Wandsworth (London)

Type : City Break
Best Date : Year Round
Expense : Expensive
Things to do : Relax, Sightseeing
Points of Interest: Battersea Park, Albert Bridge, Battersea Power Station

Brief

Wandsworth is a London borough located south west of the city. It is not well known to tourists nor would the average Londoner visit the borough for amusement or leisure (unless off course they reside there).

However this area of London has points of interests which some deep explorers would find interesting. 

The Place

As stated in the brief there is not too much to see in Wandsworth in a touristic view but in my opinion there are four locations which is worth seeing, one of which is a huge investment for the future, an attraction I can see being one of London’s latest places for tourist to flock. 

Lets start of with what I believe is at this moment the central point for anything touristic in Wandsworth. Battersea Park, is a lesser known park in London but has the attractiveness to be so much more to both locals and tourists. The park consists of attractions like a small zoo, Go Ape (an adventure climbing activity) and so much more. More importantly the iconic peace pagoda is situated in this park.

Wandsworth

The Albert Bridge located beside Battersea park is again one of London’s lesser known and underrated bridges. I think this is the result of its location down the river where not so many tourists flock. This bridge is especially a spectacle at night. 

Wandsworth

In my opinion the landmark in Wandsworth which has the potential to be one of London’s newest iconic place to visit for both locals and tourists is the Battersea Power Station. The historic building which used to power London is currently being renovated to be one of the city’s bustling multiplex’s having bars, restaurants and many entertainment facilities. Moreover there will be ease of transport for tourists as the port will be used for river travels. The power station is currently open but is expected to fully complete by autumn 2021.

Architecture, Building, Sky, City, Water, Power

Conclusion

In conclusion the Wandsworth is a lesser known place for tourist but has the potential to be huge in the future. Its park and bridges are some of the most beautiful but the complexity to travel to this area makes it difficult for tourists. I put this borough as one to watch out for in the future.

 

 

 

 

Explore London

Introduction

So as you may know because of this ongoing pandemic, travelling international has been impossible or difficult to say the least. However as the world starts to open up I have planned to start travelling in slow stages, taking the opportunity to explore local and travel domestically.  My plans are:

Explore Local

Explore London

Explore England

Explore United Kingdom

Travel Abroad

I have already completed my first segment “Exploring Local” going around my borough Greenwich, luckily it is a place full of points of interests. I have just completed roaming London and I will write all about my experience in depth in several posts.

Exploring London

Roaming around my own city like a tourist was interesting, as it was just after lockdown there were no other tourists around making the usual photography opportunities much better as there were no crowds. However although the joys of no crowds there were the negatives of shops and restaurants still being shut which obviously acting as a tourist, had an impact on the day out. Furthermore because of the easing of lockdown there were still things that were not usual on a normal day such as face masks which are mandatory on transport and long lines on every shops. The huge positive for me is that the daily cost of roaming London was very cheap because I had very little to spend. There were no restaurants open nor entrance tickets (as entrance to attractions were closed) and there were no souvenir shops open, which I wouldn’t buy them for the city I live in anyway but you know what I’m trying to get at.

In terms of the attractions in London, it was much better seeing them without the crowds, it was so much more peaceful and as stated earlier photo or video opportunities are much better. However I wasn’t able to go inside any of the attractions as everything was closed, but sometimes (in London) the points of interest are best observed from the outside.

My plan was to visit some of London’s hidden beauties which aren’t advertised as a popular tourist destination. During my exploration I have found places I believe tourists are probably aren’t aware of such as Battersea Park, 02 Arena, Olympic Park, Hamstead Heath and much more (post coming soon).

Overall it has been an eye opening experience for me and something that made me think that if I visit other countries or cities soon after the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t see the full extent of what they have to offer, with attractions, museums, restaurant, shops and restaurants possibly still closed. In your own city this would be ok but to spend for flights and hotels only getting half of the experience may defeat the purpose and reason for travelling in the first place. 

Here is a 30 second video of my experience and some of the site I got to see.

Thanks for reading

 

Bangkok

“The happiest capital in the world”

Type : City Break
Best Date : Nov- Feb
Expense :  Fair
Things to do : Visit Temples, Visit Markets, Dine, Nightlife, Shopping
Points of Interest: The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Siam Paragon, Khao san Rd, Emerald Buddhas, Wat Arun, ect
The Good: A lot to see and do, cheap, full of culture
The Bad: lots of scammers,

Brief

Bangkok or Krungthep (as known to locals) is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It holds around 8 million inhabitants which is about 10% of the country’s total population. Although it is the government, financial and investment centre of the country  there are calls to move its title as the capital elsewhere due to various problems such as its congestion and floods.

The capital is one of the most famed in South East Asia, a hotspot for tourists which featured in movies such as The Beach, Hangover Part 2, Street Fighter and many more. According to MasterCard the city ranked top destination by foreign visitors in its global destination cities index in 2018.

