Monday, June 17, 2019

La Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's Unfinished Masterpiece

Like they said, a trip to Barcelona is definitely incomplete without visit any of Gaudi's masterpiece of architecture. So we went and visit Gaudi's awe-inspiring park, Park Guell on the second day, how about on the third day? 

Luckily on the third in Barcelona, we don't have to wake up pretty early like we did on the day before cause one of the Spain's landmark monuments that we intend to visit will open to public at 9am onwards. And the one I mentioned is none other than the impressive enormous unfinished Roman Catholic church, La Sagrada Familia

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 01

Do you know that La Sagrada Familia has been under construction for more than 130 years and yet, it's still on-going project even today? It's expected to be completed in 2026 marks the 100 year centenary of the death of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi in 1926. When the church is finished, it will be 144 years after the first stone was laid. 

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 02
#2: The main entrance of Sagrada Familia 

Since Sagrada Familia is the most visited tourist attraction and there are about thousand of visitors queue up to enter this church everyday, hence it's advisable to book Sagrada Familia tickets in advance online. I got my tickets from here where I got to choose my preferred day and time. I picked to access the church at 9am - that's the earliest time and by 8.30am, we were in the line with the rest of the visitors getting ready to enter. But before we admit inside, there's a security control like where we need to scan our bags, personal belongings and including ourselves which similar to those in airports. 

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 03
#3: Exquisitely stained glass windows

We bought the ticket without any audio guide and guided tour which we explore and enjoy at our pace and admire the exquisitely stained glass windows as well as the unique vaulted ceiling and pillars of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. There's a ticket where you access up to the Passion facade tower but since we didn't include in our tickets, we can only marvel the grounds. 

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 04

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 06

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 05

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 07

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 08

2018 Spain Barcelona La Sagrada Familia 09
#9: One last shot before kissing goodbye 

Tips and Notes Before Heading to La Sagrada Familia:
1) The best time to visit would be in the early morning which between 9am to 10am as the crowd is at its least. 
2) In the case you unable to make in the early morning, try to avoid going between 12pm to 3pm cause these times tend to be the most crowded hours especially with the big tourist groups which coming during these hours. Hence, avoid these 3 hours at all costs.
3) Since it's a religious monument, be respectful by dress appropriately.

The best way to reach here by taking metro. The metro station right across the stree from Basilica has stops for Line 2 (Purple) and Line 5 (Blue) metro lines.

La Sagrada Familia opens at 9am everyday but the closing time differ throughout the year. During the winter time, it will close earlier than during the summer, and you should check for it in advance.

Previous Posts on My UK & Europe Trip - October 2018

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Park Güell - Gaudi's Iconic Park in Barcelona

4.30 in the morning - that's where my alarm rang.

Normally, I'm not a morning person but for the sake of travelling, I can get up early than my usual working hours. That shows how powerful travelling is. I prefer to arrive those popular tourist attractions as early as I can in order to beat the crowd. 

So, what's the agenda on the second day in Barcelona that causing me to wake up so early? None other than Park Guell, one of the top rated tourist attractions of Barcelona. It's remarkably popular among the visitors and to be wise, it's best to get there earlier. 

To reach here, the nearest metro is either Lesseps or Vallcarca Station under the Green Line (L3). However, both stations require 20 minutes walk to the park. In case you are lazy to walk so far away, you can continue by taking bus 116, 24 or H6 from any of the two stations mentioned earlier. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 02
#1: Park Guell before the sun rise

Just when we thought we were the earliest one to arrive, we're completely wrong. Eventhough the sun hadn't risen yet, there were few group of people who arrived earlier than us. Looks like everyone want to get one perfect shot without being photobombed by strangers. Slowly, more and more group of people arrived here by taking taxi or Uber. 5 minutes right before the opening hour, we're allowed to access into the park. So without waiting any longer, let's explore and discover Park Guell. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 03
#2: The Dragon Stairway

