Siem Reap Temples in the Grand Circuit

The Grand Circuit also known as the Grand tour is a collection of temples on the outer road of the Angkor archaeological park. All tuk-tuk, taxi and tour drivers would know which collection of temples to take you. I did the Grand tour on my second day in Siem Reap but it was my first day visiting the temples itself. We booked a Sunset evening tour which followed the Grand circuit route and spanned around 4 hours. This tour was carried out using a Tuk-tuk which in my opinion is the best way to experience the Archaeological sights.

Preah Khan

Preah Khan which means ‘Royal Sword’ is a temple complex built around 1191, it was a gift by King Jayavarman VII to his father. The temple was built upon victory of a battle against the Chams.

This is the very first temple we visited on our visit to Siem Reap. Hearing all the great things about all the temples in Angkor, I was particularly excited to see for myself and witness what all the fuss was about. Our first impressions of our first temple Preah Khan was amazing, enchanting and very much perfect and picturesque. We didn’t even enter the temple walls and we already spent half an hour taking photographs. The entrance had a nice old bridge crossing a beautiful calm stream, it was a perfect sight but somewhat ruined by some scaffolding as some structures were still being refurbished or repaired. The place was very quiet which was the exact opposite of what I was expecting. The temple complex was huge and you can easily spend an hour or even more here. There are still a lot of rubble in different areas which is awaiting to be rebuilt or repaired.

A great start to my temple experience and knowing it can only get better made me eager to see the rest. Best part for me here was the entrance where the bridge is situated with the calm relaxing stream.

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Neak Pean  

This was our next stop after Preah Khan, this was a much simpler temple. Firstly from the drop off point you would have to walk around 10-15 minutes on a very beautifully scenic elevated platform towards the temple. The walk is a pleasure however when arriving to the actual temple it is (in my opinion) not bad but somewhat of an anti-climax compared to our first temple. However the complex is beautiful and has huge significance to the area at its time.

Neak Pean was also built by King Jayavaraman VII on the second half of the 12th century, he dedicating this to the Buddhists. the complex is small and consists of an island temple surrounded by four smaller ponds representing wind, fire, water and earth. It is said that this was built to be a place of healing whereas bathing on the ponds would heal disease or wounds.  

My impressions for this temple was ok. If you are a photography type tourist it wouldn’t be much of a loss to miss this place, however if you like learning about the place then there is much information to be had here. Best part for me here is the walk to get to this complex.

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Ta Som Temple

Ta Som is one of the Smaller temples in the Archaeological area. This temple is another built by King Jayavaraman VII but its purpose is still a mystery, some say it was built dedicated to his father whilst others say it was for his teacher.

This temple is one of the most completely restored and you can visit almost everywhere possible. Like a few other temples in Angkor there are trees growing on this temple which make for good photo opportunities. The ancient artwork is also well preserved in this temple. Best part for me on this complex was its surroundings of tall trees, it was magical and enchanting to say the least.

We somewhat rushed through this as it was similar to the first temple we visited (Preah Khan). You start to get the impression that all temples are similar and visits to others would be boring unless the architecture or styles change drastically.

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East Mebon

East Mebon was one of the earlier temples in the Angkor Archaeological park built in the 10th century. King Rajendravarman II built this mountain temple complex dedicating to the Hindu god Shiva.

Visiting East Mebon was a pleasure, it had different architectural style than that of the other temples. The complex consisted of step terraces shaping as a pyramid. It had huge sculptures of elephants on each corner. This place was clean and I didn’t see any loose stones awaiting to be repaired.

For me, East Mebon was interesting for the difference it had to the other temples we visited. The complex was not too big and you could spend 30 minutes to roam. This temple did however have steep narrow steps so a bit of care is required when visiting this place. It was very picturesque but was ruined by dark clouds which brought rain as we were leaving this complex.

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Pre Rup

Pre Rup is another temple built by King Rajendravarman II around the year 961, said to be the state Hindu temple of the King. It is also thought that this was popular in burial ceremonies and some say the complex is one huge crematorium. It has similar architectural style as that of East Mebon as a mountain temple complex with a pyramid step styled terraces. 

This was suppose to be the grand finale of our tour (Sunset tour), as it is meant to be a spectacular sunset. However the experience was ruined by the showering monsoon style rain. We didn’t have any jackets or umbrellas and even if we did the rain would’ve been too strong. We stayed in our tuk-tuk waiting for a possible stop, but this unfortunately didn’t happen and we ended up going back to the hostel, seeing the sunset on our journey back.

However reading about this specific temple it was not one to miss out on even though this is the quiet compared to other notable temples in the Angkor region.

