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Hawaii, The Aloha State (Sneak Peek)

Aloha, Hawaii! Oh well, at least I have 1 trip for the year of 2020.

2020 Hawaii Honolulu International Airport

The boyfriend and I went Hawaii early of March this year before our newly appointed Prime Minister announced the  commencement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) which took effect on 18 March 2020 (two days after we back from Hawaii). Both of us were supposed to continue with our trip to Greece from Singapore (yeah, we plan to do around the world in 3 weeks) but when seeing things are getting more critical and serious, immediately we returned back home. Don't worry, we did our 14-days self-isolation at home (luckily I'm staying alone now) and our incubation period was over yesterday. Can't wait to go to the market and supermarket for groceries shopping. 

2020 DT in Hawaii
#1: Aloha not just mean for "Hello" and "Goodbye", but it also stands for "Love".

Not just that Hawaii is the only state situated outside of North America, but it's also the only island state. It's like holiday island or weekend gateway for the American. I just can't believe I made it to USA not just once, but twice within half a year. Imagine all the while I have never ever thought of going to the USA due to the tedious visa application. But once I got it, feels like going there again and again.  

We were in Hawaii at least for 7 nights - might seem long but in reality, it's actually insufficient to cover most of the places and attractions. Hawaii is unexpectedly one enormous island and how I wish I could go back again someday. No wonder the boyfriend went Hawaii for the second time after his maiden trip to there in early of 2018. 

So as usual, here's some sneak peek of what we see and do in Hawaii:

2020 Hawaii Waikiki Beach 01
#1: We stayed in hostel located nearby the famous Waikiki Beach.

2020 Hawaii Pearl Harbour National Memorial
#2: Not a history buff but a trip to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial is kinda like "a-must-place-to-go" when in Hawaii cause this is where the World War II began. 

2020 Hawaii USS Arizona Memorial
#3: USS Arizona Memorial - once a naval battleship but due to the Japanese surprise attack, now it turns into a national memorial to create a permanent tribute to those who had lost their lives in the attack

2020 Hawaii Diamond Head
#4: Diamond Head - We did hike up on our last day in Hawaii

2020 Hawaii Sea Life Park
#5: Up-close and kissing the dolphin in Sea Life Park.

2020 Hawaii Kualoa Ranch 01
#6: Another place must visit in Hawaii - Kualoa Ranch. This is where most of the Hollywood's biggest blockbuster movies and TV shows were filmed here, including Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, 50 First Date, Mighty Joe Young and also numerous of Hawaii Five-0 and Lost drama series.

#7: The boyfriend been here before but he's alone. Now, he has companion for this round.

2020 Hawaii Moanalua Gardens Hitachi Tree
#8: Hitachi Tree in Moanalua Gardens. What's so special about this monkeypod tree is that it's generating millions for its owner. Hitachi Ltd., the Japanese electronics giant, has agreed to pay the new owner of the Moanalua Gardens $400,000 a year for 10 years to served as the advertising logo. Now, who say that money doesn't grow on the trees?

2020 Hawaii Waikele Premium Outlet
#9: We did a little bit shopping at Coach and Kate Spade in Waikele Premium Outlet but the choices are not as variety as the one in West Coast of US.

2020 Hawaii Polynesian Cultural Center
#10: Last but not least, a trip to Hawaii is incomplete without a visit to Polynesian Cultural Centre. This is where you get to know more about the original settlers of many of islands in the Pacific Ocean, from the south of New Zealand to the north of Hawaii. It's truly an eye-opening and fascinating visit.

Seeing the current situation, not sure when this global pandemic will end but I really hope this will be over soon cause I kinda miss my mom and siblings (my mom and bros stuck in Kuching whereas my sister and nephew have to cancel their trip back KK for my nephew's 2nd year birthday celebration). Though now only left my dad and I in KK but then, we are staying at different houses. I'm so looking forward for another family gathering again.

Till then, Aloha!   
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Peles Castle of Sinaia, Romania

<< Previous Post: Short Trip To Bran Castle From Brasov <<

Another day, another trip to castle again. However for this round, this castle has caught my attention and instantly becoming one of my favourite castles, closely followed by Pena Castle of Portugal. It's none other than Peles Castle, which is far more impressive than Bran Castle. Luckily I made a wise choice to visit Bran first, or else I will place a high expectation on it and ended in disappointment.