Grand Palace, Bangkok, Temple, Night, Wat Phra Kaew

The Place

I visited Bangkok on a short 3 day period heading home from Myanmar back to London. Due to my short stay, I didn’t get to visit everything the city had to offer, however the places I did see were remarkable.

Firstly I stayed in a place called Ratchaprarop Rd which is unofficially known as the little India of the city. This area had various different night markets and small malls. It was a little noisy at night and there were a lot of people, however I didn’t experience a great deal of discomfort from my hotel room at Indra Regent Hotel.

Khao San road is one of the most popular place to go and stay for travellers and backpackers in Asia. A haven for hostels, bars and night markets, this road is central for affordable leisure and entertainment.

Tuktuk, Thailand, Motorcycle, Taxi, Go, Tourist

The Grand Palace is the official residence of the Kings. Tourists are allowed to visit the complex with a ticket which is bought online and collected 24 hours before the visit.  The complex is one of the main places to visit as a lot of the significant things to see such as the Emerald Buddhas, The Demon Guardians, The Statue of Cheewok Khomaraphat, Phra Mondop and many more are situated here.

Palace, Bangkok, Thailand, Asia, Architecture, Temple

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew (in thai) is in another complex right beside the Grand Palace and depending on what ticket you purchase, you may only need one to enter both. As the name states the temple is where the Emerald Buddha Statues are situated and these are one of the main attraction to see in Bangkok. Along with the Grand Palace this complex will be a very enjoyable for a full day visit. There is just plenty to see and all the details of artwork and architecture are fascinating.

Another complex to visit is the Wat Pho or Wat Po which is situated south of the Grand Palace. This complex is most notable for the Giant Reclining Buddha however like the Grand Palace there are loads of other attractions to see within its vicinity. I bought my ticket on the day of entry so I do not believe entry is as strict as that of the Grand Palace.

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Malls are very popular in Bangkok and the city is full of them. These places are popular for tourists who want to relax, shop, dine and getaway from the heat of the outdoors. Just some of the malls are Terminal 21 which has an airport interior feel, centralworld probably the most popular for all, the luxury Siam Paragon which has one of the largest aquariums in South East Asia and so much more.

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I also visited the arts and culture centre which is a free gallery showcasing Thailand’s modern arts. The exhibits change frequently and is popular for the more artistic personalities.

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I went to the Damnoen Samnuak Floating Market and the Maeklong Rail Market which are very popular day excursions. I enjoyed and fully recommend the Maeklong Rail Market an active market on top of train tracks which is especially exciting when a train actually passes (I believe only twice a day). The market sells actual food products which cater to locals and not just tourists so you can feel the culture and normality of life. However I was disappointed with the Damnoen Samnuak Floating Market as this was made especially for tourism, everything sold were souvenirs and not actual products catering to locals, furthermore I may be wrong but I believe 100% of people there were tourists. So I did not feel true culture there. But nonetheless altogether it was a good day out especially the active rail market.

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Conclusion

In conclusion Bangkok is a tourist haven, from its markets to its temples, its malls, nightlife, shrines and many other places in the capital.  Although the city alone has plenty to offer, there are  many very popular day excursions just outside its perimiter. I didn’t get to see all the city has to offer due to my short stay but even though, I have to say my visit was successful and enjoyable.

I believe 5 days to a week is a good duration to stay in the city, there is plenty to see and do. It is cheap so an even longer stay wouldn’t hurt your budget. The only negative aspect of the city I experience were locals trying to trick tourists into extorting more money, expensive tuk-tuk rides are a thing to lookout for, I advise to use the Grab taxi a set price booked with your phone. Nonetheless altogether Bangkok is a beautiful place with some of the most friendliest people in the world.

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Reference:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangkok#Calls_to_move_the_capital

Photo:

3 photos have been taken from Pixabay

 

Reykjavik

“Simple and small but full of character”

Type : City,
Best Date : July-August (Hiking), Dec-March (Winter/Northern Lights)
Expense Very Expensive
Things to do : Dine, Visit Points of Interests
Points of Interest: Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager, National Museum of Iceland, Höfði, ect
The Good: Unique, character, friendly locals, no transport required to roam
The Bad: Expensive, small can be explored within the day

Brief

The small city of Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the northernmost capital of the world.  Its name means ‘Smokey Bay’ and around 70% of the country’s inhabitants live in the city.

Due to its close proximity to the north pole and the city’s high latitude, Reykjavik can have up to 4 hours of daylight in the winter but around 21 hours of daylight in the summer one of a few cities where you can see the famous midnight sun.

The Place

Visiting or passing through Reykjavik is inevitable when visiting Iceland. It will probably be the centre or starting point of any journey around the country. However although the main attractions in the country are in other regions, exploring the city in my opinion is worth while.