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Pre Rup      (Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mckaysavage/3238877325)

Overall Conclusion

The temples in the Grand Circuit are astonishing to say the least, I saw two different styles of ancient architecture and saw lots of unique art. The difference in architecture style did make the tour more fascinating and boredom didn’t occur on this circuit. I was surprised that there weren’t huge crowds in any of these temples, I don’t know if we were lucky or we just chose a good time. My experience was somewhat ruined by the rain, but then that’s no fault of this fantastic place, actually apart from the heavy shower on the last temple (Pre Rup) the light droplets on other temples did give the place character and cooled the place for us as it was the peak of summer.

In my overall opinion the Grand Circuit which could be completed in a single day is perfect to start off with. The reason being is that because the more notable temples are on the small circuit it would be a better progress the experience rather than to have an anti-climax. As in my opinion although the collection of temples in this circuit are astonishing the temples in the small circuit are a little better.

Thanks or reading…

Please read my further experience:

  1. Tickets, Entry to the Temples
  2. Small Circuit (Coming soon)
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples (Coming soon)

and also read my full experience in

 

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Reference:

https://www.wmf.org/project/preah-khan-temple
https://www.tourismcambodia.com/attractions/angkor/neak-pean.htm
Ta Som
https://www.renown-travel.com/cambodia/angkor/pre-rup.html https://justsiemreap.com/temple-guide/pre-rup/

 

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Siem Reap

Type : Historical, Religious, Cultural
Best Date : Dec – Jan
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Visit Temples, Bike tours, ATV tours,
Points of Interest: Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom, Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, Killing Fields, Night Market, Military Museum and many more

Brief

Siem Reap is a province north of Cambodia, the main hub for the world famous temple structures such as the Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm which was the set for the Tomb Raider movie. Siem Reap means “Siamese Defeated” which refers to the victory of the Khmer empire against the Thai Kingdom. Tourism is said to be the main form of income to the province and thus this is tightly controlled by the government.

I have been so excited to go to Siem Reap for a while now and with a consistency in top 5 must see places in various different websites and blogs and because of this I had high hopes for this place. Before this trip Machu Picchu was my top and favourite place to date and I wanted to see if this province and its attractions can knock it off my personal first place.

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The Place

My stay in Siem Reap was a total of 5 days which was advised a little too long for a visit. They have told me that apart from temples which could be completed in 2-3 days, there is not much else to see and do in the province. Taking opinions into account I researched and read more blogs and websites which various sources do indeed recommend a 2-3 days stay which made me panic a bit as I already confirmed my plans and have had various bookings made. However I did decide to proceed with my plans and see and judge the place to myself.

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My first day was kind of a surprise as it was the last day of the Cambodian new year. Hotels were packed and there was a lot of people many holding water guns (which got me quiet confused). We arrived early morning about 8am, me and my friend Russel (who was with me on this trip) decided to head to our hostel and see if they would let us check-in or to leave are bags. As the period was busy we weren’t able to check-in and we had to just leave are bags and explore the city. We didn’t have too much plans and we wanted to leave the temples for the next day for tactical reasons which I will explain further-on. So we decided to get a tuk-tuk driver to take us around the nearby points-of-interests which were the Wat Thmey Killing Fields and the Military Museum.

The Wat Thmey Killing Fields is the area mass killings took place during the 20th century by the ruling party the Khmer Rouge. This place is not one visits to enjoy themselves and take selfies but a place for respect, education and reflection. Today the area which is free of charge has a temple and a few educational features. There is also a pagoda which has placed all the remains of some of the victims of this awful tragedy. After our visit to the killing fields, it was rightful we learnt more about the conflict and headed to the Military Museum. This museum did have a small entrance fee but I’d say was worth it. The museum showcased many real vehicles and weapons of the wartime era and most educational for me was the landmine exhibition which was a big deal for Cambodia at the time.

Whilst on our way back to the hostel with our dedicated tuk-tuk driver we were suddenly squirted with water via a water gun by pedestrians which got me a little mad but our tuk-tuk driver was smiling and laughing and he explained it is the last day of new year and there will be a huge water fight around temple street at night. He explained that everyone is happy and no-one gets angry or mad at this water fight, locals and tourists are welcome. This was a huge bonus for my trip as I had no idea this was happening (what an experience). I set out to get a water gun and found that I was being charged much higher than the locals which I expected anyway, after a few hours of haggling I found my toy. That night was beautiful, it was truly a festival spectacle. Load music, firework displays, bright lights but the difference was everyone was wet. Throughout the road just by Temple street kids, adults, locals and tourists had water-guns and were playing without limits. The experience for me was brilliant it was unlike anything I have ever done.

