Saturday, August 23, 2008


It has been a long journey and I'm glad to be at a place where I don't
have to run constantly. It'll be a while till this blog gets updated
as school begins real soon and I have no big travels anytime in the
near future, except for travels within New England, New York or
California. However, there will be a new blog dedicated to the
abstraction of things I see in life. It's still a work in progress and
in the meantime, I'll be revisiting this blog to fill in any gaps I
might have left out now that I'm beginning to upload my pictures. Till
then, I'm signing off for the weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Being my second time in Paris (actually third, but the first one didn't really count as I was only in the city for a few hours), I've began to like Paris more. Such a beautiful city, with its grand avenues, majestic buildings and this time, I was able to enjoy Paris in a quiet relaxing environment, as most of the local has gone off for holiday. It was a different side of Paris I've never seen before. I'm off the London now to spend a few days before heading off to Boston next week. Overall, it has been an amazing trip and Paris was definitely a good city to end my grand tour.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Lisboa (Lisbon) has been a great city. Chic, bohemian, edgy, and gritty, those are just a few words Lisbon portrays itself and walking around the city has also showed me the colorful and artistic side of Lisbon. With new urban development, modern infrastructures and facilities, Lisbon is also preparing its citizen for the future. It was unfortunate for me that I only spent a short time here as there are still much to know about the city, its culture and its citizens but that, however I'll leave it till next time. I've arrived at Paris today, and will be spending the rest of the week here.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Andalucia Spain

The region of Andalucia is quite captivating. With its mountainous backdrop of the Sierra Nevada, cities like Granada inspires the traveler to close their eyes and relive the past of the great muslim rulers who made Granada their sanctuary. Scents of citrus trees, exotic wildlife and sounds of water flowing through the fountains and pools in the palaces of The Alhambra in Granada stops the lone traveler, who is passing by the region in search of eden should look no further. I based myself in Sevilla, an hour away by train from Cordoba and three hours away from Granada. A visit to these three cities is a must for travelers visiting this part of Spain. Words can only describe the sights but one must be in presence to experience the sounds of horses' hoofs drawing the carriages on the city streets, the magnificent landscape and sounds of water flowing in the courtyards of the many palaces and churches around the region. All three cities are quite amazing on its own and doesn't fail to impress travelers who wants to experience a different side of Spain. I leave Spain for Portugal today inspired by its beauty, its culture and its architecture.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sunset? Sunrise?

It's actually sunrise at 7.30 in the morning in Spain. Amazing!

My First Cinqo

I had to catch a 7am train earlier today and decided to stop by the cafe at the station for a cup of coffee and a croissant. Later, I asked for the bill, took out a clean, crisp 10 euro bill I had acquire the other day from a vendor and paid one of the staff (we'll call her staff one). When I got the change back, it was 5 euro short. I told them the change is incorrect, and of course no one spoke a word of english and Staff One kept saying I gave her a 5 euro bill, and I kept saying no. Staff Two (She) who was handling the cash machine at the moment of course believe Staff One, but my question to her was how was she supposed to know when she was also taking another customer's money without paying attention. (I was standing at the cashier witnessing the situation at that moment) This went on back and forth, me speaking english and them speaking spanish. (Apart from everything else they said, I only understood the number 5)

The whole situation was so ridiculous and I stood at the cash machine till Staff Two came back and still kept telling me no, I gave them a 5 euro bill. Minutes passed and the only male staff walked in and seems to be asking what was going on. Staff Two and him were talking and somehow Staff Two took out a receipt from the customer before me, both of them looked at it and Staff Two took out a 5 euro bill and gave it to me without saying a word. And she didn't need to because clearly she wasn't paying attention and it was her fault, the other customer got more change than he needed, of course he didn't complain. I walked out saying "Gracias".

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Well, it has been a relaxing past two days at Valencia, and now I'm at Sevilla, in the Andalucian region south of Spain.

