Thursday, June 29, 2006

in Helsinki already

Just a short post to let those concerned know I am in Helsinki already. Prague was great and I miss it already. Finland has incredible prices, cos I was shopping and I really feel it cos I came from Prague.

Well, in a day's time, I'll be home and yes, that'll be great!

I'm looking forward to eating MEE POK! CHICKEN RICE! CHAR KWAY TEOW!

LOL =)

To the rest of my friends still travelling, good luck in your travels and take more pics!

Prague last 3 days (26/06 - 28/06)

Prague - 26/06/06

It was to be CJ’s last day in Prague and so we decided to join Stephen’s walking tour. This crazy guy is actually a old guy (don’t let him hear me call him that, else he might strangle the “stupid Singaporean” to death) who’s a history professor in Heidelberg, Germany, so I thought a tour by a professor couldn’t be any bad. It turned out to be a good decision, and it was a lot of juicy information he fed us. Things we could never get right on a guided tour, even by a guide trained in the specifics. After all, a history professor who’s supposed to be drilled in facts like the country’s history with Russia, the ACTUAL wish point along Charles Bridge, and stuff like that. We got a lot of stand-up comedy along the way as well, so the 300 Czech Crowns (10 euros) was really worth it. After the tour we rested at the hostel and then it was time to send CJ off. I saw him off at the bus stop, and he continued the rest of the way to the airport himself. I’m sorry for not being able to see him all the way, but my legs needed a good break from all the walking. Interacted a little with the rest of the roommates at night, then retired for the night.


Woke up after a refreshing sleep. Was chilling out at night the night before, doing nothing in particular and using the Internet and hence my legs had some rest finally.

Eva (who was coming back from Oulu) messaged me the day before to meet at noon at Wenceslas Square and then go to Lucie’s house for lunch! I was so excited to see them again. We took a metro and bus to where Lucie lived and she came out to meet us at the bus stop. Joe came from work to meet up with us too. We then had a sumptuous alfresco lunch in the garden prepared by Lucie’s mum.

Lucie's sister's twin boys, 2.5 years old. The blonde one is older by 1 minute. Eating ice cream!

Lucie’s sister has 2 very charming twin boys (as evidenced above) and they were running around naked and playing like boys should. Did I mention, Lucie’s house is big (by Singapore standards anyway) and they have a whole playground for the kids. I then showed my pictures from my Europe trip to them, and apparently Lucie and Eva visited some of the places that I did, and we had a good chat about them.

In the evening the sky turned dark and ominous, and hence we decided to make a move. Lucie’s sister and husband offered to give us a lift to the nearest metro station so that we wouldn’t get wet. It was really nice of them to do so, and it saved us a lot of trouble. We then bade a long farewell to Lucie and her family (all of them were really friendly, although her parents weren’t speaking a lot of English and we had to communicate via Lucie, and I managed to surprise her with a few Czech words too! =) )

Eva and Lucie, in Lucie's house.

Lucie, if you are reading this, you are welcome to visit Singapore too! I know I told you before, but yeah, you know it ya?

I was rather wet when I returned to the hostel, but after drying, I went out to dinner with some of the guys who were on Stephen’s walking tour the day before. Turned out that Marco (Mexican) and Jennifer (American from California) were great chatting buddies. After dinner, the rest of the people at the reception in the hostel wanted to go to a club (Cross Club) and so I agreed to go along, this being my last night.

We had some drinks there, and I drank my first vodka of the month (got a rash subsequently cos I haven’t been drinking recently) at the club. We didn’t do any dancing to my disappointment, and we went back at around 2am. That wrapped up my day, and I packed some stuff before turning in.


Woke up and packed everything after having a bath. Most of my roommates were gone cos they had a flight or connection to another city early that morning. After leaving my luggage in the storage room, I went out to Vlatavska metro station to meet Eva, who would be joining me for some sightseeing. That’s right, a Czech native seeing more of Prague. She’s living in Brno so Prague is not a familiar ground for her. It’s kind of hard to imagine for a Singaporean to not know his own country, yet if I ask you this, how much do you know about all the other neighbourhoods in Singapore, most would probably realize where this would lead to. Czech Republic is huge (at least much bigger than Singapore, so it is not very strange for someone not living in the capital city to not know the place at all (it is the case for most other countries.)