First place to visit and probably the main attraction in the city is the Hallgrimskirkja which is a Lutherian church (Church of Iceland). The 74.5 metre high building is only second highest in the country beaten by an office tower situated in Kópavogur, south of Reykjavík. Its architecture which is meant to echo the shape of cooling lava was voted both the most beautiful and ugliest house of worship in the world. It is free to enter but a fee is required to take the lift to the top.

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Harpa Concert Hall is another attraction that is worth visiting. Also the city’s main conference centre Harpa which opened in 2011 hosts most of the major events which take place in the country. The main features of this building is the coloured glass façade which is inspired by Iceland’s basalt landscape. 

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The next place of interest is the Sun Voyager sculpture, which is situated along the city’s main bay area next to Sæbraut road. The stainless steel sculpture designed by artist Jón Gunnar Árnason is meant to portray a dreamboat which is described as an ode to the sun.

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The Hofdi house is a point of interest with historic significance. Known as the place where summit meeting of presidents Ronald Reagan of the United States and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union took place in for the 1986. It is said that this was a step to the end of the Cold War. To date the flags of the United States and the Soviet Union are cross-hung to commemorate the meeting. Initially built for the French consul in 1909 this building had various famous resident such as poet Einar Benediktsson and painter Louisa Matthíasdóttir.

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There are also many different museums found in the city the Whale Museum, Culture House Museum, Art Museum, Photography Museum and the Saga Museum are just some of them found within the city. The different museums vary in entrance fees, some free.

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Other than the above you will find plenty of things to see  within the city including street full of bars, some incredible restaurants and plenty of street arts scattered across the city. The bay area is also a nice scenic place to wander.

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Conclusion

Altogether, if you are going to Iceland the capital is a place you would probably end up going and it is a worthwhile place to do so. In my opinion the city is very small for a capital and for a city to say the least and you can explore the whole place in about half a day depending on your pace. However although small it is just full of Nordic culture and character. Its different building designs and its increasing attitude towards street art is admirable to a young traveller like me.

Only negative for me which goes with the whole country is its cost of living. It is one of the most expensive places ive been and speaking to fellow travellers the reason why a long period stay is tough to do. Nonetheless I think Reykjavik and even the whole country itself is a very important place to visit in the world. Maybe a 2-3 night stay is sufficient, and staying else where in the country is a good idea.

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References:

10 Facts You Should Know About Reykjavik!
Photo Sun voyaer - https://www.flickr.com/photos/opalsson/35521880821 Hofdi House - https://www.flickr.com/photos/plastictubing/32919307435

 

Yangon

“A bustling city with the infrastructure ready to welcome the world”

Type : City Break
Best Date : Nov – Jan
Expense :  cheap
Things to do : Roam, Shopping,
Points of Interest: Scwedagon Pagoda, Sule Pagoda, National Museum of Myanmar, Abandoned Amusement Park, Kandawgyi lake and many more
The Good: 
Cheap, much more modern than first percieved
The Bad: Very Traffic walking sometimes easier than traffic, Pavements are not made up,

Brief

Yangon is the largest and most populated city of Myanmar. The city is no longer the capital as it has been recently replaced to Naypyidaw (on 2006) which was purposely built to uphold the administrative functions of the country.

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The Place

I stayed in Yangon for around four days in total which I think is enough for the former capital city of Myanmar. I was staying near China town in a hostel and nearly everything was a walkaway from the location. There was plenty to see in the city and below are descriptions and my experiences towards these points of interests.

Firstly, the main place to visit in Yangon is the Schwedagon Pagoda also dubbed the Golden Pagoda which is like its unofficial name gold plated and diamond studded. This Pagoda which is 99 meters tall can arguably be seen from most places in Yangon. It is the country’s main and most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. Although closed at night, the best time to see this is when dark as various spotlights illuminate the pagoda in stunning picturesque ways.

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Half the size of Schwedagon the Sule Pagoda is also a place to go. It is situated in a very busy manic part of Yangon’s centre near markets and colonial buildings. This pagoda is ancient and built around 2,500 years ago. It has always been octagonal, but it has constantly been repaired and renovated. For me this place didn’t really seem to cater for tourism and was strictly for worship (felt like it anyway), for this reason I did not enter the Pagoda.

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In the middle of a busy district is the Myanmar National Museum which showcases Burmese art, history and culture. A beautiful place for visitors who want to learn more about the nation in a single building.

Sculpture outside National Museum - Yangon - Myanmar (Burma)

Kandawgyi lake which is also known as the Royal lake is also a nice place to visit. Situated near Yangon Zoo it is said to have marvellous views especially upon the sunset. The main attraction for this lake is the Karaweik Hall which looks like a huge barge floating on the lake, a spectacle to see. The hall hosts entertainment with reception halls, theatres, restaurants and conference halls.

