from airport to city center
Metro – 3 trips

Food & Beverages

Others
Kind donation for St. Stephen’s Basilica
Toilet 
Souvenirs – magnets, postcards, stamps & etc

-


10,000


900
1,050

8,781


200
250
8,610


255


185


16
19

162


4
5
159

TOTAL:
805

Exchange Rate: €1.00 = HUF295 on average 

Overall, I personally think Budapest is one of the cities in Europe that is pretty cheap and affordable to visit as a traveller. If I don't take airfare and my own souvenirs haul into the account, the total damages is RM391.  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Solo Trip to Europe

18 days. 6 countries & 9 cities. Travelling alone all by myself and now, I'm back safe and sound. That's explain why I didn't update my blog for quite sometime. 

It's not like I never travel alone before as I did to Melbourne, Saigon and few places but to be honest, travelling alone is never my favourite kind of thing. However for this time around, it has totally changed my mind and the experience of wandering alone is really different and unique. I can proudly say it has become one of the best things I'd ever done in my life and I really love to do it again, soon. 

It was kinda last minute decision to proceed with this trip alone as I was a little worried and skeptical going to the places which I never been before. Everything was indeed last minute booking - including flight, transportation such as trains and buses and even the hostels. And what worse was right before my trip even started, I actually encountered few obstacles such as my flight being delayed 6 times, then I had to switch from one airline to another, my luggage went missing and I travelled without any extra clothes with me, being fined by bus officer and many more. 

Was supposed to fly with Thai Airways but at the end, being switched to Emirates

What an adventurous and challenging journey but then thinking of the bright side, all of these indirectly trained me to be stronger, tougher and I learned to how to keep calm when something undesirable happened toward me. 

For this 3 week trip, I covered Northern, Eastern and Central Europe which including Denmark, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Finland. It might seems packed and tight schedule but for someone like me who can't stay in a same place for longer period, I actually quite enjoy it. Almost every morning I woke up very early like 6-7am to wander around and only back to hostel when the day turned into night time. Sometimes, I don't even feel wanna go back to hostel and prefer to walk around the town instead. 

Here are few sneak peek of my favourite cities:

Budapest - Pearl of the Danube. I fall in love with the capital city of Hungary 

The magical village of Hallstatt

Prague - City of a Hundred Spires 

Krakow - the former capital of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland

Currently, my favourite book. Planning for next Europe trip. 

Regardless the bad incidents and unexpected circumstances, it will never stop my passion from keep on travelling. And right now what I need to do is updating my blog frequently or else, I will have more and more backlog travelogues. Probably I should just update my recent and latest trip instead. What do you think? 😅