Peles Castle is located in a small town of Sinaia and in order to get to Sinaia, it's actually pretty easy by taking train, since it is on the main track between both Bucharest and Brasov. But of course, the nearest spot is from Brasov. Now you know why I choose to stay in Brasov for 3 nights - so that I can reduce the travelling time.

So here's the route I took from Brasov (where I overnight):
  • From Livada Poştei (Brasov Old Town), catch bus #4 to Gara Brasov (Train Station).
  • Then, buying the train ticket at the counter heading to Sinaia.
  • One-single trip costs 16.90 lei and the train rides took almost an hour journey. 
From those who plan to travel from Bucharest, take train from Gara de Nord and the ride takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Sinaian.

2019 Romania Train Brasov to Sinaia
#1: Taking train from Brasov to Sinaia, where Peles Castle situated.

2019 Romania Sinaia Railway Station
#2: Sinaia Railway Station

Just when I thought I had finally arrived Peles Castle, the truth is no! There's still long way to go. Right after I came out from Sinaia Railway Station, I tried to Google whether any further info on taking public bus going to the Castle. I did my research earlier on but all the info I came across gave me the same result, which is to walk for almost 40 minutes from the train station to the castle. I was alone and hardly seen any other tourists around me. I did see a signboard but the moment I walked further, slowly I noticed I was lost. I have no choice but keep walking according to my Google map on my phone.

2019 Romania Sinaia Signboard
#3: Sorry to say this but what an useless signboard. Not helpful at all.

I was walking like a headless chicken, not sure where the Google Map direct me to - is the direction correct or otherwise? Only to find out after the end of this trip, I was actually walking on different direction, not the usual path took by majority of the visitors. But still, I glad that I finally make it to the castle - safe and sound, with a little touch of exhausted. When I saw Peles Castle standing tall and enormous right in front of me, all the efforts of getting here is exceptionally worth. This Romanian castle is so stunning and impressive until I was totally stunned.

2019 Romania Peles Castle 01-1
#4: After walking for more than 40 minutes from Sinain Railway Station, I made it to the castle.

However, it's felt kinda strange for me cause this castle is known to be one of the most remarkable castles in Romania but somehow, I don't see any sign of tourists surrounding it. I have to admit I was kinda early but by the time I arrived the castle, it's 9.30am. It was supposed to open at 9am, as shown from Google. And guess what? It's Wednesday during my visit and the opening hour is different from the rest of the day, which is 11am. Not you again Google! But again, to think from the other side, this consider it's a blessing of disguise for me cause I can have the whole place just for myself. Always be positive, right?

Without wasting any longer, this is what I did:

2019 Romania Peles Castle 02
#5: What else than taking photo of myself?

2019 Romania Peles Castle 05
#6: For the "Gram"

2019 Romania Peles Castle 04
#7: And more of myself with the castle. Can you spot the snow-capped mountain behind me?

When I posted one of these photos on Instagram, there are few who actually asked me how I managed to take photo of myself when I was travelling alone? Oh well, sometimes I did ask from the strangers who passby but for this trip, I brought along a 1-m long tripod with me.

2019 Romania Peles Castle - Tripod
#8: Another silly thing I did - I forgot to bring along the remote. So what I did is set timer of 10 seconds, then immediately ran to the spot I want. And repeat. Some people who passby saw it and laughed at me.

2019 Romania Peles Castle 06
#9: Statue of the founder of Peles Castle, King Carol the 1st

2019 Romania Peles Castle 07
#10: Statues of the terrace

Slowly, a crowds of people flocked to admire the beauty of Peles Castle. Luckily, I was almost done with my own personal photoshooting and about to leave. "Oh wait, you want to leave now? Imagine you walked for almost 40 minutes and leave just like that without entering the museum?", I asked myself. Frankly speaking, I wasn't into any history cause it's never been my my cup of tea but to think wisely, it was such a shame for me to just leave like that. After a long consideration, I approached the counter and bought an entrance ticket that costs me 30 lei and also, photographer fee of 35 lei.