Kandawgyi Lake

One of the best hidden secrets of Yangon is the abandoned amusement park, which I don’t think is an official tourist attraction but very popular for adventurous young travellers. The amusement park still has all the rustic rides brilliant for photos, beware though as this park is not maintained so plants have grown and there are plenty of mosquitos.

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For nightlife China town is a nice place to go, there is several outside bars and pubs. The street is also good when looking for food at night there are so many different restaurants to choose from. Two high end bars I went to were Eclipse and Port Autonomy. Port Autonomy is situated near Yangon river just next to 42nd street. This bar is classy compared to the other bars across Yangon, great place for cocktails in a chilled atmosphere. Eclipse in the other hand which is situated above Melia Mall is a nighlife multiplex with sport bars, clubs or a full throttle rave. Eclipse is a higher end complex so dressing a little nice would be recommendable.

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Conclusion

Yangon was what I expected it to be but with little surprises. Before seeing Yangon for myself I envisaged it to be like that of Vietnam’s Hanoi. However, the city was much more updated and advanced than I first thought it’d be. The city had more upper-class malls and shops than I thought they’d have. Furthermore, the parks and Pagoda’s were clean updated and well organised. However, the downside was that the road traffic was very bad and that at times walking was a better option. Even when walking the pavements would not exist and you would find yourself walking side by side with vehicles, however this was safe and I never found myself in danger at any time.

All in all Yangon is a city which although chaotic at times (roads/ streets), there is beauty there if you choose to see it. Its people are some of the friendliest on par with all the ASEAN nations I have been to. It is evident that Yangon is constantly improving and that its government is fully behind it. I fully recommend a visit to this city apart from its beautiful golden structures it is cheap, friendly and safe, a big thumbs up.

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Bagan Temples and Pagodas

Exploring the temples of Bagan’s archaeology zone was a joy to experience. I personally didn’t plan nor did I know the temples which I would end up visiting. I came to Bagan with an open mind and with a go as it goes attitude. Instead of availing tours and tuk-tuks I rented an Ebikes to roam freely around only stopping when I see a temple or pagoda of any kind. So in no particular order these are the temples I saw, which I believe are worth going to and a little bit I learnt about them.

Schwezigon Pagoda

Firstly and probably the main place to visit in Bagan is the Schwezigon Pagoda which is the centre of pilgrimage in the province. It is one of the oldest and most significant monument in Bagan. The Pagoda is said to be the architectural influence of thousands of following Stupas around the region and it is said that because of the Schwezigon the campaign of mass temple building began in Bagan. Its special beauty comes from the gold plated central pagoda and the Makaras (Hindu sea creatures) guarding the all four stairways.

I believe this pagoda is definitely one to visit. Although one of the oldest the impression I got was this was one of the newest and most modern, maybe this was due to the constant update and restoration.

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Ananda Temple

The Ananda temple is said to be Bagan’s holiest temple. legend has it the King Kyanzittha built the temple with the image of a legendary Himalayan cave temple which eight monks from north India told him about. He wanted to bring this image to Bagan and after building this temple he had its architectures executed so the design would never be copied again. Centring this temple are four 10 metre high standing buddhas, all with their own identity and expressions. Like nearly all the temples in the region Ananda was also damaged by earthquakes and has been extensively restored.

This temple was great to visit, it is very active and in my opinion the busiest out of the lot.

Ananda Temple by DIMMIS

Dhammayangyi Temple

Dhammayangyi temple is Bagan’s largest temple and is visible in nearly every angle of the region. The temple was carefully but cruelly built by King Narathu as rumours state that builders got amputated if the construction wasn’t up to his requests. This temple is the most mysterious with bricked passageways. This temple is the best preserved out of all temples in the Bagan’s archaeological zone.

This temple reminded me of Siem Reap’s temple designs, albeit very well built.

Dhammayangyi Temple by Justin Vidamo

Gawdawpalin temple

Another significant temple to visit is the Gawdawpalin temple which is the second tallest in the archaeological zone. Construction started in one of Bagan’s more prosperous time during the reign of King Narapatisithu however it was not finished until his successors reign in the 13th century. Like many of the surrounding temples Gawdawpalin has also been extensively restored.

At the time I visited this temple which was later in the day, I was more or less getting templed out (getting bored) as I visited so many in the day. However this temple andits structure was a sight to see.

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Thatbyinnyu Pagoda

Another of Bagan’s tallest structure the Thatbyinnyu can be seen from most places of Bagan’s archaeological zone. One interesting aspect of this temples build was that for every 10,000 bricks used one brick was set aside to keep count of the total used. After its completion the tally pagoda which sits besides Thatbyinnyu  was built.

I saw this temple from a distance as it was my first view of Bagan’s sunrise. It looked very similar to Gawdawpalin.