Designed by the world-renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, originally it was an luxury residential complex but the project was abandoned cause no one seems to be interested in buying it. Gradually it converted into a public park and from there, it caught many public attentions for Gaudi's quirky and distinct architecture elements. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 05
#3: Park Guell's colourful, mosaic-embedded Salamander or Dragon Fountain

Not far from the main entrance, the first thing caught our attention is the dragon stairway which leads us to the colourful, mosaic-embedded salamander (some said it's a dragon) fountain. Whether it's salamander or dragon, this is the most famous spot that every visitor wouldn't miss out to take a photo with it. You know the sign of indicates "I've been here" that kind. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 06

As soon as the crowd is filling in, immediately we moved on to the next area. We walked to The Laundry Room Portico first, before heading up for The Serpentine Benches which claimed to be the world's longest undulating bench in the world and not forgetting, the Nature Square or Greek Theater for a panoramic views of Barcelona. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 10'
#5: The Laundry Room Portico

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 08
#7: Nature Square or Greek Theater and its Serpentine Benches

Before we kiss goodbye to Park Guell, we took the opportunity to visit and enter Casa del Guarda (The Guard's House) since we had bought the ticket earlier. It was one long queue to enter but lucky us, we managed to get it before the rain pour down. Initially it was a guard house but nowadays it converted into a museum offering background information of the Park Guell. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 07
#8: Shot from Casa del Guarda (The Guard's House) 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell 09
#9: Porters Lodge Pavilions

Entry to Park Guell is free of charge. It is the only Park Guell's monumental zone, which form 5% of the park, that is access controlled because most of Antoni Gaudi's artworks are in this part of the park, and this is where the tourists are paying to see. I would recommend to purchase the ticket online cause first, you can an online ticket cheaper by 1 Euro. Secondly, you can pick your own preferred time cause entry to Park Guell is restricted to only 400 visitors every half an hour. 

You can book your tickets to Park Guell three months ahead of your visit from this official website (here)

A leisurely tour around Park Guell takes approximately 2 hours, where most of the times we stop for taking picture, including sitting on the bench of the terrace for a stunning views of Barcelona. Our verdict? It's really worth to spend our time and money on visiting Park Guell cause almost all of Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece is only concentrated in Barcelona, which means you can't see any of his artwork elsewhere including other cities of Spain. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Park Guell Souvenir Store
#10: Don't forget to dropby for some memento

Previous Posts on My UK & Europe Trip - October 2018

Monday, June 3, 2019

Adeus Porto and Hola Barcelona!

Continue from here...

After spending two nights in Lisbon including a day trip to Pena Palace of Sintra, it's time to bid goodbye to Portugal and proceed to third country for this leg of our trip - Spain! 

Generally for a budget-conscious traveller, it's always better to use public transport - buses or the metro system. You can take metro from any place in Lisbon city center directly to Aeroporto Station (Lisbon Airport) for just €2.00 (including €0.50 for the reusable card). But because you know, we had quite number of luggage with us plus they were heavy too, we opted for Uber. There is no issue in getting an Uber cause it is available throughout the city. From where we stayed in Lisbon straight to the airport, the Uber fare was €6.45 - it's relatively affordable cause we don't have to go through the hassle of changing station. 

2018 TAP Air Portugal 01
#1: Barcelona, wait for me!

To date, there are three airlines serve direct flight from Lisbon to Barcelona; Vueling, TAP Portugal and Iberia. I have yet to experience any of these three airlines before but after taking into consideration, I chosen to fly with TAP Portugal cause I found its flight schedule suits my preferred time. Initially the basic fare was €90.91 but after include 40kg additional baggage, the average airfare per passanger was about €100.57 (approx. to RM498.58). I have to admit it wasn't cheap but that's the one and only option available. 