We walked around the town square a bit (in fact only walked across it) and then over the Charles bridge (where I corrected her misconception about the wish point on Charles Bridge, taught to me and CJ by the “very eminent” and very humourous Stephen during his walking tour). I was quite amazed that many people make that mistake, and apparently the error made by a tour guide tens of years ago got perpetuated. Eva was convinced only after asking a Prague native. So it turns out that Stephen was right after all!

We wanted to go up the Petrin Tower, Prague’s answer to Paris’ Eiffel Tower (in fact it is almost an exact copy of its design!) but it turned out that the weather wasn’t good and it was drizzling a little, plus the fact we were running out of time and we only made it up halfway. The funicular wasn’t working cos it was under repair, so really we had no choice but just take pictures from halfway up the hill.

We hung out at a café and had some Czech bread. I had some East European cake with honey. According to Eva, it is from Bulgaria originally and it was really good cos it was sweet. (what do you expect from a honeyed cake?)

After buying some bread we then headed back to our respective apartments, me to Sir Toby’s Hostel for my flight back to Helsinki and Eva to her sis’ place to get her luggage to catch a bus to Brno. We said our goodbyes and I really hope I get to see her and Lucie in Singapore. Maybe sometime in the future.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Prague update

All right, let me start off from where I left off. The last post was a rather crappy one. I'll do this with pictures.

21/06 -23/06

Firstly, I must tell you all about the hostel I am at - it's a GREAT one! If any of you are going to Prague, you HAVE to stay at Sir Toby's! It has a great kitchen stocked with all kinds of utensils, free hot chocolate, coffee and tea all day round, except when the kitchen closes at 11pm. Free wireless internet (if you bring your laptop around), great people stay in the rooms, a beer garden at the back, and its own pub downstairs! (Big screen TV included!)

OK time for pics.

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge on the right. To dispel a popular urban legend, Charles Bridge is actually not the oldest bridge in Czech Republic, as "Lonely Planet" would point out. There existed a small bridge beside it that actually linked a row of houses, but I think it's not there anymore.

Me and the background.

My fave black and white shot in Prague.

The head of the Charles Bridge.

Some flowers blooming in spring. Europe is ever so amazing cos of flowers. Why doesn't Singapore have these? A Jewish Cross that the Nazis didn't destroy during WWII when they occupied Prague. On the cross, it's written in Yiddish, "Holy holy holy", referring to the King of Jews, The Almighty Jesus Christ.

The Dancing Building. The surrounding buildings are just normal ones, maybe the Czechs should decorate the place up a little, otherwise this great looking architecture looks so out of place. Or maybe because the rest are so boring, the Dancing building stands out!

The Old Town Square. There was the Czech-Italy World Cup match when we first got there. Unfortunately the Czech lost, and there were a lot of broken hearted people out there. My heart went out to them totally.

Fashion show by adidas. Great models!

Lucie, Joe, Judita (my Czech friends) and me in Prague. It was great to meet them after 2 months after Oulu. Met them on the second night I was in Prague, how cool was that!

The next day we visited the Prague Castle on the other side of the bank from the Old Town.

Prague Castle. It was used as a castle for the people. In case a war broke out, the king decreed that the people should be allowed to stay in the castle for shelter and in turn, they would fight for him if so needed. The castle is huge, the biggest in Europe, measuring 618m by 340(?)m, about 79 hectares, and therefore as many football fields.

Note: 618 is for sure correct, but the rest of the numbers may have been mixed up a little.

The royal guards decked in blue garb. Nice coloured uniforms for the Bohemian guards, charming don't you think?The drain covers. Each one of them in Prague is decorated with a nice design and the name of the area it is in. The Castle Entrance with 2 royal guards. Every tourist went camera happy with the guards. Probably cos the uniform colour is so unique.

My turn. The guard stands really ramrod-straight. When it is around 3pm and the sun shines really strong, they wear sunglasses. Cool!

The views overlooking from the castle. Look at that! St Vitus' Cathedral looks impressive eh?
Cool view. The tallest building here is the TV tower. A present from the Soviets to the Czechs. Was kinda of a compensation for something I can't remember.

Tale of the charming old town centre and the ominous clouds hanging over our heads.