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Others

Other than those above, there are plenty other smaller temples and pagodas to see and there are just so many to mention. Although much smaller and some damaged and left to rubbles these still function as a serious religious venues and rules like taking off shoes and wearing longer trousers are required. I saw many smaller temples just riding around on my Ebike scooter, there may be way too many to visit all.

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Overall Conclusion

In my opinion the temples and pagodas in Bagan are beautiful individually but it did not give me the same chills as Siem Reap’s temples did. Saying that Bagan’s temples made an outstanding picturesque, panoramic landscape as a whole collection perfect for the world famous sunrises and sunsets. Its temples are not yet as congested as other religious attractions such as the Vatican, Siem Reap and others alike, but I do feel it will soon get the crowds that Myanmar ought to have. Although the structures are very old, they are all very well built keeping in mind many were repaired and refurbished after various earthquakes.

Overall in my opinion Bagan was a brilliant place to visit, but I did get bored very quickly going through temples to temple. Maybe it was due to the sheer amount in the archaeological zone or that many temples had similar appearance. However it is somewhere that should be visited as there is a little more to the province than just its temples.

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Reference:

http://www.royalcitytravel.com/post/view/10-interesting-facts-about-bagan
Shwezigon Pagoda – The Most Sacred Pagoda in Bagan
https://www.renown-travel.com/burma/bagan/ananda-pagoda.html https://www.lonelyplanet.com/myanmar-burma/attractions/dhammayangyi-pahto/a/poi-sig/1368653/357082 Photo: Justin Vidamo (https://www.flickr.com/people/21160499@N04) DIMMIS

 

Bagan

“One of the best Sunrises and Sunsets the world has to offer”

Type : Rural, Provincial, Religious
Best Date : Dec – Jan
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Sunrise/ Sunset, Ebikes, visit temples/pagodas
Points of Interest: Anada Temple, Schwezigon Pagoda, Scwesandaw Pagoda, Mt Popa, Mani Sithu Market, Old Bagan and many more
The Good: Utmost freedom not much tickets/ security,
The Bad: Not much nightlife, little grocery shops, little in transport modes

Brief

Bagan is a province neighbouring Mandalay situated in the centre of Myanmar. Formerly known as Pagan, it is a popular destination due to the remaining (approx.) 2,000 ancient Buddhist pagodas, temples and monasteries said to 10,000 in the past. All temples have been damaged due to earthquakes however many more significant ones have been restored and improved. Nonetheless all standing temples and Pagodas as a collection make the beautiful landscape that is getting ever popular with tourism.

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The Place

I stayed in Bagan for a total of three days which like Siem Reap was advised as enough when visiting the region. There wasnt plenty to do in Bagan apart from visiting the temples, so choosing your hotel with a swimming pool or other activities is highly advised.

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There are so many points of interest to visit and although there are not too many modes of transport there are various ways in which you can explore . There are tuk-tuk taxis but I didn’t see many, horse carriages are also available but I personally didn’t come across on how to avail these. Hotels usually offer free bike rentals where a deposit is required and the usual tours on buses or private cars are widely available. However the main mode of transport and one which I honestly thought was brilliant and made my holiday were the E-bikes. Renting these were very cheap on a daily rate and were incredible in roaming every single corner of the province, not to mention it was fun and the freedom was great.

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Firstly as a tourist the main thing to do in Bagan is to see the Sunrise and Sunsets which boasts to be one of the best in the world. There is not any one particular place to see/ watch these so you may want to do some research to find out the best spot, however the best spots can be very busy. Alternatively you can find a local who is willing to show you secret and beautiful locations which are less crowded, they don’t ask for money but you may need to buy a painting which isn’t too much, plus you will have a souvenir to bring home anyway.

The sunrises are popular for the panoramic scenery with a bonus of hot air balloons flying mid point of the sun’s rise. You may have to get up at 4am to find your spot and it may take up to 2 hours to see the full rise. The hot air balloon experience usually occurs during sunrise is around $300.

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The Sunsets are similar and popular for its picturesque panoramic views. It happens around 5pm and takes a duration of 2 hours to see the whole set. After the sun is fully down some Pagodas light up giving bonus beauty to the dark landscape which may not be justified in photos.

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Another thing to do in Bagan is to visit the temples but I will write a full in-depth blog about the temples and pagodas separately (link here coming soon).

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Keeping temples and Pagodas aside, old Bagan is particularly rich in other beautiful structures and architecture from its colonial era. I’m not 100% sure what these building were, but it is easy to distinguish the difference to the normal old Burmese buildings.

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There are markets such as the Mani Sithu Market which you can visit, but although tourist do flock to see these, they are the local wet markets for local shoppers unlike the markets in Thailand, Hong Kong and others which are made for tourist appeal.

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Other than these, all there is to do in Bagan is eat, relax and potentially meet people which is easy in Bagan. Swim if you have a pool in your hotel, hence strong advice to avail with a pool.