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The second day we were now joined by my cousin. I collected her from the airport at around 8am and after a short rest we decided to start with visiting the Temples. In Siem Reap there are many different temples to visit and the tours and tickets are closely managed by the government. We opted for a 3 day pass hence we didn’t visit temples on our first day to conserve our pass days. I will be explaining this in depth on another blog (Siem Reap and its temples), which will include the temples themselves and the different tours which all follow the same pattern. On our first temple day (day two of Siem Reap) we decided to roam the morning in the city and took the ‘Sunset Tour’ which was the outer Circuit also known as the Grand Circuit. Included in this are popular temples such as Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som and Pre Rup the popular location for views of the sunset. It was a four hour tour using a tuk-tuk however the weather was not in our favour for the end as it rained heavily as we were stopping to our last temple and the most important one to see the sunset. I had mixed feeling for the Grand tour as there were some very amazing structures and others were nothing special. A more in depth post about the Grand Circuit can be found here.

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Day three  we decided to do the Small Circuit and a further temple called Bantaey Srei. The small circuit included temples such as Angkor Thom, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, the famous Ta Prohm temple which featured in the Tomb Raider film, the main temple of the country Angkor Wat and many more. Bantaey Srei was 40km away from the village so our tuk-tuk driver decided to take us there first and then return for the small circuit afterwards, the journey to this temple was long and about after halfway the excitement begins to die down. After visiting this we headed towards the small circuit which included all the more notable temples on offer in Siem Reap. Bayon was specifically my favourite ahead of Angkor Wat, it was enchanting and tested my view if Machu Picchu was better, however at the end Bayon still couldn’t knock the Peruvian mountain off my top spot.  A more in depth post about the Small Circuit can be found here.

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Angkor Wat

The next day and day four of Siem Reap my parent arrived for their visit and we moved from a hostel into a luxurious hotel. We used this day as a rest day as you could get bored with a temple overload, so we lounged at the pool and roamed the village further which there wasn’t much to it. In the evening we attended a traditional Khmer cultural show in Koulen Restaurant which was just behind our hotel. This show included quality buffet dinner which had so many choices. The performances were outstanding.

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After the cultural show we decided to head to town and to Temple road to do our shopping for the trip. The road was very lively, it was a diverse mixture of people from locals and tourists, old and young. Walking around we also passed through Market street and the Arts market. These places are really nice to hang around but I was surprised that unlike other markets across Asia, the markets here close very early at around 9pm or 10pm.

 

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Day five was a repeat of the Small circuit which me and my cousin have done but parents haven’t yet. The fact that I had a 3 day ticket meant I had 1 more day to use so we decided to redo the small circuit to learn more about the place rather than roam at our own account. However this time the tour was inclusive of a van rather than a tuk-tuk and an English speaking tour guide. I was able to distinguish the difference in having a luxurious tour and also doing things on a budget. I believe that using a nice air-conditioned van is much more comfortable, but it does take away the extra authentic feel of the places you are visiting. However the guide was a positive in that you gain more knowledge of the place, but as tours can be shared picture or roaming opportunities can be limited.

Conclusion

In conclusion Siem Reap has lived up to its reputation as a very enchanting place to visit, the people, its culture and history are just amazing apart from the terrible tragedy of its wartime era. Siem Reap was the majestic place I have imagined and all the positive travel reviews I have read were accurate. Furthermore I agree that Siem Reap is consistently a chart topping travel destination even with popular travel guide publishers ‘Lonely Planet‘. Sadly for me neither Angkor Wat or Bayon have beaten my favourite place in Machu Picchu, however they firmly take my second spot of places to visit.

Many people would advise you to visit for 2-3 days max as apart from the temples there is not much to do. However from my experience a 5 day stay is also practical as there is just so many temples to you may want to visit.

I thoroughly recommend a visit to Siem Reap and although travel to the province is somewhat difficult it is worth it.

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Please read more in-depth blogs on my experience in Siem Reap (please click to read):

  1. Tickets, Entry to the Temples
  2.  Small Circuit (Coming soon)
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples (Coming soon)

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Reference:

https://www.tourismcambodia.com/travelguides/provinces/siem-reap/introduction.htm

 

Still The Best Place I’ve Been

So ive been to a few more adventures since my mind blowing trip to Peru and to Machu Picchu. Firmly on top of all my places visited I have questioned if there is any place at all in the world that would knock Machu Picchu as the greatest place I can visit. I believed my Cambodian trip to Siem Reap would challenge Machu Picchu and although it came close, it just wasn’t enough to change my mind on Machu Picchu.
My current Top 5 Visited (click to see read blog or watch videos)

  1. Peru, Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu)
  2. Cambodia, Siem Reap (Bayon)
  3. Philippines, Cebu (Tison Falls)
  4. Finland, Rovaniemi(Lapland)
  5. Spain, Pamplona (San Fermin Festival)

“As mind blowing and spectacular as Bayon was, it just didn’t give me the chills that Machu Picchu gave me.”