Valencia is architecturally a stunning city, crowded with its many Beaux Arts and medieval architecture. The city center, the old city is small and most major attractions are within a 5 - 10 minutes walk. Compare to its neighbor city of Barcelona, Valencia is nothing like it, though they are both less than 3 hours away by train. Valencia is smaller and signs of its medieval part can still be appreciated by taking a stroll along its narrow streets and alleyways. In terms of the city's architecture, if Gaudi was to Barcelona in the 20th century, then Calatrava is to what Valencia is in the new millennium. The City of the Arts and Sciences is a leisure and learning complex that houses many of Calatrava amazing architecture. It is also one of the largest leisure complex currently being build in Europe and consists of a performance center (second picture above), a science museum, botanical parks, an oceanography museum and a new agora (not sure what it's going to be used for) that is under construction at the moment. The land that the buildings are build on used to be a river that runs along the northern part of the city and since the mid 20th century, the river has dried out and has since been replaced with botanical gardens and sports facilities. It is certainly one of the most environmentally interesting use of land and resources.

The heart of Valencia has never been about its beaches. However, the closest beach to the city is only a 20 minutes train ride away and it is one of the nicest beach I've seen so far. Compare to the city beaches in Barcelona, it might not have the best water sports or activities along the beach, but the fine soft powder sand is enough for me to appreciate its beauty.

I arrived at Sevilla late last night, but between Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla, some might say that Valencia is too sterile or too clean and has lost its old charm within the old city. Even the central market seems organized, brightly lit and a pleasure to walk around. The building facades seems to have been clean or freshly painted. In either case, Valencia is still a beautiful city to spend a few days at. I enjoyed my two days at Valencia, and the reason being (apart from its architecture), there were very little or no foreign tourist. Things may change at the end of the month as the city is preparing to host the Formula One race.

As for me, my trip is coming to an end soon. From Sevilla, I'll be taking day trips to Granada and Cordoba during my time here. Next week, I'll be heading to Lisbon, Paris and ending my adventure in London.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Train travel in Spain sucks!

When those words from the title came out from me, I can't believe it either. First of all, getting a train ticket in August is impossible. The one night I tried to get a ticket in advanced, there were 250 people in front of me! I went the next morning, the line was short, only about 3 people ahead of me, but of course, I couldn't get the ticket I wanted because it was fully booked. I had to do a different route instead.

Secondly, the day I arrive to catch my train, everyone's luggage had to go through the xray machine! What's ironic is, they don't have a metal detector. So they don't allow guns, knives, explosives, etc (the usual) but they don't have a metal detector for passengers?! I could have took out my pocket knife and put it in my trouser's pocket and would have gotten away without any problem.

Thirdly, boarding the train is a pain. Passengers can't wait in the platform and had to wait in line till the gate opens. That's actually fine but the whole process is like boarding an airplane* where there's actually an attendant who takes your train ticket, scans it and give you your ticket/pass. What's annoying is people who buy their tickets online has problems with the documents, and as a result, is holding up the line.

Why can't it be a simple process, just like any other country where one can just go on to the designated platform, hop on board to the coach and seat assigned, wait for the conductor to come up to you, ask for your ticket, checks it and stamps it, and you're on your way to you next destination.

*( Riding the train in Spain is indeed like flying on board an aircraft. They have entertainment on board the train, and a crew members who passes out earphone is a little box. (Pictured above) One of the reason I take the train is because I don't have to wait in line and go through the security at the airport. Oh, and the crew member do actually kick you out of your seat when you're not sitting at your assigned seat. I actually don't care how good the service is as long as it gets me to my next destination. Life can be so much better when you don't try to complicate things. )

Adios, Barcelona

Barcelona is truly a colorful city, and it is not just because of Gaudi's architecture, but it's also the people and culture that encompasses this amazing city. The city is equipped with modern facilities and has a great public transportation system. Though it is not the largest city in Spain, (only the second) it is a huge city with many districts to explore. The old gothic district is probably where tourists hit most, but it is worth exploring the districts outside the old city to get a feel and culture of the city. However, I can't comment on how liveable the city would be because of my short visit, but as far as I can see, the city seems easy to get around, and there are activities, leisure centers and parks built for the residents of Barcelona.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What should I get today?

In some of the metro stations in Barcelona, they have this huge vending that will sell you anything from a can of coke to a bottle of shampoo. Very handy for backpackers and travellers alike who just got in to the city and needed the essentials. This one is in Maria Cristina metro station.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Performing on the streets

Through my 2 months journey, I've encounter a lot of street performers. From Denmark to Italy, I've seen the Statue of Liberty, an Egyptian pharoah and many other lifeless performers who just stands on a pedestal to have their picture taken by pedestrians, even after someone gave them some money. However, it is in Barcelona that the streets performers here are by far the most creative and interactive I've seen yet. Above along the street of Les Rambles, we have the Invisible Man. They were also a gargoyle, a vampire, a Asian lady who dresses up with baskets of fruits and vegetables on her, an angel, a guy cycling with a puppet skeleton and the list goes on. My hat off to the city of Barcelona for such great inspirations.