Apparently there are two different entrance fees for Peles Castle:

  • The Main Tour - 30 lei where the tour only take place at the main floor
  • The Optional Tour - 60 lei covering both main and upper floor. 
For me, just go for the main tour as it's sufficient to cover what you want to see.

2019 Romania Peles Castle Museum 03
#11: One thing I dislike about entering Peles Castle is that all visitors must take the guided tour. I understood the reason behind for this is to control the incoming big crowd but this also cause the tour to be quick and rush.

2019 Romania Peles Castle Museum 01
#12: Peles Castle is the first castle in Europe that is fully supplied by electrical power. Impressive!

Peles Castle is built by King Carol the 1st (1839 - 1914) when he visited the site of the future castle for the very first time, he instantly fell in love the side amid the magnificent scenery of Carpathian Mountains. He then decided to acquire some land and commissioned a castle to be built there to be used as a summer residence for the Romanian royal family. Its architectural style is a romantically inspired blend Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival similar to Neuschwanstein Castle of Germany. This is because the one who designed the plan for this castle was a German architect.

2019 Romania Peles Castle Museum 04

2019 Romania Peles Castle Museum 02
#14: The castle has 160 rooms decorated with beautiful furniture.

Despite the quick and rush guided tour, I felt that a trip to Romania is incomplete without a visit to this fairy-tale Peles Castle. Both the exterior and interior are absolutely fascinating and can't stop making every visitor who dropby to jaw dropping. And before I left Sinaia, I stumbled upon another smaller in size castle not far away from Peles Castle - the Pelisor Castle. However due to time constraint, I didn't have the time to visit it.

2019 Europe Romania Pelisor Castle
#15: Pelisor Castle - Built by orders of King Carol I for his nephew Ferdinand, the future king of Romania and his wife Queen Maria.

If you like to cover both Bran Castle and Peles Castle on the same day, I would advise not to make a trip on Wednesday cause Peles Castle only opens at 11am. Majority of the travellers would prefer to dropby Peles Castle first (opens at 9am except Wednesday), and then continue by taking train to Brasov for Bran Castle. But like I mentioned early, I prefer the opposite way - visit Bran Castle first, follow by Peles Castle later on. Well, choice is in your hands.

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Short Trip To Bran Castle From Brasov

<< Previous Post: To Brasov From Bucharest <<

Talking about castle, Romania is one of the countries in Europe that has countless of castles. To name one of it is the Bran Castle, most well-known for Court Dracula. Although this castle might not among the most beautiful I ever visited, but the best part is you can visit at your own without taking any guide tour.  

In order to get to Bran Castle, the nearest base would be from Brasov which I blogged earlier in my previous post. Even if you are travelling from Bucharest whether by train or bus, you still need to stop at Brasov, and from there catch a bus at Brasov Bus Terminal (Autogara 2).  

Summary On How To Get To Bran Castle:  
  • From Bucharest, take a train to Brasov like I did. Upon arriving in Brasov Train Station, catch a local bus #23 or 23B to Autogara 2 (stop at Stadionul Tineretului).
  • If you already in Brasov and stay in the centre which locally known as Livada Poştei (this is where Old Town located), catch bus #12 to Autogara 2 (stop at Stadionul Tineretului).
  • In Autogara 2, continue by taking bus at Terminal 2 and stop at Bran - Moeciu. The bus departures at every 30 minutes during weekday and every hour during weekend.
  • As for the fare, the local bus within Brasov costs 2.5 lei for a single trip. For the bus from Brasov to Bran, it costs 8 lei.
2019 Romania Bran Castle 09
#1: Autogara 2 - This is where the bus departs to Bran from Brasov. Catch the bus at Terminal 2. One-way costs 8 lei 

2019 Romania Bran Castle 08
#2: This is where you should drop off for Bran Castle. There are plenty of souvenir stalls outside the castle. so it's hard for you to miss it.

Right after I dropped my backpack at the hostel I'm staying in Brasov, immediately I got some advises from the friendly hostel staff on how to get to Bran Castle cause you know, times wait for no one. There are plenty of places I would like to wander and venture but bear in mind, I only have like 3 days. I know that my time to Bran might be rush and limited, but that's all I can risk for. By the time I reach Bran Castle, it was like 1.30 pm. It may seem like I have ample of time since the castle is expecting to close at 6pm but then, I have to take into consideration of the bus schedule heading back to Brasov. Did I mention that the bus ride from Brasov takes approximately 45 minutes? In addition, I was travelling alone and hence, it's wise to make a trip back to hostel earlier. 