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#2 Bayon

Please click below to see the post I wrote about the whole Machu Picchu.

https://sunandthreestars.blog/2018/04/09/aguas-calientes/

Is there any place that you think would beat Machu Picchu?

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#4 Finland, Rovaniemi

Oslo

Type : City break
Best Date : May-Aug
Expense : Very Expensive
Things to do : Scooter around city, Visit Museums, Dine, Boat cruise
Points of Interest: Opera House, Vigeland Park, Nobel Peace Prize Museum, Viking Boat museum, Royal Palace, Akershus Fortress, Radhuset, Holmenkollbakken (Ski museum), ect

Brief

Oslo is Norway’s capital city which was founded around 1050 by King Harald Hardrada. The city was shortly affected by a great fire to which King Christian IV built a new town just west of the original city and named it after himself as Christiania. The spelling was later changed to Kristiania but then by 1925 the name was reverted back to Oslo. Oslo or Christiania back then was made the capital of Norway 1814.

Today Oslo is the centre stage for beautiful Scandinavian architecture, culture and cuisine. Yearly it is the centre stage for the Nobel Peace Prize and has hosted the Winter Olympics at 1952. The city is said to be fun, artistic, creative in so many ways so lets see how my trip went.

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The Place

I went to Oslo for a quick weekend break away from London, It is officially my first visit to a Scandinavian country after finding out Finland and Estonia are not Scandinavian nations. My trip to Oslo was different as I did not explore on my own but had a few friends with me on this trip. I arrived in a rainy Oslo away from a rarely sunny London, the weather was not entirely on my side throughout the trip as it was raining from time to time which halted parts of my trip. Another struggle on this trip was how expensive everything was from food, travel, tickets and even the toilets which costs 20Nkr equivalent of just under £2. Nonetheless the experience was amazing.

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I arrived 12 hours earlier than my friends, giving me a whole day to explore with a closer observation. Firstly I walked from my hostel to the Opera House which in my view was advertised as the cities main attraction. I didn’t go inside the building but I believe I didn’t need to as in my opinion the beauty of this building was from the outside. The beautiful white building where its roof cleverly acts as a ramp and observation deck is a sight to see and a modern attraction for the city. Furthermore surrounding this building is the coast and loads of monuments and artwork to admire from this building. The Opera House is a good starting point when visiting the city.

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Next I walked along a street called Karl Johan’s Gate which is a road full of shops, pubs and restaurants. This is also the main road locals and tourists walk along to get to many points of interests such as the Oslo Cathedral, Norwegian Parliament, Ice Skating Rink, National Theatre and the Royal Palace.

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The first attraction I crossed at the start of Karl Johan’s Gate street near Oslo’s central station and the Opera House is Oslo Cathedral which is the countries main church. In my opinion this building is nothing outstanding compared to other city’s main churches but this does have significance and is a beautiful architecture worthy for a pass-by. Next whilst walking along the street you would pass the Norwegian Parliament which is also known as Storting. The building itself is small but there is a guided escorted tour for tourists, this itself I didn’t do but is said to be worthwhile. Just in front of Storting is a small well looked after park, in which an ice rink is temporarily placed when winter, however this I didn’t see as my visit was not in season.

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Within this little park is the National Theatre which hosts many of Oslo’s classical modern music and drama. Surrounding this small park is an amazing arcade of shops and restaurants which looks amazing. Finally just a 5 minute walk from this area if you keep walking west of the Karl Johan’s Gate road you will get to the Royal Palace which has an amazing exterior. Like London the palace is famous for its ‘changing of the guards’ which I didn’t know happened so I missed this aswell, furthermore the palace also has guided tours which is another popular tour in Oslo. I visited the Opera house, roamed central station and walked Karl Johan’s gate passing many of the cities point of interest on my first day and including a pause due to the rain, roaming these in just 6 hours I believe my first day was fulfilling.

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Fontana Sentrum – where the ice rink would be placed

The next day, now with my friends we done something random and experienced a virtual reality gaming experience at “VR Games Zone” something which is not advertised as a tourist attraction but something which I believe should. The experience was different and unlike anything I do when travelling, the VR game was like an escape room trying to work together in order to finish the game. I’d say this experience did make my stay more enjoyable and even though this was not on the tourism map, I do advise this when in groups of four or more.

After the VR games we tried out one of the many electric scooters which appear randomly across the city for hire. There were various different companies which offer these and it was simple and cheap (especially for Oslo) to use, all you will need to do is download the app input your details and ride away to any destination of your choice. You are charged by the time you use these scooters and once finished all you will need to do is stop the ride on the app. We started from the central station and rode along the coast side and our target was the ‘Viking Ship Museum’ but only ended up in the ‘Aker Brygge’ area where the Radhuset, Nobel Peace prize centre are situated. So we got our scooters around central station and headed towards the coast as I was aware of a cycle lane where we could ride freely without hitting crowds of people (you are allowed to ride freely on pavements or roads). On our way towards Aker Brygge we passed by the Akershus Fortress and many amazing views. Again like other attraction I didn’t go in as I didn’t have time and I couldn’t find the entrance, however the exterior was more than enough to admire. Another few minutes ride and we arrived at Aker Brygge.