Ola, Barcelona!

Got in to Barcelona late yesterday and will be spending a few days to explore the city. But first stop, the temple of the sacred family (Sagrada Familia) by Antoni Gaudi.

Me and my bike: Part II

Took a hilly 25 km bicycle tour to the Chianti Hills for some Tuscan landscape and wine tasting as well as a tour of an old villa owned by the Rossi family (of the Martini brand).

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Siena - a town that has drew many inspirations to architects and urban planners worldwide, mainly for its town square, the Piazza Il Campo. (Pictured top) I can't put my mind on why that is, could it be the history, the scale and relationship to the users or simply the fact that it is famous for its twice annual horse race around the square, or all of the above? In either case, Siena is a beautiful town with a breathtaking view of the Tuscan Hills that surrounds it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cinqueterre (5)

The 5 towns along the northwest coast of Italy begins with the northern most town of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Together they are known as Cinqueterre (Five Towns). Each of the towns are within a few minutes ride by train, but they are also linked by foot paths between each town. The foot paths were once the original connection between the towns. It has now been recognized as a National Park and is protected under the UNESCO heritage site list.

I took the pleasure of taking the train up to Monterosso and started my 10km hike to the southern town of Riomaggiore. My total journey hike with stops between the towns of Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola was 6 hours. (The stops at Monterosso and Riomaggiore are not included in the total journey) Each town has its own characteristic and are very different from each other. Monterosso seems to be the largest town (probably because of the sandy beach) and Corniglia is probably the smallest (also possibly because the beach is difficult to reach as you have to hike down). However, my favorite town between the five is probably Corniglia. It may not have the best looking architecture, but it is charming in its own little way. It is also the only town that sits on top of a hill rather than perching on a cliff like the other towns. The path from Vernazza - Corniglia path is also one of the most scenic, but it is also one of the hardest trail to tackle as the path are rocky and dangerous during wet weather.

Interestingly enough, I was lucky to experience some Mediterranean rain shower while walking along the path from Vernazza to Corniglia. The Vernazza - Corniglia path is also the longest followed by the Monterosso - Vernazza route (only about a few kilometers shorter but it takes the longest because of its high altitude hike). The shortest path is between the town of Manarola and Riomaggiore, better known as the Via dell' Amore (path of love).

The five towns are not difficult to reach (about an hour train ride from Pisa Centrale) and I highly recommend a visit as well as taking a hike between the five towns. It is also advisable to bring comfortable shoes and be cautious when hiking as some path are really narrow. It has been quite a rewarding day being able to enjoy and experience a natural and man-made wonder.

(Picture above is the town of Manarola)

My name is Lucca

Took a side day trip to Lucca yesterday and I have to say it was really nice to get away from the crowds in Florence. There's a lot of history to Lucca but I won't bore everyone with that, however the one interesting and major attraction to Lucca is the old city wall that has protected Lucca from invaders in the past. Unlike old historical wall I've seen in other cities that are mostly destroyed or quarried for building materials, Lucca's wall is still standing, partly because it has been ramped and converted into a beautiful path and park for strollers, cyclist and the locals to enjoy. There are other interesting parts of the city such as the trace of an old roman amphitheater and a tower overlooking the city with a small garden at the top floor. All in all, it was a relaxing day as I fell asleep in the park for most part of the day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Under the Florence Sun

This post is a probably a bit late but I've been in Florence since Wednesday afternoon. Florence is actually a beautiful city if you can look beyond the crowd of tourists. For the past 2 days, I've walked around the city and have visited 2 of the most popular and crowded museums in Florence, the Accademia (which houses the statue of David by Michelangelo) and the Uffizi (which has the 2 famous painting by Botticelli).