The astronomical clock in Prague. There are several in Europe (I think about 6). To make an accurate clock, you have to know that the Earth rotates about the sun, and in an elliptical orbit. This clock was made with the idea that the Sun rotated about the Earth, so really, it is inaccurate. Every hour on the hour, the 2 windows at the top pop open and 2 sets of 6 figurines rotate. Then the skeleton on the right plays some music, but it's very unimpressive.

Wenceslas Square and the statue fronting it. Wenceslas is Prague's patron saint. The Square is actually not a square at all, and in fact the measurements are exactly the same as the Prague Castle (618m by 340+m)!


CJ and me took a day trip to Cesky Krumlov, a town three and a half hours by train from Prague. This is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) site so we felt we had to go, especially after getting some recommendations from fellow hostelites. That is a great thing about hostels, that everyone shares information about where and when to go, something you will never get when you stay in a hotel. Word of mouth information is always the best, cos it's PERSONAL and not the official thing.

We took the earliest train at 6.23am and arrived at 10.30am. Great timing, but I had to pull myself outta bed at 5.10am. LOL. Anyway, the weather was hot, and (I think) I got more burnt, but then I am so dark by now it doesn't really matter anymore.

So pictures!

Český Krumlov.And just in case you didn't understand when I meant Český Krumlov was beautiful, this is it. Castle and river. We rafted along this river (350 CZK) and had so much fun!

And no more pics can be added cos of some fault of Blogger's.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Still alive and kicking

Not been updating much, but Prague has been great so far. Done 2 day trips to Cesky Krumlov and Kutna Hora in the past 2 days, so we experienced Czech life outside of Prague itself.

I'll update tomorrow and CJ is leaving at night, which means I'll be alone for 2 days and 2 nights in Prague. No worries, I have Czech friends in Prague and maybe I will go find them to party! On Tuesday maybe, cos tomorrow is already packed. There's a free BBQ at my hostel tomorrow night!


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Prague - 23/06

The third day in Prague started off late cos I had a long distance phone interview. Shan't elaborate about that.

We then visited the Prague Castle and it was pretty, but not nearly what I expected. For some reason, the bar for Prague was set higher, and while the St Peter's Cathedral was my clear favourite for most artistic building in Prague, the castle wasn't quite near the image I had in mind. However, the town square was pretty, with the astronomical clock being an instant attraction cos of its antics every hour on the hour. I have a video of that.

A short post, cos I have run out of writing inspiration.

Tomorrow we make a day trip out to Ceski Tromlov Cesky Krumlov (hope I got that town's name right) No I didn't. It is reputed to be a "little Prague".

Early train to catch at 0623, so I am going to sleep now!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Prague - 22/06

The free internet is really livening me up a bit. At least now I can update everyday on my activities. Maybe 7 days and nights is really too long but who cares, I will just enjoy myself here. I am determined to make the best outta my last stop.

And as for Huili, I am finally at the place you call the dream holiday destination - Prague! The castle is really beautiful and I will visit it tomorrow and maybe even post some pictures immediately. Anyway a quick update on today.


After waking up, we took a tram to the Old Town of Prague, where we walked down the shopping streets in the new town as well to the nearby Vltava River. There we saw the famous Charles Bridge as well as the Prague Castle from across the bank, took some photos and decided to cross Charles Bridge as well, cos tomorrow though we are going to the castle, we are taking the tram there so we might not be able to cross the bridge by foot.

It was nice for once that we didn’t have to rush and walk quickly, so I really enjoyed the time walking. After all, aching feet and hot weather aren’t exactly the best combination when travelling. The cool breeze that constantly blew on our faces was a welcome relief from the previous places we visited, where it was not only hot, but humid as well.

After that, we went to visit the Dancing Building as well, and it was really funny cos the building looked like it was curved and really like it was dancing to some beat or something. But the buildings around it were not very aesthetic, so the Dancing building was looked very melancholic by itself.

We then took the tram back to the Old Town Square, where there was sort of a carnival going on cos of the impending Czech – Italy match. adidas was sponsoring the outdoor carnival and also there were 2 big screens which showed the match going on. Sadly the Czech team lost 0-2 to Italy, and there was no celebrations like I hoped there would be. The Czech people looked really sad, and my heart went out to them. Now Czech Republic is out of the World Cup. Sigh. CJ and me met up with JX, Angie, Chow Siang and his girlfriend in the Town Square during the match itself.