Image result for baobabed bagan

However a popular thing to do in Bagan is to take an excursion and one that I did do is to Mt Popa which is popular for its temple which is built on top of an extinct volcano. Before you arrive at the mountain attraction itself your driver would usually take you to a alcohol and sweet making place, aswell as a fruit market which is very interesting. They don’t force you into buying any products although they aren’t too expensive either way.

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Mt Popa was beautiful, picturesque and panoramic especially from a distance. However be very careful of the monkeys as I was a victim of a monkey grabbing and stealing my glasses which I thought stories were exaggerated and it would never happen to me. However it does happen as it happened to me, although I did get my glasses back as locals do feed the monkey to try and lure the monkey back, after getting it they do ask for money but to my surprise was a very low amount. Climbing Mt Popa is easy you have to do this bare footed with the obstacles of very aggressive monkeys. At the top are beautiful views but in my opinion the temples themselves are less impressive compared to others around the region.

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Conclusion

Overall Bagan was  magnificent, I was right in my prediction that the province would rival Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat. It is a place which has surpassed my expectations and has challenged my personal list of best places visited. I love the region so much due to its beautiful landscape, friendly people, majestic temples and pagodas, strong culture but most importantly the freedom to roam. The fact you can grab an Ebike and ride around and stop at your leisure then walk around the temples with no queues, tickets or heavy security and restrictions are something of a dream. This is one point Bagan can boast that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

I believe Bagan is an up and coming powerhouse for mass tourism and I’m glad I have come at a time when it has not yet peaked. In my opinion Bagan and Myanmar overall deserves the attention of mass tourism, but I believe with the influx of crowds comes the deterioration of the experience I enjoyed. With heavier crowds the need for larger infrastructure and aspects like heavier ticketing posts, security, restrictions and others alike would takeaway the freedom to roam which was the defining factor for me which made it one of the best places I have ever visited.

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Please read more in-depth blogs on temples and pagodas in Bagan (please click to read):

Coming soon

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Dala Township

“Up close with the locals”

Type : Rural, Provincial
Best Date : Nov – Jan
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Roam
Points of Interest: Snake temple, fishing village,
The Good: Beautiful uninfluenced way of life
The Bad: Huge for scamming gangs, no police to help, little transport mediums, little hotels and lodges, small in tourism infrastructure

Brief

The Dala Township is an area just across the river on the Southbank of Yangon in Myanmar. Its only route is by ferry although a bridge is currently being built. The area is still largely undeveloped and it is still a rural provincial setting.  Tourist sometimes go here to witness the simple basic undeveloped lifestyle.

The Place

There are only a few places in which attract tourists here in Dala Township.

One of the attraction in Dala is the fishing village. It is a place where you would observe the lifestyle and living of the fisherman and their families. There is not much to see but their houses which is built riverside. If your not on a tour all you could do is just roam the village and take pictures there is no restaurants or shops.

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Another place to visit is the Shwe Sayan Pagoda which houses a gold covered mummified monk which miraculously opened his eyes 15 days after the full moon of Tawthalin 13/10/2004 at around 1500. Today the body is encased in a glass box and is visited by pilgrims and tourists alike.

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Other than that Dala Township has only its terrain, community and lifestyle to show off to tourists.

Dalla Township (14)

However One of the main purpose of a visit (or pass-by) to Dala is the “Hmwe Paya” Snake Temple which is actually in Dala’s neighbouring town Twante. The temple is situated in the middle of a lake which you are able to buy fish or bread to feed the larger fishes. Upon entering the temple you will see pythons of all sizes in every corner and many in the middle where a tree and buddha display is.

Dalla Township (16)

Near the snake temple is also an area where you can see 1000 Buddha statues. This place was pretty cool and a great photo opportunity.

Dalla Township (19)

Conclusion

Dala Township is a nice place to visit if you are the type of traveller who loves to observe rural and a provincial way of living.  The beauty of this area is seen through its atmosphere, characteristics and people as there is no heavy infrastructure, little in points of interests and is not much to lure the usual tourists.

Dala for me was clouded by scammers which made my experience a little negative (you can read more about the scam here). However I will not deter any traveller from visiting this place.

Overall the Dala Township was a mere ok place to visit. It wouldn’t be a huge loss to your Myanmar experience should you miss this place out. However If you do decide to go I could only say to enjoy its beauty but be mindful of the scammers which with no police presence enjoy their activities to many victims.

 

Amsterdam

“Immerse yourself in a city which follows its own rules.”

Type : City break, Weekend break
Best Date : May-Aug
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Museums, Cycle, Nightlife
Points of Interest: Anne Frank House, Van Gough Museum, Rijksmuseum, Dam square, Vondelpark, Jordaan, Royal Palace, Oude Church, Bloemenmarkt,  ect
The Good: Countless attractions and point of interest, City is Walkable
The Bad: Very busy, smell of smoke nearly in many places.

