Next Trip Myanmar

10 interesting facts about Bagan
Photo from Royaltravelcity.com

 

So its been a short while since my short trip to Cambodia’s Siem Reap, Malaysia’s Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur and the quick touch of Thailand in Koh Lipe.

So where next?

Well I have a quick weekend trip to Amsterdam this September. However I have also decided to pursue a trip to Myanmar also known as Burma this October. Reason being is that I have been persuaded by a friend who is from the country and the fact that Bagan has just been made a UNESCO world heritage site. I am a little sad I wont be able to visit Mandalay and the country’s new capital Naypyitaw  but I guess this could be done on another trip.

I want to visit as much of the country as possible but unfortunately with only a week to venture (due to work) it looks like I will only have time to visit two main regions, Bagan and Yangon. Bagan being highly advised and a must not miss during a stay in Myanmar, whilst Yangon is a huge city which is my entry and exit point, so I decided to have a look around aswell. I have decided to stay in hostels for the simple reason that I meet more people there, then to end the trip I have decided to stay in a more luxurious hotel in order to rest-up and relax.

So what do I expect from this trip?

I expect similarities between Myanmar and  Cambodia. I expect Myanmar to have the more modern temples whilst Cambodia the older more ancient temples, however the lifestyle I envisage (but could be wrong) to be the same. I expect to use unusual modes of transport but food similar to that of Cambodian, Thai and Malaysian cuisines. Visiting here hasn’t really been on my bucket list but just recently after visiting Cambodia it was high up on my list.

Any advice for this trip?

Photo from Irrawady.com
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Temples Outside Siem Reap

Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park has plenty of both ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples which are all fascinating in its architectures and stories. Most famous and notable temples such as the Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom are located in the Small Circuit. Furthermore the Grand Circuit also proves to be popular and worth a visit. However there is a collection of ancient temples just outside of Siem Reap that are also fascinating and have such important significance. The only outlying temple I visited was Banteay Srei which was 40km away from Siem Reap just to see for myself if it is worth the visit.

Below is my experience visiting Banteay Srei and information on the other temples outside of Siem Reap I have gained on my visit.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei is the only temple I visited outside of the Angkor Archaeological park. This is included in the temple pass (maybe even the furthest included in the pass), so no other ticket is required and you would only need to get there. Banteay Srei also known as the ‘lady temple’ or ‘pink temple’ is a temple complex built in the 10th century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Quiet uniquely this temple wasn’t built by a King (King Rajendravaman II)  but two counsellors.

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This temple built using pink sandstone (as it is easier to carve) proved to be one of the best preserved, renovated and protected. Unlike other temples Banteay Srei is more or less complete as there is very little rubble still waiting to be restored. The complex itself has excessive barriers and cordons protecting the artwork and structures, more than any other temple I have visited. There are reasons for its extensive protections as this temple has one of the most detailed artwork, Its fine carvings has given Banteay Shrine the reputation of being the ‘Jewel of Khmer Art’.

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At 40km out of Siem Reap and the Archaeology Park, using a tuk-tuk proved to be excessive. As this temple was the first we visited on the day the excitement was high at the start but then it started to die down the longer the journey took. The tuk-tk was hot, bumpy and dusty but you do feel their interesting culture and ways of life something which you wouldn’t in a car. The weather on the day was not on our side as it was over 40 degrees which was highly uncomfortable. However the temple itself was magnificent, its colour and highly detailed artwork was unlike any other and the reason to visit this complex is due to its carvings and unique architecture.

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Others

The temples below are other temples that have longer distance from Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeology park. I didn’t visit the temples below as I either didn’t have time or I purposely missed these as I deem them unnecessary to visit. Remember you do get a sense of temple overload  and it could be a bad experience to see too much of temples during your visit. However here what I know about these temples.

Beng Mealea – Unofficially known as the ‘jungle temple’ due to the ruins which still lack restoration resulting in the jungle growing over the rubble and the overall complex. This temple is one of the furthest from the Archaeological park at around 70km away from Siem Reap and due to its distance this is one of the least visited. An excellent temple for those who want to visit a peaceful temple with a brilliant jungle setting.

Beng Mealea (Photo taken from https://www.centralsuiteresidence.com/blog-detail/beng-mealea-temple.html)

Koh Ker – 120km from Siem Reap and the Archaeology Park this is the furthest temple to get to. Koh Ker the seven levelled square pyramid temple made of sandstones which is situated a jungle. This temple is not included in the temple pass and will require a separate ticket fee.  As this temple is the furthest away it is also said to be the least visited, meaning it would be one of the most peaceful.