Looking into the eyes of David inside the Accademia does not even compare to the replica in the Palazzo Vecchio. Though the statue was originally made to admired in an exterior setting (like the replica made standing outside the city hall), in the Accademia, you're looking at the statue through the eyes of Michelangelo. Or maybe it was just the lighting or the interior setting that makes David unresistable to the eyes of the public
The Uffizi has a really good collection of arts but of course everyone visits it for Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' and the 'Primavera'. Both are equally beautiful paintings but I wish they didn't have the glass panel covering the paintings. Its was too difficult and distracting to really admire and study the painting as it was intended.

Florence is a small city. The scale of the city actually reminds me of Boston as it is very walkable and most major sights are within a 15 minutes walk. Coming from Rome to Florence, I think of Rome as New York City and Florence as Boston.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Leaving Rome

It has been a fantastic long week in Rome. Got to visit ruins, places, paintings, sculptures and churches that I have only seen on slides in art history classes before and am now able to experience them in person. It was brilliant! A lot of the old buildings like the churches and the colosseum do need to be experienced in person to realize just how massive that structure is! I have attached to this post a trusty map that had got me around Rome for the past week. The highlighted areas in orange and red are streets and places that I've walked on. For orientation purpose, the big red circle on the lower right (next to the grey/orange patch) is the Colosseum. The big red patch on the upper left is the Vatican.

There are just too much to see in Rome. I think I've only covered 20% of the churches dedicated to Santa Maria. But as it has been said before, "a lifetime in Rome is not enough". I'm on my way to Firenze (Florence) for a week in the Tuscany region. More Santa Maria to cover and hopefully will be able to see David.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lost in Rome

There are just so many churches, so many piazzas and so many archaeological sites to cover in Rome that it seems ridiculous to post every single sights. However, the one thing I bumped into was this guy drawing the Birth of Venus by Botticelli in the middle of the sidewalk near the Pizza di Spagna. His artwork is amazing, but he has also written some pretty interesting directions and information for tourist. Below are his words.

"Everyday lost tourists keep asking me the same questions, here are the answers ...

1. Piazza di Spagna: 2 minute walk down Via Condotti.
2. Piazza di Popolo: At the end of Via del Corso.
3. Trevi Fountain: Walk 500 meters up Via del Corso and on your right you will find Piazza Colonna. Turn left off Via del Corso after you pass the column in the center of the piazza.
4. Pantheon + Piazza Navona: Same as Trevi directions but turn right off Via del Corso after you pass Piazza Colonna.
5. Colosseum: It's too difficult to explain, so go to the Pantheon instead.
6. St. Peters + Vatican: Walk down this street in front of you until you reach the river and follow it to your left, cross the bridge with the statues on it then simply follow the trail of African guys selling fake Prada handbags.
7. Nearest McDonalds: travel to a new country to experience a different culture famous all over the world for its food and wine and you want to eat at McDonalds.
8. Hard Rock Cafe: It's somewhere near Piazza Barberini
9. Nearest ATM: There is one behind Fendi. "

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why so many people?

Why are there so many people sitting on the steps at the Piazza di Spagna?

Exploring the ancient relics at the Vatican

Spent the whole day at the Vatican today, visiting St.Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museums. This whole place is huge, especially the museum! However, it does have a rather good or probably one of the best collection of paintings and antiquities from the Roman classical periods. And there is of course, the Sistine Chapel, housing one of Michelangelo finest paintings. It is worth the visit, just to see and experience the scale of the church and the frescos inside the church and museum. I suppose with no internet in the old days, people have a lot more time to explore the fine arts, and time probably wasn't a big issue back then.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ciao Roma!

Well, finally made it to Rome. I'll be here in Rome till next Wednesday, hopping around the ancient sites to modern Rome.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Amalfi Coast: IV

My last stop at the Amalfi Coast is Atrani before heading up north to Roma. Unlike the bigger town of Amalfi next door, Atrani is small, yet it is full of life. From its facade, you might think that Atrani is a sleepy town, but hidden behind those thick walls are narrow secret passageways and steps leading to different parts of the town as well as paths leading to Amalfi; this is where the energy of Atrani can be found. From within this passageways, you may find people catching up about their day, donkeys carrying loads up the steps and small piazzas where children plays. There is of course a main piazza where the locals would gather during the night, but life during the day takes place inside the labyrinth of Atrani. I'm glad Amalfi is getting its full attention from the tourists because that leaves Atrani to be appreciated as it should be, a hidden gem.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dog on a scooter

If you look closely to that white fluffy dot on the lower left side of the scooter, that's actually a dog, not a stuffed toy!

