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Berat, The Town of A Thousand Windows

<< Previous Post: Tirana, The Beating Heart of Albania >>

I have to admit that my 3rd Solo Europe trip is like city hopping. I had been constantly hopped on and off from one city to another almost everyday, without a miss. Some said it's might seems pretty exhausted which I can't deny the fact but I guess this is part of the travel adventure. 

I arrived in Tirana, the capital city of Albania yesterday and I based at there for two nights. Hence, on the following day right after I woke up, I was thinking should I proceed to do another short day trip out from the main city. After considering that since I already in Albania, I should grab the chance despite I was slightly tired. I chosen to visit Berat, a town which is nearly 2 and a half hours from Tirana by bus. 

I know I know - that the name of the town might seems funny to some of you cause in Malay language, it indicates for "heavy" or "weight" but this town is listed as one of the most beautiful cities in Balkan Peninsula. It also listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, don't play play! 

GETTING TO BERAT FROM TIRANA
Tirana bus stations are quite confusing cause not they have one or two, but they seem like have more than 3 bus stations. Luckily, the owner of the hostel I was staying has printed all the directions and stick on the wall. This absolutely makes it's so convenient for traveller like us to gather information.

2019 Albania Berat By Bus Direction
#1: Direction to get to Berat by bus

2019 Albania Tirana Southern Bus Station (Dogana)
#2: This is how the bus to Berat looks like at Tirana Southern Bus Station (Dogana)

2019 Albania Berat City Bus
#3: Berat City Bus to the town. Just wait for the bus in front of the shop of the bus statation

Countries like Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania seem to be less of tourists and they are known to be the less beaten visited countries. When I was in Berat, I was the only Asian traveller and I did feel awkward because most of the locals were looking at me. But sooner, I felt comfortable cause the local were quite friendly and helpful in helping me get to the center of the town from Berat bus station.

2019 Albania Berat Town 1
#4: Stone houses on the hillsides are the reason that attract visitors to there.

Known as the Town of a Thousand Windows, Berat is one rare example of the well-preserved and finest Ottoman-era architecture. When I was inside the city bus, I was not sure where's the exactly place to stop but once I saw these stone houses on the steep hillsides, I knew this is exactly where I want to drop-off immediately from the bus. Forget about museum and any other interesting sights cause my main reason to Berat is solely for this enchanting sight.

Apparently, there are plenty of things to do and see in Berat but because I arrived around the noon time, I tried to take things slowly without getting rush here and there. I decided just to leisurely walk around the town, enjoy the view and scenery and lastly, finding a cafe to sit down and relax. I was absolutely lost track the number of days on the road cause the length of this trip of mine was almost 3 weeks. That's explain why I was so tired and exhausted, especially being too long away from home.

2019 Albania Berat Town 3
#5: Modern bridge over the Osum River

2019 Albania Berat Town 2
#6: Magnificent snow-capped mountain view from the bridge

#7: View of Mangalem from Gorica

One fun fact about Berat is that it has two distinctive old towns area; Mangalem on the north of the river whereas Gorica on the south of the river. The previous is a traditionally Muslim area and consists with ancient white Ottoman houses and as for the latter is a traditionally Orthodox Christian area with lovely byzantine churches.

Because the last bus depart to Tirana from Berat was scheduled to be at 4pm, I tried not to walk further away but end my trip by walking to the pedestrian street of Berat along Osumi River for a cup of hot coffee at a random cafe. Guess this is the travelling way I always want it to be lately cause I'm not as young and energetic as I used to be.

2019 Albania Berat Town 5
#8: Sitting at random cafe for a cup of hot coffee and writing postcards

And that's how I spent my day in Berat - simple, short and relax. Might not as fruitful and insightful cause I skip from visiting any interesting attractions but then, this is my trip. I plan and I decide all by myself - that's the benefit of solo travelling. 
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Tirana, The Beating Heart of Albania

<< Previous Post: A Day Trip From Pristina To Prizren <<

It's time to bid goodbye to Kosovo and travel to the southwest border which is Albania. Albania is a small country in the Balkans Peninsula on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Mediterranean Sea. The capital city, Tirana is the city I'm intend heading to from Pristina. There is no rail connection to Tirana and hence, the ideal option is by taking bus. 