Right after I got off from the bus, I came across countless of small wooden stalls selling all sort of souvenirs, particularly on Bran Castle and Dracula before reaching the counter booth. Not sure whether because it was off-season in April or due to after lunch hour, there were less tourists than what I anticipated it to be. Well, I kinda enjoyed it cause less tourists mean less crowd and not that packed. Admission fee for adult costs 40 lei (approximately to RM40).

2019 Romania Bran Castle 02
#3: Less visitors when I arrived in Bran Castle - that's a good sign cause it means less crowd

2019 Romania Bran Castle 03
#4: The views from the bottom of the hill looking up the castle are pretty fascinating.

2019 Romania Bran Castle 04
#5: The courtyard, looking west

When enter into the castle, the visitor is allowed to wander across many floors of the castle, ventured every nooks and crannies that filled with arts and furnitures collected by Queen Marie, the last queen of Romania. Not just that, there is even a secret passage connecting the first and third floors, a room that displaying Court Dracula myth and more. If you are a passionate history lover and keen to know more about this castle, maybe you could consider of taking a guided tour.  

2019 Romania Bran Castle 06
#6: The castle is now a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie, the last queen of Romania. 

2019 Romania Bran Castle 05
#7: The inner courtyard

2019 Romania Bran Castle 07
#8: Inner courthyard wishing well

2019 Romania Bran Castle 10
#9: One final photo before bidding goodbye to Bran Castle

Before hopping on the bus going back to Brasov, I dropped by a restaurant opposite of the entrance to the castle for some late-lunch break and of course not forgetting, getting some Bran Castle magnets as part of my collection. 

Fun Fact of Dracula
Do you know that the creator of Dracula, Bram Stoker actually never been to Romania before? He depicted the imaginary Dracula’s castle based upon a description of Bran Castle that was available to him in turn-of-the-century Britain. And because Bran Castle is the only castle in all of Transylvania that actually fits Bram Stoker’s description of Dracula’s Castle, therefore this castle is known throughout the world as Dracula’s Castle.

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Just Stay At Home

Something personal. A post that not related to travel...

For the past two months, my life was pretty occupied with so many things including my career, involvement with volunteering works, lots and lots of meetings, family commitment and not forgeting, relationship too. So busy and exhausted until I barely breath at one point. But ever since all of us the Malaysians are advised to stay at home for these two-week period due to the government's restricted movement order (RMO), finally I can take a break from my hectic life and start to make a list of the things I always wanna do if I have the chance to stay at home. 

Today it's day 5 since the RMO started and you know what, I was indeed enjoying my own sweet time by just staying at home. Well of course I try my best not just to eat, sleep and slack (and repeat) but I managed to do some of the things on "MY STAY-AT-HOME TO-DO LIST".

Here's a list of the things I succeeded to do earlier in the first week of RMO:
  1. Blogging - trying my best to complete all my backlog travelogues like New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Norway, USA and more. 
  2. Organising my photo folders on both of my phone and external hardisk.
  3. Doing housechores aka spring cleaning.
  4. Watching Netflix such as Kingdom (I hate zombies but this drama is pretty damn good!)
  5. Reorganising and decluttering my wardrobe.
  6. Learning and trying to cook new recipes.
  7. Exercising and working out (not everyday but least I did)
  8. Tidy my room and changing the new bedsheet set I won from FB contest.
Winny Bedlinen FB Contest

Some of you might be wondering, so how about my travel life? Sad to announce that I have to postpone or in some worst case scenario, to cancel my entire upcoming trips due to the recent outbreak. I do miss travel (it's a lie if I say no) cause my last trip was 3 months ago to Singapore for Christmas celebration. But I guess it's not bad to take a break from travelling at this moment since I've been constantly travel last year - like almost every month I keep flying out here and there. Hence, I want to grab this opportunity to rejuvenate, recharge and relax my body and mind as well. Travelling can be exhausted too sometimes, you know?