The Amalfi Coast: III

This is the town of Atrani, where I'll be staying for 2 nights. Its a quaint little town, only 200 meters next to the bigger town of Amalfi.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Amalfi Coast: II

Sorrento is less than 10 minutes away by train from Sant Agnello. It is a bigger town, but I much prefer the small town quality and the slower pace at Sant Agnello.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Amalfi Coast: I

I think this will be a series of posts dedicated to the Amalfi Coast. My first stop is at S.Agnello, a town just before Sorrento. I'll be spending 2 nights here and I head to Amalfi and Atrani next. Both towns are about 90 minutes away from Sorrento by bus. It has been such a long tiring journey today but a rewarding one at the end of the day.

Crazy lady on the train to Sorrento!

Noticed how no one is sitting around her. It is because she starts shouting nonsense once a while.

On the road to Sorrento

I've finally arrived at Italy and am on the regional train from Brindisi to Sorrento. Things have been going smooth so far and I've met some new American friends. One of them will be starting his freshman year at Berklee College-small world indeed. However, I nearly missed one of my train connections at a small town called Foggia. I didn't even know it was a train as it has only 2 carts and it was so short!! I thought it was a service train until I noticed someone running to the train with his bags. Funny moments you experienced while you're traveling in a foreign land.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crossing the Ionian Sea

Well, I'm off to Italy after spending a week in Greece. The best part in Greece was visiting the island of Santorini. I'm sure the other Cyclades island is nice too, but Santorini was special. Wish I didn't have to leave it but there's still a long way for me to go. This time, I was able to get a cabin and hopefully get some good rest before my 2 weeks journey in Italy.

On the road to Patra

If you're one of the lucky person who gets a seat on the right side of the bus (seats are automatically assigned with purchase of ticket), the view along the way to Patra are simply amazing! You'll see the coast lined up with olive plantations and houses facing towards the crystal clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

On the road to Patra

There are some parts of Greece that reminds me of home in Malaysia. It is chaotic, congested, dirty and the city streets are filled with scooters flying by. I have nothing against Greece, but I really cannot imagine a city like Athens, which hosted the 2004 Olympics and the country of Greece who gave birth to western civilization and democracy can be so backwards.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Leaving Santorini

It's difficult to describe the island of Santorini so I'll just let the pictures do the talking. It's sad to leave this special island, but it has certainly been a relaxing four days, hitting the black beaches in Perissa and enjoying the views from Fira and Oia. Now I have to head back to dirty old Athens before continuing my journey to the Amalfi Coast, Italy.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on Santorini

Found in Santorini: I heart Santorini

Found on the phone booth next to a bus stop. The message says " If you are a woman interested in meeting a 39 years old guy for a discreet and free relationship call me or send me an SMS at 6972591014. Thank you and lots of kisses."

Monday, July 7, 2008


Not much to say except it's hot and sunny!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My view: Off to Santorini

Getting to and getting around the greek island is such a pain in the ass. It pays to book early, but online booking has a surcharge of 25 euro and there were no availability for the Sunday ferry I had planned. And online booking has to be done four days in advance. Instead I had to do an overnight ferry on Saturday and through a travel agency. The ticket for deck seat costs only 30 euro (one way) but its an overnight ferry, so for that price you don't get a cabin, which is why I'm lying on the floor to get some shut eye. Another tip, travel agent can charge up to a maximum of 5 euros per ticket for service, so ticket prices may vary. My return ticket from Santorini to Athens costs 27.50 euro and I bought that from a different agency, however it is also a different ferry company.

My next task is getting to Italy from Greece. There's no way any of the ferry from Santorini could connect with the ferry to Italy (the port is 4 hours away from Athens), so I'll be staying in Athens for another night when I get back. There also seems to be limited availability on that ferry (which is surprising-are there really that many people travelling to Italy? It is a huge ferry!) From the advice of the travel agent I talked too, I might have to go straight to the port and get a deck seat. So another long journey ahead.

Found: Stray Dogs?

There seems to be a lot of dogs lying around in Athens. I'm not sure if they are stray dogs as they have a collar on them. But I'm been sitting and watching him for a good one hour no one has approach the dog.