Brief

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands situated in the province North Holland. Although everyone has always seen Amsterdam as the capital city, it was only officialised in 1983. Its name was formed due to its past of being a fishing village behind a dam protecting them from the river Amstel. Today it is unofficially dubbed as “Venice of the North” because of its numerous beautiful canals of which are also registered a UNESCO world heritage site.

I have always been eager to visit this city as there have been many different perceptions and angles to this city. So I wanted to experience the city for myself and give my own view of what its like to visit this city.

Amsterdam

The Place

Amsterdam is a small city but with a haven full of attractions and points of interest. Although in my opinion a busy 3 day – 2 night stay is enough to roam the capital a longer stay wouldn’t result into boredom as with some places I have visited. I believe the city is best experienced walking as the inner city itself and its attractions are (if able) walkable, that said the trams are another method to observe the city whilst travelling and conserving energy. There are so many places to visit in the capital and I didn’t have the chance to see everything, so here are the places I visited and my perception of the city.

Amsterdam

Firstly I believe the main places to go whilst in the capital are its art museums. Most notable of them are the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum which are both situated in Museumplein or Museum square. The  Van Gogh museum is an exhibition dedicated to the famous Dutch painter’s work, most famous are the Sunflower 1889, the potato eaters 1885, his self portraits and so much more. Whilst the Rijksmuseum is dedicated to both Dutch art and history. Pieces of art include that from artists such as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and many more. Most of the museums in Amsterdam require tickets which can be bought on the day or online.

Amsterdam

Another Highlight and Iconic place to visit is the Anne Frank house, which is the home of the German born Dutch Jewish diarist famous of her documentation of  her experience of the German occupation of the Netherlands from 1942 to 1942. The house which has been protected and converted to a museum. The museum itself exhibits the diary and drawing and pictures, is small with tight corridors and steep steps, a true experience of what it was like in their time. However note, you can only visit here with a pre booked ticket with a time slot and there is no way to buy a ticket on the day. I did see many disappointed tourists hoping to enter the house trying to buy a ticket on the day, so don’t get caught out.

Amsterdam Anne Frank

Now it is no secret that one of the largest magnetism for the capital is its Red Light District and the Coffee Shops which are world famous for getting legal highs. Although this area should be for adults, there is no barriers or signs and I have seen families with children roam around these areas. I visited this area both at day time and night (just a walk around) and I can say although the area operates 24hours it is much more busier and rowdier at night. For those who just want to walk around and learn about the place then there are walking tours which will be highly informative about its history. Museums have been erected to support these cultures, including the Red-light Secrets museum, Sex Museum, Weed and Kemp Museum, and others.

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Red Light District (not4rthur)

Quite surreal,  right in the middle of the Red light district is the Oude Church which is a monumental place as it is the oldest building and monastery in the city. However today it is a place for contemporary art. The huge talk of this church is its location residing next to windows with sex workers, Coffee shops and a school.

Amsterdam

Dam Square is another popular area tourist go. This is the location for the Royal Palace, the National Monument, Madame Tussauds and an arcade of shops. The town square which is also popular for the city’s events is usually the meeting place for many free walking tours so keep an eye out if you are looking to join. In my opinion this place is a good place to chill, unwind and rest or if you are travelling in a huge group a good meeting point.

Vondel Park is Amsterdam’s largest park popular with residents and tourists, many jog, cycle, dog-walk or on a sunny day lay and chill. Attractions within the park include the statue of Dutch poet Joost Van Den Vondel, music dome, Groot Melkhuis and many others.

Vondel Park (Dguendel)

Another place I happen to pass-by which I believe is an outstanding place to visit is the Bloemenmarkt which is the worlds first and one of few floating flower markets in the world. Trading from Monday to Saturday this colourful flower market sells different flowers and souvenirs. A popular place for tourists and locals.

After all the above the highlight and main beauty of the city for me is the canals, dubbed the Venice of the north Amsterdam has some of the worlds most charming canals where plenty relaxing  bars, restaurants and a myriad of boat tour operate. I advise to take one of these boat tours which will take you through the scenic areas, you can either take a basic, private or party tour, there are so many different operators to choose from.

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There are many other attractions within the city that I haven’t mentioned including Jordaan, Heineken Experience, Body World, Rembrandt house, Nemo Science Museum, A’DAM Lookout being just a few of them. I didn’t visit these as I didn’t have the time to do so, however these are highly rated and recommended areas to visit whilst in the city.

Conclusion

Overall I think Amsterdam is a powerful, attractive city which is misinterpreted as being a place for adults and parties only. Ok, its nightlife, red light district and marijuana coffee shops are huge attraction for interested tourists however the city shouldn’t only be defined for these. The canals really did take the main stage for me and defined the city more than any other aspects of the city. It has a huge number of museums and attractions and I can honestly say a short weekend trip is not enough to fully experience what the city has to offer.