GETTING TO TIRANA FROM PRISTINA BY BUS
2019 Bus Pristina To Tirana
#1: Bus from Pristina to Tirana

From Pristina Bus Station, search for the bus with the sign to Tirana. The bus ticket can be bought from the ticket counter on the same day of your departure time. If you like to know more about the bus schedule between Pristina and Tirana, you can check out here but it's in Albanian. A single journey costs €10.50 and the ride takes nearly 4.5 hours. 

2019 Albania Tirana Bus Station
#2: Tirana Temporary Bus Terminal for international bound lines - Behind a sport centre (Pallati Sportit Asllan Rusi)

Before reaching Tirana, I did my research from Wikitravel (the site I always rely on for almost all my trips), it stated that Tirana doesn't have any permanent bus stations like the rest of the cities and the bus driver might simply drop the passengers at various location. Too be honest, I was quite worry and anxious as I was all alone by myself. Thankfully, the bus stopped behind a sport centre (Pallati Sportit Asllan Rusi) which is about 25 minutes of walking to the hostel I booked in Tirana and it's near Skanderbeg Square. It's just a temporary bus terminal for international bound lines cause there are other bus terminals for the domestic line. Sounds confusing right? Therefore always be prepared with offline map which can be downloaded from Google Map. 

CURRENCY OF ALBANIA
2019 Albania Currency - Lek
#3: Banknotes and coin of Albania

The official currency of Albania is lek, though Euro is widely accepted. However, I would recommend to exchange to lek as you'll get better deal. Albanian is a closed currency, which means it can't be exchanged outside the country. It's wise to exchange them, or spend them before exit the country. 

€1 = 123 lek

MY STAY IN TIRANA
2019 Albania Tirana Hostel Taipei 101
#4: Love the way they decorate the wall - filled with postcards from the countries that the owners been. 

2019 Albania Tirana Hostel Taipei 101 - Dorm
#5: A female dormitory room with 6 bunk beds

Hostel Taipei 101 Tirana
Date Stayed: 19 April - 21 April 2019 (2 nights)
Room Rate: €16 for a bed in 6-bed female dormitory room for 2 nights (Booked from Booking.com)

The hostel I stayed in Tirana is kinda special and unique to me cause it was owned and managed by a Taiwanese couple. Hence, they named their hostel as Taipei 101 - which it's pretty obvious. The lady owner is significantly attentive and friendly and you can't imagine how happy I was that time cause finally I can communicate with someone for more than an hour, especially in Mandarin language and also exchanged our almost similar culture. Both of the owners are also world travellers and they have been to more than 70 countries before decide to settle down in Albania. One of the reasons is because the living expenses in Albania is pretty cheap compare to the rest of European countries. What an interesting life they have but for me, I still prefer to live in Malaysia. No matter how many countries I've been, no matter which country that capture my heart, still Malaysia is always the place I want to live and stay forever. 

SIGHTSEEING AROUND TIRANA
2019 Albania Tirana Mural Art
#6: Fascinating mural art of Tirana

Tirana is relatively small enough to be explored by walking. However, be cautious while walking around Tirana because the pathway is not well maintained and some have large holes due to the heavy construction and development.  

PAZARI i RI MARKET 
From my hostel, I walked to the one of the oldest and most historical residential neighborhood in the city which locally known as Pazari i Ri and it takes approximately of 15 minutes walking. My intention of visiting here is to catch a glimpse of the local market where there are more than 300 farmers selling various of items; from fresh fruits, local vegetables, daily products, seafood and even spices. Besides being a marketplace, there are countless of bars and restaurants too. Probably because it's was weekday by the time I was there, it was quiet and not busy as I thought. Maybe it's best to come and visit during the weekend. 

2019 Albania Tirana Fish & Meat Market
#7: Pazari i Ri - a marketplace in Tirana 

2019 Albania Tirana Fridge Magnets
#8: Look! I found magnets here.

Skanderbeg Square
You might have come across the name of this square before from my Pristina post but Skanderbeg Square of Tirana is the nerve centre and symbolic site for the country. Locally known as Sheshi Skenderbej, the square is the ideal place to start witnessing Tirana's daily goings-on. The square is named after the Albanian national hero and his statue is built in the middle of the square.