Lucie then messaged me to tell me to meet Joe, Judita and Joe (her boyfriend) in a downtown pub. I was so excited to be able to meet up with my Czech friends after such a long while! So we were able to catch up a bit and have a nice conversation over dinner. It’s really nice to be able to meet the local people in their own country and it was extremely lucky for me to meet both Gabor and Lucie and Judita in their home countries. =)

We parted after dinner and I hope I will be able to see them at least once more before I leave Prague. After all, I am here for another 6 more days!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

in Prague

At Sir Toby's Hostel in Prague. The place is cool!

And has free wireless! Yippee! Tomorrow I will meet Lucie and Joe with CJ. Hopefully we can have a nice chat session over coffee. Maybe meet Angie and JX as well. We'll see how things go.

So happy! There're other good things happening as well. Shan't say it here. =)

Will be in Prague for the next 7 days and nights. Great time to chill and relax. And time to take things easy for once =)

Feeling GREAT now. OK off to bed. Tomorrow will be a great day ahead.

Vienna pics

Austrian Parliament - the real deal. Model of Austrian Parliament.

Inside the Parliament.
Flowers again!

6837, 6840, 6846(Inner City), 6851, 6858, 6885, 6888, 6890, 6896, 6911, 6922, 6930, 6933, 6938, 6957, 6964, 6967, 6972, 6978, 6990 (for Kaiz), 6991, 6999, 7001


Vienna - the City of Music

Note: Updated pics (from Rome and Budapest) on sidebar.


We arrived in Vienna at 1815 hours. CJ and me separated from JX and Angie cos they were staying in a different hostel (City Wombat’s, which was by the way, a superb looking hostel) from us (Believe-it-or-not Hostel; rundown exterior, but superb beds and bathroom, but only 1 shower and 1 toilet shared by at least 12 people).

Met up for dinner and ate at a Turkish place (Sato Restaurant), none too satisfying but nonetheless filled our tummies. All of us then had a stroll down the shopping streets of Vienna. It looked really nice and posh and lotsa brand names were there. Unfortunately it was late and all were closed so all we could do was to windown-shop. After some walking, we chanced upon an icecream store selling good ice cream for really cheap (like 5 scoops for 2.70E)! But my tummy was filled by the meal earlier so I didn’t get any, promising myself that I would do so tomorrow.


Lazy morning, had a great sleep in the comfy bed and the nice blanket served as a great prop-up for my tired legs.

We set out and found a post office to get some stamps. I will post back a postcard (only my second!) home from Vienna, the first one being from Vatican City.

After that, we then went to the Parliament building and had a guided tour of the place. It looked quite impressive, and I actually got to sit in the National Council vice-president’s chair. =) The Federal Assembly room was the nicest part which was very lucky to escape unscathed during World War II. It had nice Bohemian glass panelled ceilings and Corinthian pillars. Greek statues were all throughout the whole room and it added to the intrigue that the whole room held. The Pallas Athena statue outside the building was also interesting, and there was a lot of meaning to the other statues surrounding it, like the 2 statues on its sides stood for legislative (the one holding the book) and executive (the one holding the sword) powers. Then there were also statues of Greek gods like Poseidon, Zeus, Ares, Hermes etc.

Next we went in search of tickets for performances for that night, after all we were in the music capital of the world! The performance that night at the State Opera House was a ballet, featuring the all famous fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty. It had been a long time since I watched ballet, so we decided to catch that. (Of course there was the choice between catching the Mozart and Johann Strauss concert or the ballet, but the ticket prices helped us to choose better.)

We ate at a Asian restaurant and had sushi (been a long time!). Refreshed, we then headed for the Inner City (Volksgarten, Hofsburg Palace, St Stephen’s Cathedral) and also visited the Summer Palace.

After that, we then went to get our ballet tickets and we were really lucky to find out that there were student tickets (seating) for only 7 euros (normal price 30)!

The ballet was great, the orchestra was amazing, the theatre was cosy but the ventilation system sucked totally, so I was sticky with perspiration when I left the place.

After that we went to Happy Chinese, a restaurant recommended by the City Wombat’s guide and had a hearty Chinese meal for 10 euros. Great food but it’s quite hidden, and I passed my first topography test getting there =)

Tomorrow we head for Prague! But first we will find the graves of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and other famous composers.