2018 TAP Air Portugal 02
#2: Light meals were served during the flight including the Portuguese egg tart.

We took Aerobus A1 (a shuttle bus service) from airport to the area we're staying in Barcelona. A single trip costs €5.90 whereas a return ticket costs 10.20 which must use within 15 days. We bought the ticket from the kiosk and it accepts both cash and credit card. From Barcelona Airport, the Aerobus A1 makes a total of 4 stops - Plaça Espanya, Gran Via - Urgell, Plaça Universitat, and finally Plaça de Catalunya. But because Plaça Espanya (this is where we stayed) doesn't seem to be the popular and common stop, the bus driver didn't have the intention to stop and we missed our stop. By the time I realised it, immediately I pressed the bell and the bus stopped at third bus stop from our original stop. Ended up we need to walk for more than 20 minutes instead of less than 10 minutes. I think it's wise to let the bus driver know where you intend to stop cause majority of the visitors prefer to stop at Plaça de Catalunya only.

2018 Spain Barcelona Aerobus-1
#3: Aerobus A1 from Barcelona Airport to downtown

For the first-timer to Barcelona, it makes sense to be located as close to the downtown. The major sites such as the Old City areas like Las Ramblas give immediate access to the city's transportation hub and plenty of places to visit on foot. But similar to Lisbon, the closest to city center, the hefty its price tag to be. Therefore I chosen to book and stay in Plaza Espana area. 

2018 Spain Hostal LK Barcelona
#4: Hostal LK Barcelona nearby Plaza Espana area

Although Hostel LK Barcelona might sounds like a hostel, but they do have a room attached with a private bathroom. Another plus point why I tend to choose this cause there is an elevator within the building. Another best feature of this accommodation is Espanya, Hostafrancs and Tarragona Metro Stations are within 5 minutes’ walk. When I check-in at the reception, I was served by a friendly Korean guy. The only downside - there's a small kitchen with fridge, microwave and kettle on the top floor but then, the guests unable to cook. So if you plan to cook, then this hostel might not suitable for you. 

Hostal LK Barcelona
Date Stayed: 13 October to 16 October 2018 (3 night)
Room Rate: €80.50 (approx. to RM400.50) per night for a room with three single bed attached with private bathroom (Booked via Agoda)

In case you notice my recent style of blogging where I would like to compile each city or even a single country I visited into a single blog post, but for this Barcelona I think it deserves a single post for each of its unique and magnificent top rated tourist attractions I witness with my own naked eye. Hence for this post, I will blog shortly and briefly regarding the surroundings of where I stayed first. 

Though Plaza Espana (Plaça d'Espanya) is one of the most important squares and iconic image of Barcelona and yet, I don't find it as crowded as other major areas of Barcelona. The area is relatively quiet and peaceful and I'm absolutely no regrets for choosing to book at this area. There are two-three mini supermarkets, a laundry, a local market, a handful of numerious restaurants and cafe and not forgetting to mention a huge mall which only footsteps away from where we stayed. 

2018 Spain Barcelona Plaza España 01
#5: Plaza Espana (Plaça d'Espanya)

If you are interested to visit Plaza Espana, I would recommend to come here before sunset cause there is fantastic display of water, light and music at night. However, this free music and light show will only performs on certain evenings. For more info, do check out here

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#6: Las Arenas de Barcelona - a shopping complex with 360 degrees rooftop view of the city on the top

2018 Spain FC Barcelona Official Store-1
#7: Anyone are huge fans of FC Barcelona?

2018 Spain Barcelona Market
#8: A local supermarket where my mom and I got our breakfast here

2018 Spain Barcelona First Night Dinner
#9: The most satisfying dinner - Asia food is life!

How To Get To Plaza Espana (Plaça d'Espanya)

Metro: España (Red Line - L1 or Green Line - L3)


For the next post, get ready for Gaudi's extraordinary masterpiece

Previous Posts on My UK & Europe Trip - October 2018

Friday, May 31, 2019

10D8N Silk Road Trip of Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan & Zhangye

Three China trips within half a year.
Second desert experience in a year, after Morocco trip February this year. 
All these never within my plan until the boyfriend came across a news of AirAsia is commencing a new route to Lanzhou and without thinking any longer, he booked immediately. Guess what, he even tagged me along as well. It seems like I can't run away from travelling every month for this year.

Both of us just came back from our 10D8N trip to Lanzhou last week and without wasting any time, now it's time for me to share our travel experiences and adventures to "The Mecca of China".