2019 Albania Tirana Skanderbeg Square 1
#9: A statue of Albanian hero Skanderbeg stands in the square with the Albanian flag on the side.

2019 Albania Tirana Skanderbeg Square 2
#10: Government building featuring Italian architecture

2019 Albania Tirana Skanderbeg Square 3
#11: National History Museum

Actually there are more attractions in Tirana where you can include in your itinerary such as BUNK'ART, an underground anti atomic place but it's located in the outskirt of Tirana which you might need to spare few days in Tirana. Though I stayed in Tirana for 2 nights, I didn't manage to visit BUNK'ART cause I have other plan in my mind. And if you are into mountain scenery, you can consider heading to Mount Dajti National Park and riding on the cable car.

#12: Tirana is where the old and new Albania meet
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A Day Trip From Pristina To Prizren

<< Previous Post: Leaving Skopje To Pristina <<

#1: The picturesque and charming town of Prizren

Getting To Prizren From Pristina
As usual, another short day trip from the capital city of Kosovo, Pristina to a picturesque and charming town of Prizren on my second day in Kosovo. The short day trip is doable and getting to Prizren is not that hard - take a bus in Pristina Main Bus Station as it departs every 20 minutes. A single bus ride costs €4.00 (approx. to RM18.60) for almost 2 hours journey. Wow, another pretty affordable fare I can say. And when you arrive in Prizren Bus Station, walk to the center of the town for approximately 10 minutes until you came across a river. 

Being the second city of the country, Prizren is the most historical city, overlooked by an impressive and stunning medieval fortress. Though it's a small town but packed with churches and mosque. Prizren is completely different from Pristina where it has more historical feels with its well-preserved Ottoman architecture and building.

Bistrica River & Stone Bridge 
There are two things you will notice when in Prizren - the Bistrica River and Old Stone Bridge which dominate the small town. Bistrica indicates "clear water" in Serbian and it flows through the villages of Prizren and Sredska.

2019 Kosovo Prizren Bistrica River
#2

2019 Kosovo Prizren Lumebardhi River 1-1
#3

2019 Kosovo Prizren Old Stone Bridge 2
#4

Churches, Mosques & Buildings in Prizren
There are numerous churches and mosques around the town. The most notables are the Mosque of Sinan Pasha, which overlooks the main street of Prizren as well as Church of Our Lady of Ljeviš listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, I unable to visit the church as it's closed to public and one need to get a guided tour in order to enter into the church.

2019 Kosovo Prizren Sinan Pasha Mosque
#5: Sinan Pasha Mosque

2019 Kosovo Prizren Chapel of Saint Nicholas
#6: Chapel of Saint Nicholas

2019 Kosovo Prizren Church
#7: Another church in Prizren

2019 Kosovo Prizren School Building
#8: Love the building of this elementary school

2019 Kosovo Prizren Old Turkish Baths
#9: Old Turkish Bath

Main Square & Cafe
The main square is dotted with countless of restaurants, cafes and shops. I passed by few souvenir stores and found the things I'm always searching for - fridge magnets and postcards. It's easier to get souvenirs here, rather than in Pristina. In the midst of my visit, suddenly it's raining heavily and I got no where to go but ended up in a cafe along the river.

2019 Kosovo Prizren Old Town
#10: Main square of Prizren

2019 Kosovo Prizren Prince Coffee Cafe
#11: Prince Cafe - Had two cups of coffees and an intricate-looking dessert here while writing postcards. If anyone of you like postcard, do let me know so I can send to you next time. 

After spending almost two hours sitting and relaxing at Prince Cafe, finally the rain stopped. Unfortunately I unable to proceed with my plan to hike up to Kaljaja, the Prizren Fortress cause I worry the path might be slippery due to the rain aftermath. Hence, I just wandering around the town, taking countless of photos and went to the post office to get stamps.