Talked with the American girls that we met from Rome for a while and took a picture together, then found out that Bush was visiting Vienna for that day so the whole Inner City would be cordoned off. WHAT THE F**K. Then there were helicopters hovering around every inch of the city and that made so much noise that I was really pissed. Police presence was so strong that if you managed to miss it, you had to be blind. It was like the police were having a party on the streets. That’s how bad it was.

We visited the graves of the famous composers as planned, took a few photos and then went to have a meal. The Frutti di mare I ordered was so disgustingly salty that I lost all my appetite and was struggling to finish the meal. Luckily the cheap ice cream we had later was good, although all the ice cream kept flowing down onto my fingers. =S

We tried to catch the protest against the American president but it was too late at 5pm and we had a bus to catch so that was a missed opportunity.

Took the tram back to the Erdberg metro station to take the bus to Prague. 4 hour journey. =)

Budapest pics

Actually I have forgotten most of the names of the places in Budapest, would like some help with this. Gabor or CJ or JX? ;-P

(the hazards of leaving it till too late to relabel the photos from a foreign country.)
Me and JX at Hero's Square. Angie's only decent photo.
Hero's Square. One of the remaining monuments in Hungary that remind tourists of the communistic era. Actually now, Hungary still has a communist party that won an election just this year (2006).
Castle entrance. Exactly like how a castle should look like.

Pretty flowers blooming in spring.

The castle and its "moat". Swimming resort, so tempting to go in and jump into the pool!

The Hungarian National Theatre.St Stephen's Basilica.
And sometimes we all just let loose. LOL.We climbed up to the top of St Stephen's Basilica for a better view of the city from the top. Tiring climb but the bird eye's view of any city is often priceless.Church wedding.View of the Danube and the opposite Buda bank with the castles.

The Chain Bridge and the Bridge Festival going on, ON MY BIRTHDAY! Surprise was to be at night. Then we crossed the bridge to go onto the Buda side. Can you see the castle and the funicular?The Chain Bridge. Charming old bridge and all the roadside stalls set up specially for the event.

Actually I took this photo for the flowers, but the statue looks imposing as well. Another look at the Chain Bridge.

Me at the Chain Bridge.

Sun setting over the castle.

Night view of the Chain Bridge. We stayed here for almost the whole day, sipping coffee/beer at a nearby cafe, talking with CJ's Korean friends. 24th Birthday celebration beside the Chain Bridge, June 17, 2006.
(from left) CJ, me, CJ's Korean friend 1, JX, CJ's Korean friend 2.
Sorry couldn't remember their names. Angie was taking the photo. "Thanks!" By the way, the Korean guy and girl aren't a couple. In fact the girl has a Swedish boyfriend. Like, wow.

Night shot of the Chain Bridge. Group photo at Chain Bridge. (from left): JX, the Koreans, CJ, Angie, me. Asian only photo, so no touching!
The next day we visited the Castle (Buda side). Climbed the hill to the top. The bus would have been a more viable option but we would have needed to pay. The castle area was so big, it contained a whole town inside. Churches, museums, and old houses, gave the feeling of being in Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden. Scroll down for more pics inside the castle area! Picture perfect scenery. The rocks, the buildings, the greenery.
The Hungarian flag flying proudly, sitting atop the Castle.
Forgot church name. Or maybe I never knew it to start it with. It's just a very nice church from the outside.

Castle walls. Beyond those walls are some very amazing scenery, like below.
The Danube River and the Pest side. The top view's always best.
One of the most amazing shots that I took in Budapest.Posing on the Castle's walls. Highly dangerous stunt not for the weak hearted cos the way down is a steep drop all the way to the ground. Taking a peek down is a surefire way to make your heart skip a beat.

And you can see the Chain Bridge from the top!
The Danube River and its backdrop. Why I say Budapest is my fave city in this whole travel trip.Wall art. The castle, looking from the bottom, at the intersection between the roundabout and the Chain Bridge.
Goulash soup Hungarian style, prepared by Gabor's parents. Homemade in the traditional way, over an open fire burning wood. Meat, carrots, potatoes. I want to thanks Gabor and Reka for making our stay in Budapest so hassle free and comfy. (Though I did have a problem with the hard floor, but anyway it was a great time in Budapest!)