Here we decided to have a quick stopover which eventually ended up to be the final of our journey with the scooters, the price in total for about 40 minutes was £4 which is extremely cheap compared to other aspects in the country. We parked and ended our scooters in front of Radhuset which I believe is their town hall, the main administrative body of the city council where pre booked tours are required to visit, for me I didn’t bother. However this area was a brilliant scenic place with plenty of restaurants and shops. Another attraction here was the Nobel Peace Prize Centre which was opened in the year 2005 by King Herald V of Norway and showcases many articles and debates of cultural, political events which promotes peace and conflict resolutions. Other attractions around this area are the Astrup Fernley Museum, Semstrum Gallery and many more. This area was expensive and the upper end of the city which is why we didn’t dine here. Overall this place is a nice area to hang around as there are plenty of people, food carts and the environment is just amazing. We decided not to continue our scooter ride to the Viking Ship Museum as it was raining which kind of ruined our plans, so we just walked back central had lunch then after the rain stopped somehow decided to head towards Vigeland Park.

To end the day we decided to go to the Vigeland Sculpture Park which is the sculpture installation within Frogland Park, this was amazing and opened my eyes to a new perspective of Oslo. I said at the beginning that the Oslo Opera house was the cover attraction of the city however I believe the cover attraction should be this park. About a 20min ride away from central Oslo, this park which is also known as the Sculpture Park was beautiful in lots of ways. Frogner park has over 200 sculptures made of cast iron, bronze and granite, one of the notable sculpture known around the world is the ‘Angry boy’ which tourist love to take photos holding its shiny left hand. The sculptures were created by Gustav Vigeland between 1924 to 1943, all the sculptures were amazing with information and meaning beyond my knowledge so next time I would love to travel here with a tour guide. I highly recommend this park, one of the highlight of the trip.

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Lastly on my last day we visited the Hollmenkollen Ski Museum which is a bit further to the city centre. You will need to take the metro and a 20 minute walk to reach this attraction but it is worth the travel. The museum is situated below an actual ski jump arena which was a part of the 1952 winter Olympics in Oslo it showcases not only ski jumping but winter sport, polar explorations and the history of skiing. You can also go up the top of the ski jump which offers breath taking panoramic views of Oslo. It is also possible to zipline down from the top which is a brilliant extra bonus for the thrill seekers. Furthermore there are lots of different amusements like simulators in order to enjoy the place. Coming here is well worth the further travel, give this visit around 3-5 hours.

Other points of interest which we missed during this trip that are important should you visit Oslo are The Viking Boat Museum, The national museum where the famous painting ‘Scream’ is situated, Kon Tikki Museum, Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and so much more. The two I regret not visiting are the Viking Boat Museum which is meant to be a must see whilst visiting the city and the National Museum as I didn’t know the world famous painting scream was situated here.

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https://www.khm.uio.no/english/visit-us/viking-ship-museum/

Conclusion

All in all my opinion of Oslo was impressive, a definite eye opener. However the experience is somewhat impacted by how expensive the place really is and I would hate to lie that budgets dont come to mind (for the average visitor) visiting this city. The city is diverse, there are places for art, places for relaxing, areas for nightlife and many different places for adventures. Although there is plenty to see and do for 5 days, I believe a 2-3 day stay is ok as any more would start to hurt any pocket (unless your a millionaire). The highlight for my trip would definitely be Vigeland park which was beyond my expectation, I am a little confused as to why this isn’t Oslo’s main cover to attract tourists. Furthermore the electronic scooters were amazing and these should be introduced in other countries.

Overall Oslo was an enjoyable place that must be experienced by all. Although this is not just a simple getaway and careful planning and saving may be required for this city.

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Langkawi

Type : Island
Best Date :  May-Jul
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Jet Ski, Beach walks, Paragliding, Shopping, attractions
Points of Interest: Pantai Cenang beach, Eagle Square, Sky Bridge, Golf

Brief

Langkawi is a group of islands on the west coast of Malaysia part of the Kedah state. Known as the Jewel of Kedah Langkawi is a popular place for tourism with its dive sites, many water sport activities and attractions within the main island.