Not just that AirAsia X is the only carrier serves this route from Kuala Lumpur but surprisingly, it is also the only foreign carrier that fly-in into the capital of Gansu Province. Bravo and good job AirAsia! 

Because it started to commence on 1st May which less than a month only, hence this route is consider new among the Malaysian travellers. We're quite shocked to find out that only 4 passengers (including both the boyfriend and I) are Malaysian whereas the rest 300 are Chinese (China tourists) on the board. Our flight from Kuala Lumpur to Lanzhou departed at 5.20pm and arrived at the Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport around 10.20pm. Probably due to 4 of us were the only foreigners, their immigration verification and clearance process tend to be relatively strict. Sort of questions were asked including our profession, the purpose of visiting and the whole itinerary. I was a bit nervous until I forgot how to write my own Chinese name. Dang! 

2019 China Lanzhou AirAsia
#1: Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Lanzhou with AirAsia X

Similar to our two previous trips to China, we booked hotel nearby the airport because we intended to fly out on the next morning. 

With the free shuttle transfer provided by the airport hotel we booked, we back to the airport again on the next morning. Then, we catch the next flight with China Eastern Airlines to Dunhuang, a city in northwestern Gansu Province of China. 

2019 China Lanzhou 01
#2: The ultimate reason why I choose the window seat - exceptionally beautiful aerial view

2019 China Dunhuang Airport
#3: Dunhuang Airport

The first tourist attraction we went is Mogao Grottoes/Caves. From Dunhuang Airport, we took DiDi (China's Grab/Uber) which takes less than 20 minutes drive to the digital exhibition center first. At there, visitors can enjoy two amazing videos "A Thousand Years of Mogao Caves" and "Splendor of Buddha's Place" before taking the free shuttle bus service to caves. 

2019 China Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes 05
#4: Mogao Grottoes/Caves, also known as the "Thousand Buddha Caves" is a legendary home to thousand of Buddhist art, sutras, murals and sculptures in the world. 

As they limited the total number of visitors to 6,000 per day, it is advisable to reserve a ticket in advance especially during the high season which falls between May to October. For those who can read Chinese, you can reserve the ticket online via the official website 30 days in advance. Too bad for those who can't read Chinese like me, the English version isn't available yet. There are more than 700 caves but only 8 caves are opened to public and each tour will be guided by their staffs. 

2019 China Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes 03

If you want to know more about this so called "Thousand Buddha Caves" - check out here including their interesting and fascinating history, the opening hours and admission fee. 

After spending almost 4 hours, we then proceed to our next agenda. We took public bus from outside of digital exhibition center to Dunhuang downtown (the last stop and it costs 3 yuan per passenger). From there, we waited for the pick-up cause we're going to experience a night camping in the desert. Yes, camping! I enjoyed camping since I was Brownies (a member of Girl Scout & Guide) at the age of 10 until now. I was genuinely shocked when the boyfriend told me his plan cause like finally I found someone willing to accompany me to camp, especially in abroad. 

2019 China Dunhuang Desert

So besides camping, what did we do in the desert? We got to play sandboarding and ride on the ATV and you know what - all these activities are my first time ever experience and I was indeed having tons of fun. Too bad due to the cloudy weather, we're unable to view the sunset and stargazing but the organiser never let us down anywhere. We were served with "mala" steamboat, great performance by the dancers and singer and ended our night with campfire.

2019 China Dunhuang Camping In Desert

We were asked to wake up before 7am in order to catch the free bus provided, or else we need get Didi ourselves. Boyfriend requested the bus driver to stop at one of Dunhuang's top tourist attractions - Mingsha Shan Mountain (鸣沙山) and Crescent Moon-shaped Spring Geo

Located on the Silk Road, Mingsha Shan Mountain literally means Echoing-Sand Mountain in Chinese and it claimed to be one of the Eight Great Landscapes of Dunhuang. It believed that when there is a wild wind, the sands will be blown up and create loud sound, while the sound seems like being produced by some ancient musical instrument when blew by breeze, hence the name derived from.