2019 Kosovo Prizren Bistrica River 1
#12: Prizren River with a mountain view at the end

2019 Kosovo Prizren Embroidery Trees
#13: These caught my attention - embroidery trees. Not sure what are the purposes or intentions but I found it's creative.

Overall, the town is pretty laid-back and relaxed without any sign of crowded tourists. There's nothing much to do here, so it's possible do a day trip. My visit in Prizren last for about 5 hours, before I decided to head back to Pristina. This time, I don't have to walk back to Prizen Bus Staion and just waited for bus with "Pristina" sign along the river.

2019 Kosovo Pristina Liburnia Restaurant
#14: Back in Pristina, I visited this restaurant - Liburnia which recommended by the hostel staff for my dinner. The food was relatively good and they even offered me for a free dessert but I declined cause I was indeed full with my main course and soup.

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Leaving Skopje (Macedonia) To Pristina (Kosovo)

<< Previous Post: Short Day Trip To Ohrid From Skopje, North Macedonia <<

Two days in North Macedonia covering both the small capital city Skopje and historic town Ohrid should be adequate, in the case where you are pressed for time. Or else, you can plan to stay longer but not for me, cause I'm going to make another move again.  

From North Macedonia which is the third country for this trip of mine, I hopped on to the following country, Kosovo. Kosovo consider to be the youngest and newest country in Europe after it successfully gained its independence from Serbia in 2008. The country was only 11 years old when I visited there last year. Meanwhile the capital city of the nation, Pristina is where I'll be heading to from Skopje. 

JOURNEY FROM SKOPJE TO PRISTINA 
Distance from the city center of Skopje to the bus station is approximately 20-25 minutes of walk. Like I shared in my previous post, taking the public bus is not an ideal option if you are in Skopje for a short period of time. As for the bus ticket to Pristina, I purchased a day earlier in order to secure a seat. The bus departs daily at these following hours; 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am, 10.10am, 2pm and 3.45pm. The fare is 350 denar (approx. to RM27 / €5.70) and the bus journey is about 2 hours.

2019 North Macedonia Skopje Bus Station
#1: Skopje Bus Station - serves both domestic and international transfer.

2019 North Macedonia Skopje to Pristina Bus
#2: You can see that the seats to Pristina is pretty limited, hence it's wise to buy the bus ticket earlier.

Again, as the journey crossed from one country to another, hence there will be border checkpoint. Remember to always standby your passport and place somewhere it's easy for you to reach.

HELLO PRISTINA!
2019 Kosovo Pristina Bus Station
#3: Pristina Bus Station

It's about 15 minutes of walk from Pristina Bus Station to the city center. But this round, I chosen to take the local bus instead of walking. I have to admit I was quite exhausted and need some rest. Kosovo is using Euro (€) as their local transactions, hence I don't have to bother about exchange currency. And a-single ride on the bus only costs €0.40 (approx. to RM1.90) - consider pretty affordable to travel around within the city. Hop-on to the bus #7C and it will takes you to the city center, as well as the hostel I'm staying in Pristina.  

2019 Kosovo Pristina Statue of Bill Clinton
#4: Bill Clinton Statue - came across this when I was lost in Pristina on the first day.

THINGS TO DO & SEE IN PRISTINA 
Pristina is a city changing fast and one that feels full of the optimism and potential that you'd expect from this Europe's newest capital city. It has an international vibe and a "new-born" feel that will make visitors leave blown away by the sights and sounds of the city.

Navigating around the city is easy as the city center is relatively small and walkable.

Newborn Monument
This is one thing you shouldn't miss out when visiting Pristina. It might not be as stunning and impressive as it seen, but this is the significant monument to the nation to commemorate as independent and new country.

#5: Newborn Monument

2019 Kosovo Pristina Palace of Youth and Sports
#6: Palace of Youth and Sports, a fascinating building behind the Newborn Monument. One of the reasons why this building attracts me is because the structure resembles Sabah State Museum (click here).


National Library of Kosovo
Built by Croatian architecture, he came out with the idea to combine both cube and dome to represent a blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture styles. However due to its outside appearance, it cause many other controversies and the worst part, it has been listed as one of "The World's Ugliest Buildings". Do you think this building is really that ugly? I don't think so and I found the structures are pretty impressive, where I felt it looks like enormous concrete Lego bricks and covered with chain mail.  