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The Place

Langkawi was a place with bountiful attractions to see and a magnitude of activities to do. Langkawi was an itinerary I miss-planned when working on this visit, I only planned a two days stay resulting in not much time to see and do everything possible. Langkawi was an eye opener for me and I enjoyed every minute of it, I only wish I had stayed a little longer to see and do more. That’s a learning curve for me I guess, to never underestimate an area and do more research. However for the things I did do I cannot exaggerate the fun and enjoyment I had.

Firstly in Langkawi you must visit the beaches especially the ones in front of Pantai Tengah and Pantai Cenang. The sand was white and powdery and at times you will see amazing small crabs digging holes (harmless). Furthermore the beach is beautiful and scenic but best of all it was very quiet only seeing a few people from a space in the whole beach (well when I was there). At night although unlit the shores get a little more livelier with some shisha stands opening and a little more families roaming, this is a brilliant place to chill and unwind where some musics are played and fire dancers perform.

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The Pantai Cenang strip is a brighter and noisier place with various malls, market stands and restaurants. In my opinion this area or nearby place is the best place to stay as this is convenient for food, shops and even some attractions, other areas are difficult and may need some sort of transport.

One of my favourite place in Pantai Cenang and Langkawi altogether is the makeshift food truck park (I don’t know its formal name) which only appear in the evenings. Here you can dine on a budget with some of the most delicious food and drinks you can find on the island. There is a variety of different foods from burgers, local BBQ, rice dishes, fruits and many different beverages, anybody will be spoilt for choice. Furthermore these food trucks do have seats and tables usually reserved for customers who buy from their truck. A popular place for all tourists looking for a new experience.

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Pantai Kok probably has many of the most popular attraction in Langkawi. First we start with the best known mountain on the island Mt Mat Cincang which has a lot of attractions around its area. One of which is the Sky Bridge (cover attraction in Langkawi) the longest free span and curved bridge in the world. This is a brilliant place to visit and a sight to see even for me who is not brilliant with heights. To get here you will need to take the Langkawi Cable Car (Sky Cab) which is around a 15 minute ride from the oriental village to the top of Gunung Machinchang where the Sky Bridge is located. However after reaching the peak of the cable cart ride you will still need to get a Sky train or do a nature walk (tickets needed for both) in order to reach the sky bridge, a money rouse if you ask me. The SkyCab was safe and had brilliant views however in my opinion needs updating as it can get very hot inside the cabins as there is no air conditioning only small open windows. There are different types of cabins from standard, glass bottom and a VIP cart (don’t know the difference) however I’m not too sure about the prices. The Oriental Village below the mountains is an attraction in itself. My SkyCab ticket included 2 other attractions the 3D Museum which I thoroughly enjoyed and the Sky Rex a virtual reality simulation worthy to spare 5minutes for. There are also other attractions within this area but I deemed these would be for children and didn’t have the time. You can easily spend a whole day around this area alone (I spent half a day) as there is just so much to do, something for everyone.

Other attractions around Pantai Kok but missed due to time were the Telaga Harbour Park, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls (seen from the Sky Cab), Bird Paradise, Crocodile Farm and many more. Not too happy about missing some of these.

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We also did one of the main activities to do in Langkawi the Jet Ski tour which we did with Wave Quest Watersport which was the company in front of our hotel. Its important to know there were plenty of different operators so I will just describe my experience with this company and I cannot guess the experience on other jet Ski tours. The tour we did was the Island tour which was a 6 hour tour visiting 8 different islands. The jet skis with this company were the one of the best quality I have ever used in a tour and I have been to quiet a few. The vehicles had two storages, one larger one in front of the jet skis for bags and the other in front of the driver for smaller items such as water bottles and smaller gadgets, no other jet ski I have used before had any storages. The tour also provided each individual with a waterproof bag to put all belongings in, a very well organised jet ski tour company from the start.

Firstly we stopped on our first island Beras Basah  island one of the two islands we got off to roam. This island was basic for me, nothing made me amazed the only plus were the population of monkeys. After about a 40 minute stopover we then went right back to the seas for hours of jet skiing we passed various of Langkawi’s magnificent island formations including Tuba , Lima, Singa, Jong Island passing some smooth and some aggressive but fun waves. Then for lunch and a longer stopover than the first we got off at the Pregnant Maiden Island. Here we got to swim in the fresh water lake which was fun and serene, a much more interesting island than the first stopover.  Although a lunch stopover there were not too much to eat in this island there were only a burger and a rice stand. After about a 1hr stopover we then head for the jet skis again and to visit some of the other islands including an echoing island. Finally ending this amazing tour we went to the Eagle point at Singa Besar Island where we fed eagle, this was an incredible sight to see and a worthy ending to a fantastic Jet ski tour. All in all this to me was the highlight of Langkawi a nice way to see many off Langkawi’s islands.