2019 China Dunhuang Mount Mingshashan and Crescent Moon-shaped Spring Geo
#8: Mingsha Shan Mountain

Nestled in the vast desert for thousand years, the Crescent Lake is in a natural shape of half-moon and had been commonly considered as one of the Eight Great Landscapes of Dunhuang along with the Echoing-Sand Mountain in early of Western Han Dynasty. In order to get full panoramic view of this Crescent Moon-Shaped Lake, both boyfriend and I hiked up to the peak of Mingsha Shan Mountain. Oh boy, it was indeed tough and steep but glad we made it. 

2019 China Dunhuang Mount Mingshashan and Crescent Moon-shaped Spring Geo-1
#9: Crescent Moon-Shaped Lake

Mingsha Shan Mountain (鸣沙山) and Crescent Moon-shaped Spring (月牙泉) Geo
How To Get Here: Bus #3 from Dunhuang
Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm (Depends on different seasons)
Admission Fee: CNY120 during peak season; CNY60 during low season.

We then heading to the hotel where we're going to stay for three nights. I can't remember the exact hotel's name cause the boyfriend in charge of doing the booking but from what he told me, one night only costs RM60 - that's dirt cheap! Even the location of this hotel is excellent too - very close to the night market.

2019 China Dunhuang Hotel
#10: Our hotel in Dunhuang for three nights costs only RM60 per night

2019 China Dunhuang NIght Market 01
#11: Dunhuang Night Market

2019 China Dunhuang Donkey Yellow Noodle
#12: One of the local food you shouldn't miss in Dunhuang - Yellow noodles and exotic donkey meat

2019 China Dunhuang Flying Apsara Statue
#13: The famous statue of Dunhuang - Flying Apsara

It's going to be one long day on the 4th day of our trip. The boyfriend signed up a ground local tour which began from 8.30am and ended almost at 12pm. Why it ended so late? It's because the tour includes a sunset viewing experience and the sunset time in China at that hour was approaching 9pm. By the time we done with the sunset, the journey back to Dunhuang downtown took almost 3 hours and that's explain why.

We were taken to a handful of tourist attractions situated outskirt of Dunhuang; including Dunhuang Movie Set, Yangguan Pass, Yumen Pass and ended with sunset viewing at Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark. In between the tour, we had a lunch break with the additional charge of CNY40 and we were served with 12 distinctive dishes. That's freaking a lot.

2019 China Dunhuang Ancient Town
#14: Dunhuang Movie Set - More than 300 movies have been shooting here including Jackie Chan's movies. Entrance fee is CNY20

2019 China Dunhuang Yangguan Pass 01
#15: Yangguan Pass

2019 China Dunhuang Yangguan Pass 02

Cause we were genuinely exhausted with the long day tour we took yesterday (imagine more than 15 hours), hence we decided to have a free and relaxed day on our third day in Dunhuang. We went for a short stroll around the city, shop at the local supermarket and indulged ourselves with cheap shabu-shabu as our dinner.

2019 China Dunhuang Mosque
#17: Mosque in Dunhuang. There are few halal restaurants nearby the mosque.

2019 China Dunhuang Shabu Shabu
#18: Had shabu-shabu for dinner before leaving Dunhuang on the next day 

Goodbye Dunhuang! It's time to move to the next city, Jiayuguan. We flew with China Eastern Airines again to the northwestern city of Gansu Province. On this particular day, I felt like we're joining "The Amazing Race" cause once we landed in Jiayuguan Airport, immediately we rush to visit all the popular destinations of Jiayuguan by taking DiDi. Totally no break for breakfast at all.

2019 China Jiayuguan Airport
#19: Jiayuguan - the third airport we flew into

The city culture of Jiayuguan is a combination of both Great Wall and Silk Road. It boasts many historical relics referring to these two great wonders. The famous ones we managed to visit are Jiayuguan Pass, the Overhanging Great Wall and the First Fire Tower of the Great Hall.