2019 Kosovo Pristina National Library 1-1
#7: National Library of Kosovo

2019 Kosovo Pristina National Library 2
#8: Another shot of myself using tripod

2019 Kosovo Pristina Church of Christ the Saviour
#9: Church of Christ the Saviour - located next to the library


Skanderbeg Square
This public square is quite near to my hostel, therefore I kept passing this place. The square not just dotted with hipster cafes, restaurants and shops but there is also a historic monument and war memorial dedicated to the victims of Kosovo war.

2019 Kosovo Pristina Skanderbeg Square
#10: Skanderbeg Square

2019 Kosovo Pristina National Theatre
#11: National Theatre of Kosovo

There are few things that I missed out when in Pristina - Ethnographic Museum and Kosovo Museum cause I wasn't into history. Frankly speaking, I'm more into architectures and structures of buildings. So if you a history buff, you should include two of the above in your itinerary.

One thing that I didn't expect in Pristina is the food - there are wide variety of restaurants with something for everyone's tastebuds. And surprisingly, I found not one, but two restaurants served Thai cuisines.

2019 Kosovo Pristina Lunch & Dinner - Thai Cuisines
#12: Thai food for lunch, Thai food for dinner - I was craving for something spicy and savoury.
Left: Thai curry noodle cost me €4 (approx. to RM18.60)
Right: Three course meals cost me €12.40 (approx. to RM57.70)

HOSTEL IN PRISTINA 
2019 Kosovo Pristina Oda Hostel
Oda Hostel
Date Stayed: 17 April - 19 April 2019 (2 nights)
Room Rate: €15.34 for a bed in 6-bed dormitory room for 2 nights. They even provide free breakfast to all the guests. (Booked from Booking.com)

Apart from the one I stayed in Brasov, I can say that this is one of the hostel I enjoyed throughout my trip. Both of the hostel staffs were exceptionally friendly and they even gave me great advise of what to do and which restaurant I shouldn't miss out. I went to that said restaurant on my second night in Pristina (will share in my next post). And on my last day, they even purposely went out to buy breakfast for me when it hasn't reach breakfast time yet. Both of the room and bathroom were spotlessly clean and there is more than a bathroom. Don't have to worry during emergency period. 

Albanian might be the main language of Kosovo, but don't worry as English is widely spoken here. I don't have any issues when communicate with the local and they are quite friendly and helpful as well.

However, there's one thing you should take note if you are interested to visit the Balkans Peninsula - do not enter Serbia from Kosovo. This is because Serbia doesn't recognise Kosovo as a country. It's very complicated and if you want to know more, you can check out here. For me, I didn't include Serbia for this trip cause visa is required for Malaysian passport holder. The hardest part, the application of Serbian visa could only be made at the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Jakarta, Indonesia. That's why I skip Serbia.


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Sunset in Kota Kinabalu During MCO

If you ask me where's the best spot to watch the golden sunset from all of the places I've been - I would proudly to say my own sweet little hometown - Kota Kinabalu (KK). Do you know that KK has been recognised as one of the best sunset spots in the world to savor this glorious and dramatic egg yolk? [Refer this post: Eight Great Places To Watch The Sunset]

Besides all the things I did at home (here) during the Movement Control Order (MCO), sometimes I would also spare few minutes at my balcony waiting for the opportunity to capture the sunsets. I might not able to capture everyday because either I was busy preparing for my dinner or happened to be at my parent's place, but the sun's final ray never disappointed me. 

Here's a collection of sunset photos I took using Huawei Mate 20:

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 21 March 2020
21 March 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 22 March 2020
22 March 2020

27 March 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 28 March 2020
28 March 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 13 April 2020
13 April 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 16 April 2020
16 April 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 17 April 2020
17 April 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 19 April 2020
19 April 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 20 April 2020
20 April 2020

Sunset in Kota Kinabalu - 21 April 2020
21 April 2020

Looks my balcony rewards me a million dollar view. Even I have changed my workout spot to balcony now, in order to encourage me to do more workout while waiting for the sunset. 
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