The next day, we visited Kuah Langkawi’s largest town. This is the place where most ferries enter and depart, it is not the place to look for beaches as in other locations around the island. I can only describe this place as more of a boat port area with a few malls built to appease tourists. We headed straight to Eagle Square and one of the main spot here is the Datarang Lang a 12 metre tall statue which overlooks the scenic harbour. A nice monument to see but would advise to visit in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t too strong. Apart from that there is nothing really to see here just a few nice views and a traditional market.

Other places to visit in Langkawi that we didn’t have the time to visit are Galeria Perdana Museum, Under water world, Durian Pernagin Waterfall, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls and a whole lot more. Sadly with only 2 nights in Langkawi we only visited a few places.

Conclusion

Langkawi is beautiful, I didn’t expect too much before I got there but after just one night fell in love with the calm laidback conservative culture, an island that didn’t bow down to the western way of life by filling it with bars and clubs like other island destinations in Asia.  Places for alcohol was a little bit difficult but you’ve got to appreciate their culture. Nonetheless Langkawi was a magnificent place with plenty points of interests and loads of activities to enjoy. The island was much more special as it had both natural attractions along with man made ones. The Sky Bridge is a must visit albeit expensive and the Jet Ski tour is something everyone that is able should do. I think maybe 3 or 4 days is required to fulfil a trip to Langkawi.

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Back to “A small circuit around south east Asia”

 

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Reference:

http://www.panoramalangkawi.com/skybridge/

A Small Circuit Around South East Asia

My first trip of 2019 and its a pretty big one. I visited 4 places of different characteristics. Kuala Lumpur which is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, Siem Reap a majestic Cambodian Province, Langkawi a large adventurous island and Finally Koh Lipe a calm relaxing Thai island.

All were great and had its own approach

First Stop Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The First stop and my base city for this trip. For the first part in Kuala Lumpur I stayed in popular KL hostel Backhome. An eye opener with lots of different things to see and do.

Second Stop Siem Reap (Cambodia)

One of the main reasons to venture in this part of the world was to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have to admit the fact that Angkor Wat is consistently top 3 must visit places in various websites, made visiting this city a must.

Then Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Venture to one of Malaysia’s popular island. Travelled by plane instead of boat due to work perks. Quieter than the usual islands I visit like Boracay, Crete, Cebu and others but Langkawi didn’t fail to impress.

Fourth Stop in Koh Lipe (Thailand)

A short venture to another small nearby island. Koh Lipe happens to be crossing the boarder to Thailand. An interesting experience with a beach immigration system.

Finale, Back to Kuala Lumpur

A rest back in Kuala Lumpur, this time a more chilled and comfortable accommodation, ready to fly back to London.

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Next Trip: A visit to Finland and Estonia

5 months since going to Japan my last holiday and now its time for another trip. As its December I have decided to book myself a winter (Christmas Market) trip. Ive been to many places well known for its Christmas Markets such as Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt, Edinburgh but now its time to go to the place where its known to be the Christmas city of the world, Helsinki.

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I don’t have firm plans yet but will go to Lapland and Tallinn Estonia as short excursions.  It will be my first trip north to a Scandinavian nation and will have around 7-10 days to do as much and go to as many places as possible.

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I don’t know too much about Finland or Estonia and I don’t know what to expect once in Lapland, I don’t know how food and transport will be or the character of their people.

Any suggestion on what I should go and see, and where I can excurse once in Lapland. Anything I should look out for? Please do let me know

 

Photos

https://pixabay.com/en/helsinki-cathedral-lux-helsinki-1142357/
https://pixabay.com/en/tallinn-estonia-old-town-2112816/

Next Trip: Japan, the new and the old

My last overseas trip to South American  was somewhat of an eye opener. The terrain, nature, culture and infrastructure of both Peru and Brazil was amazing with so much learnt. After Peru and Brazil I travelled across the United Kingdom to Cardiff, Wales’s capital city. Cardiff had similarities to London (my home) but is developing with huge investments, hopping to be a striving tourist destination, especially for shopping. However now its time to go far again and I’m using my yearly trip to the Philippines (which is my second home) commencing this May 18th to venture to new places and excurse to a nearby Asian country. Whilst in the Philippines I’ll be staying in my home city of Quezon City but I plan to roam and visit places I have never been yet, however till now i don’t have a clue where yet.

One thing is for sure and that’s a confirmed trip around Japan. Knowing me I like to roam as many cities in a limited amount of time, just like in Peru and Brazil with a duration of 10 days and my ‘South France and Spain trip’ which took me only 5 days.

The Journey

The cities I will visit in Japan are Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto which should show me many of the old and new aspects of the country.