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#20: Jiayuguan Pass (Jiayuguan Great Wall)

2019 China Jiayuguan West Wall
#21: The Overhanging Great Wall

2019 China Jiayuguan First Fire Tower of the Great Hall
#22: First Fire Tower of the Great Hall

After covering all the three above attractions within four hours, we took DiDi heading to Jiayuguan South Railway Station to catch bullet train to Linze. Bear in mind, Jiayuguan has two; one is South Railway Station which I mentioned earlier and another one is Jiayuguan Railway Station mainly operates for non-bullet trains to/from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, etc.

2019 China Bullet Train Jiayuguan to Linze
#23: Catching bullet train from Jiayuguan South Railway Station to Linze

The bullet train ride was indeed fast that the journey from Jiayuguan to Linze took less than an hour only. How I wish it could be longer cause I love to ride on the train especially for the bullet train. Once we got out from Linze Railway Station, we took visitor bus (white colour big bus) heading to Zhangye Dangxia National Geopark (the last stop and it costs CNY8). But because by the time we arrived the time is approaching to the closing time, we decided to check-in the hotel we booked nearby. And this is my most favourite one throughout the trip. It's newly opened hotel and the room rate per night was approximately RM80 only. Thanks to low season.

2019 China Zhangye Hotel
#24: Danxia Photography International Hotel - only costs RM80 per night.

We woke up as early as 4.30am to catch the sunrise at Zhangye Danxia National Geopark which expected to greet us around 6am. Luck was on our side when we were told that entrance fee on 18th every year is free due to celebration of International Museum Day. The only thing we need to pay is the sightseeing bus costs CNY20. The sights are widely distributed. The tour route is very long with no proper walkways. Hence, visitors are advise to take the sightseeing bus.

2019 China Zhangye National Geopark
#25: Zhangye Danxia National Geopark

2019 China Zhangye National Geopark-1

To get to Zhangye city center, we took minivan from Zhangye Danxia National Geopark and the ride took more than an hour. And once we reach Zhangye, we walked to our hotel which we booked for two nights.

2019 China Zhangye Hotel 01
#27: Our hotel in Zhangye

Zhangye city seems to be slightly unexciting and uneventful for me. Though there are quite number of shops where you can have a leisure shopping but I don't find anything interesting and we went back to the hotel earlier. We spent most of our times in Zhangye by watching Chinese Dating Show - really addicted to it.

2019 China Zhangye Attraction 01

From Zhangye we head back to Lanzhou again. There two available options to travel between these two cities; either by bullet train or plane and we chosen the latter one cause the fare for both means of transport are almost the same. For this round, we got to experience another new airlines again - Chengdu Airlines.

2019 China Zhangye Airport 01
#29: Zhangye Airport

2019 China Zhangye Chengu Airlines
#30: Chengu Airlines

Before leaving Lanzhou, we try to check out what this city has to offer. The boyfriend prefer to book the hotel nearby at the airport rather in the city center. In order to reach the city center from the airport, one can opt for the airport shuttle bus (CNY 30) or by taking train (CNY20).

Lanzhou attractions:

2019 China Lanzhou Attractions
#31: Lanzhou Waterweel Park

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2019 China Lanzhou Attraction 02
#33: Panoramic view of Yellow River in Lanzhou

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#34: Statue of Mother Yellow River of Lanzhou, regarded as one of the best sculptures

2019 China Lanzhou Haidilao
#35: Finally I got to try the famous hotpot brand - Hao Di Lao. Luckily the queue wasn't long. We waited for more than an hour and we got the table.

Our flight back to Kuala Lumpur to Lanzhou was scheduled to depart at 11.55pm, almost approaching to midnight.
2019 China AirAsia

The new route to Lanzhou by AirAsia might be new but I personally think it's worth to experience. It's completely unique, fresh and fascinating to be able to experience this so called "Silk Road" trip. Initially the boyfriend intend to visit Tibet but then he decided to reroute to Silk Road and by end of our trip, we never regret with the decision we made. Just that probably the duration of the trip can be shorter to at least 8 days.