A huge thumbs up for Amsterdam, and I fully recommend that this is a place to visit. I suggest a busy 2-3 days or a calmer  3-4 day stay will be needed.

Thanks for reading…

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Reference:

49 interesting and fun facts about Amsterdam, The Netherlands
https://www.amsterdam.info/oude-kerk/ Photos that aren't mine: Red light district from not4rthur Vondel park from Dguendel

Rotterdam

“The most innovative city full of artistic architecture. ”

Type : City weekend break
Best Date : June-Aug
Expense : Fair
Things to do : Bike ,Chilled nightlife, Sightseeing
Points of Interest: Euromast, Cube house, Erasmusburg, Mini World, Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, Maritime museum, Markthal, Stadhuis, ect
The Good: Modern, Architecturally amazing
The Bad: Maybe too quiet for some

Brief

Rotterdam is a port city situated in the province of South Holland, it is just a 40 minute train ride from the Dutch capital Amsterdam. Its name dates back around 1260 where a dam was built on the river Rotte. It is the largest port city in Europe and until 2004 it was the largest in the world overtaken by cities like Singapore and Shanghai.

Today it is a city rapidly growing in stature financially, gathering interest in tourism, due to its constant innovation and architectural culture. There is a lot of articles from reputable news outlets and guides which praises the city as an up and coming destination, even comparing it with its neighbour Amsterdam.

So what did I think of the city?

The Place

My Rotterdam trip was a 1 night 2 day excursion from Amsterdam. A trip I wanted to take due to its increasing popularity a chance for me to take a look at the city before Rotterdam cements itself as a powerhouse for tourism and huge crowds appear. In particular I was attracted to this city for its architectural promise and its laid back nightlife.

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Firstly I want to point out the Central Station which was my entry point into the city and I believe an attraction itself. Opened in the year 2014 the station was upgraded from the old station in order to accommodate the increasing number of passengers and also to cope with new high speed trains which travel from the capital to cities such as Brussels and Paris. In my opinion the Central Station is a sight to see because of its clever perspective designed roof. The station is also very spacious with a futuristic styled projection for advertisements. There is not too many shops inside the station but it is a magnificent station, and an area to see whilst in Rotterdam.

Rotterdam

One of the main attraction to see in the city is Markthal which just like its name is a market hall but combined with luxury apartments in a remarkable innovative architectural design. Its various food stalls, food shops and restaurants have some of the freshest most quality food in the city.

Rotterdam

Near the Markthal  is the cube houses and for me it was very impressive in terms of design and the engineering behind it, however although I understand it is a functioning house and not a monument its location within a normal neighbourhood has taken down its impact for a touristic experience. In my opinion seeing the cube house was just like seeing brilliantly designed houses and nothing more.

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Rotterdam is also known for its chilled out nightlife and Witte de Withestraat is in my opinion the best street for it. Here you can find some of the best bars and restaurants in the city and there are also attractions like museums and also an escape rooms.

For those who want to see a birds eye view of the city the Euromast is the place to visit. At 185m tall the tower which is a purpose built observation tower hosts tours, restaurants, hotels and for the thrill seekers it is also possible to abseil or do ziplining.

Finally I think the highlight of Rotterdam for me is Erasmusburg or Erasmus Bridge. The bridge designed by Ben van Berkel and named after the Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus also known as Erasmus of the north or simply Erasmus connects the north side of the city to the south. It is both a bascule and cable type bridge and accommodates pedestrians, trams and normal vehicles.  I went to this bridge both at daytime and also night and the scenery for both times was just spectacular. I fully recommend visitor to see this bridge.

There are many other places that you can visit which I opted to miss due to it being for a group or for children, I honestly wasn’t interested or that I didn’t have time.  These are the very popular Rotterdam Zoo, Mini World, Boijmans Van Beuningen museum, Maritime museum and many others.

Conclusion

All in all, there was so much to see and do in Rotterdam, some of which I purposely missed out, but I was satisfied into what I saw and did within my two day timeframe. My first impressions of the city is that it was very artistic and innovative in architecture. As I entered the city I felt the mixture of a business or a college/ university type area due to the amount of young people and business suited people around. It was also much quieter than Amsterdam but this in my opinion was a positive.

Rotterdam get a thumbs up for me and I highly advise to venture to the city when in Amsterdam or enroute to Brussels. The buildings are truly amazing and it is miles away from the hectic crowds of Amsterdam so its a nice place to take it easy and unwind. I believe Rotterdam is still growing and will attract mass tourism in the short future so I believe for those who like the more quieter trip, visit now until its too late.

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Reference:

The world’s 10 biggest ports
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erasmusbrug Photos: (Witte de withestraat) https://www.flickr.com/photos/philipmallis/35091212314 (Euromast) https://www.flickr.com/photos/hannolans/20109134810/