I will enter Japan through Tokyo  but will transit (flight) straight to Osaka where I will stay one night. This should give me enough time to visit places such as the ‘Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium’, Osaka Castle and other attractions in the city. I will then take either train or bus from Osaka to Kyoto where I will stay for 2 nights, giving me 3 days to roam. Kyoto which was once the capital city of Japan is famous for numerous Buddhist temples, imperial palaces and much more. I intend to visit many of its attractions and dine in their many traditional restaurants. After Kyoto I will head back to Osaka and fly straight to the capital Tokyo where I will spend a further night. I believe Tokyo will be the bustling modern city of Japan, one of the worlds most advanced in technology. Furthermore as an extra bonus I may see some of the sites for the Olympics due to commence in 2020.

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I expect Japan to be very technologically advanced but very intact with their history and ancient culture. Furthermore I’m guessing Kyoto to be very strong in traditional culture and religion, whilst Tokyo and Osaka being a modern metropolis with the most modern infrastructure. Finally I think Japan will be fast paced and one of the most expensive ive travelled.

 

 

Vienna (Austria)

Type : City Break
Best Date : April-May, September- October, December
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Sightseeing, Christmas Markets
Points of Interest: Schonbrunn Palace, Prater, St Stephens Cathedral, Hofburg, Belvedere, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Rathaus ect

Brief

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Vienna is Austria’s capital and largest city with a population of about 1.8 million. Vienna is a widely German speaking city and is known for its rich imperial buildings, the orchestra and Viennese events. Most notable names that graced this city is Beethoven, Mozart and Franz Schubert.

The Place

So why did I choose to go Vienna?

Yearly I have made it a tradition to go to a country which is known for their Christmas Markets. In the year 2016 after previously going to the Berlin Christmas Markets, I planned to go somewhere other than Germany, It was a choice of either Brussels, Vienna, Prague or Budapest. I somehow resulted in choosing Vienna from many research and many colleagues having only good opinions towards it. My own personal opinion have also been positive.

Firstly I’d like to state that all Christmas markets are placed upon many of Vienna’s attractions (points of interests) such as Schonbrunn Palace, Maria-Theresien Platz, Belvedere Palace and the city hall at Rathuasplatz, so visiting a Christmas market would mean also visiting a Viennese attraction. The Christmas markets in Vienna usually starts on the second week of November till around Christmas eve or boxing day, some also open till the new year.

Belvedere Palace is a world heritage site now used as an art gallery. Its gardens and stables are a sight to see with its main appeal being the pond at the front of the palace. It is free to enter the gardens and exterior of the palace, however a fee is required to visit inside.

Large public square Maria-Theresien Platz is another attraction to visit. Central to many of Vienna’s museums such as the ‘Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien’ or their ‘natural history museum’. Theatres and parks are also very present in this area of the city.

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One of the most important building in the country is ‘Schonbrunn Palace’ a hunting lodge gifted to Emperor Joseph I from his father Emperor Leopold I. Through the years the building has grown and improved, with many different notable residents. With over 1441 rooms in this baroque palace (a former imperial residence) and a spectacular garden with exceptional scenery this is one of the top places to visit in Vienna.

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Spittelberg Quarter is a good place to visit for fine foods and its Christmas market.

Rathuasplatz which in my opinion the largest and main Christmas market in Vienna. Situated right in front of the beautiful lit up City Hall. The Christmas market usually opens early November and right through till early January. It has plenty of different stalls, from glassware, leathered goods, wooden products and many more. There is also many food stalls and an iconic ice ring (open till early March) centring the market.

Prater is a theme park in the heart of Vienna, it is a place for families and younger tourists. The theme park is one of the oldest in the world, and consist of cafes restaurants, bowling alley, cinemas and other attractions like Madame Tussauds . It is free entrance and you only pay for the rides you wish to ride, the main attraction is the Wiener Riesenrad (Viennese Giant Wheel) built in 1897.

 

Overall Vienna was a pleasure to visit, every area had an delightful festive atmosphere. Although when I visited (late November) it was a bit warmer than I thought or would have liked it to be, the city still sets the desirable winter trip. I do advise that if you are visiting Vienna, you visit on a weekday rather than a weekend, as the city seems to be close all day on weekdays (no shops and restaurants) so this will not be desirable for visitors.

Transport.

Getting There

(As of 2018)

Depending on your point origin, there are various ways to get to Vienna. From London Heathrow there are 3 carriers which offer direct flights, a trip from LHR to Vienna is around 2hours and a half flight time. Austrian A which is on average the cheaper out of the three carriers from Heathrow. British airways which is more frequent to travel to Vienna, meaning more choices of travel times and lastly Air Berlin which somehow has a single journey daily from Heathrow to Vienna however proving to cost more than the other carriers.

Easy Jet are the only carrier from Gatwick, and they do 2 journeys a day.

Lastly Eurowings journeys from Stanstead once a day and could be the cheapest carrier flying from London.

In Vienna

Please go to page ‘Travelling in Vienna’