Not sure when can we back on the road again, where we can travel freely without worrying too much but here am I sincerely wish each and every of you, including myself that we can get through this tumultuous period together - by just staying at home.

One person can make a huge difference. 

Stop the spread.
Let's all do our part together.

Please, please, please.
Be socially responsible.

How about you guys? Do you enjoying it like I do or the other way round, extremely too boring for staying at home? Come, share more with me by dropping comments. Stay safe everyone! #StayAtHome

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To Brasov From Bucharest

<< Previous Post:  Bucharest - The First City of Romania I Wandered >>

Though Bucharest, the capital city of Romania might sounds plain and dull for me, but somehow there are other cities in Romania that are really worth for visit and discover. It's funny how two days in Bucharest was pretty long for me but then, a week in Romania may seem too short and inadequate on the other hand. I should plan my trip wisely next time. 

On my last day in Bucharest, I woke up super early in order to catch the local bus to Gara De Nord (known as Northern Train Station in Bucharest). This time I just bought a single-trip ticket costs 2.6 lei, instead of the day-pass of 8 lei. From where I stayed, the bus heading to Gara De Nord is #85 and #123 and the ride takes approximately 20 minutes. 

2019 Europe Romania Bucharest Train Station (Gara de Nord)
#1: Gara De Nord (known as Northern Train Station in Bucharest)

Taking trains are the ideal way of reaching cities in western and central Romania such as Brasov, Sighisoara, Sibiu and more. And when comes to taking train, it's always what I love to do, especially when travel in Europe - convenient, comfortable and faster than taking buses. 

2019 Europe Romania Bucharest to Brasov Train
#2: Travelling within the regional of Romania by taking train

The first city out of Bucharest I'm heading to is Brasov, a city in the Transylvania region of Romania. Does Transylvania sounds familiar to you? If you have ever watched Hotel Transylvania, a computer-animated 3D comedy film by Adam Sandler and Selena Gomez, then probably the name of this place would not be a stranger to you. Unfortunately I couldn't find Hotel Transylvania when I was there. Guess after all, it's not real. It's just a fiction. 

Now back to my Brasov train trip. As usual, the "kiasu" in me I went and bought the train ticket one day in advance. Alternatively, you can book the domestic train tickets via online at the Romanian Railways website (here). However, I was having issue of buying online and therefore, my last resort was to go to the train station and immediately purchased from the station ticket window. Actually from Bucharest, there are 18 trains daily to Brasov and you don't have to worry if you couldn't catch the earliest train. As for the train fare, I bought at the price of 49 lei (approx. to RM50).  

2019 Romania Brasov Train Station
#3: After 3 hours of train ride, here I am arriving in Brasov.

2019 Romania Brasov Bus Station
#4: From Brasov Train Station, continue by taking bus line 4 heading to the Centre (Livada Poştei) as this is where the Old Town situated.

2019 Romania Brasov Bus Line 4 Centre (Livada Postei)
#5: This is where the bus stop in Livada Livada Poştei

I'm so in love with this charming and colourful little Old Town of Brasov. I told myself, "Now you're making a wise choice for choosing to stay here at least for 3 nights cause this place is so serene, peaceful and calm." This is where the real historic and architecture beauty of Brasov lies within the old town. 

2019 Romania Brasov Old Town 01
#6: Brasov Huge Sign on Tampa Mountain

2019 Romania Brasov Old Town 02
#7: If you look closely, there's a Starbucks Coffee on the right side.

#8: Council square of Brasov Old Town

2019 Romania Brasov Old Town 04
#9: Colourful buildings lined along the street of Brasov Old Town

2019 Romania Brasov Old Town 05
#10: Plenty of restaurants, cafes, shops, and convenience stores within the old town

2019 Romania Brasov Gelato
#11: Within 3 days only, I already had two gelatos. #ohmydiet #ohmycalories

2019 Romania Brasov JugendStube Hostel
#12: 3-night stays in this hostel - One of the best hostels I have ever stayed throughout my solo trip

JugendStube Hostel Brasov
Date Stayed: 9 April - 12 April 2019 (3 nights)
Room Rate: 200 leu for total of three nights of a bed in 4-bed mixed dormitory room with private bathroom and free breakfast provided.

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