Koh Ker, Prasat Thom
Koh Ker, Prasat Thom (photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/azwegers/6225843693)

Prasat Phnom Krom – This is one of the temples I do regret not visiting. Reason being is that this temple lies on top of a hill (named Phnom Krom) just outside Siem Reap. There are three square shrines dedicated to the Hindu gods Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva all beautifully decorated. It is said to have marvellous views of Siem Reap and a good place to see the sunset. This place is not heavily visited by tourists so it is both scenic and a quiet peaceful atmosphere.

Phnom Krom (photo taken from https://justsiemreap.com/temple-guide/phnom-krom/)

Conclusion

In conclusion I was happy that I visited Banteay Srei but regret not taking time to visit Prasat Phnom Krom for its apparent marvellous views. Banteay Srei was incredible but its journey was a little much for it (in my opinion), which makes me think that Koh Ker and Beng Melea would’ve been excessive to see a single temple. Which means this could be a big downer if these temples prove to be very similar to those of the Small and Grand Circuit. Remember that I took the tuk-tuk so maybe the further you go it may be a good idea to think about taking a much more comfortable car instead.

Plenty say the further you go the quieter it gets, however in my experience this can sometimes be false as huge tour buses do venture out resulting into mass visitors making these temples as crowded as the ones in the small and grands tours.

Thanks or reading, please follow and share if you enjoyed it

Please read my further experience:

  1. Tickets, Entry to the Temples
  2. Small Circuit
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples

and also read my full experience in

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Reference:

justinsiemreap.com

Siem Reap

“Majestic and truly outstanding, a place that must not be missed”

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
The Good: Temples are outstanding, Cheap
The Bad: Very busy and crowded at some temple locations

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
  3. Grand Circuit
  4. Further Temples 

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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

“Spectacular modern city, with plenty to see and do, just walk or take an electronic scooter”

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
The Good: Modern,  Plenty to see and do
The Bad: Very Expensive

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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Koh Lipe

“You’re small cosy paradise”

Type : Island
Best Date :  Nov- May
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Walk along beach, Sun bathe, Scuba Dive, Kayaking
Points of Interest: Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach, Pattaya Beach, Walking Street
The Good: Warm white sand beaches, beautiful marine life
The Bad: Limited areas to visit

Brief

Koh Lipe is one of the southern most island in Thailand just in the edge of the Adaman sea near the border with Malaysia. The island is only about 3.5km long and lies within the Tarutao national marine park a popular dive spot.

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The Place

Koh Lipe was the last place I visited on this small south east Asian circuit venture. The purpose of this visit was to relax before heading back to London. It is a relatively quiet and calm island but can have its congestion with many tourists arriving for day tours. Nonetheless Koh Lipe is was an interesting visit, a place that small groups can enjoy.

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Firstly I want to write about getting to the island itself. There are no airports in this island so boats are the main mode of transport to get to and from the island. As Koh Lipe has a low sea level, there is also no piers for larger boats to dock and thus they have a to stop at offshore pontoon where passengers will take a smaller long tail boat to arrive on the island. These are said to cost 50 baht however I didn’t need to pay this when I arrived. Upon arrival depending on where you departed/arrived from/to  there is also an immigration and custom system which was unlike any other as you line up on the beach (a sight to see).

Popular ways to get to Koh Lipe are from Langkawi (Malaysia) or Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Pak Bara from Thailand. There also several possible ways to travel to and from small islands within the Andaman Sea. I arrived and departed from Langkawi and there for required to through an immigration system.

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Pattaya Beach

One of the main points to visit in the island is Pattaya Beach the main point where visitors arrive and depart. This beach is a stretch of beautiful white sand south of the island. Arguably this beach is the most popular of the beaches with the most shops, bars and restaurants beachfront. This beach also connects to walking street one of the main parts of the islands. There is also an beachfront makeshift movie theatre  placed at night beachside which is an interesting concept.

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Pattaya Beach

Another popular place to see is Sunset Beach. The smallest of the main beaches visited. It is said you can see the best views of the lovely sunset however I in my opinion there is a better location. This small stretch of white sand beach is not very popular for high end hotels but a place for bungalows. Sunset beach is a bit further away to walking street than Pattaya and Sunrise beach.

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Sunrise Beach

Lastly Sunrise Beach where I stayed and another popular place unwind, popular for sunrise yoga and morning jogs. In my understanding this is the longest of all the beaches on the island. This is my favourite place in the island as it is much more quieter than other areas, this is also where a beautiful spot is to watch the sunset (in the northmost end of sunrise beach). However I did notice that the tide can get very high making the shore very thin, so walking around the beach can be difficult. Nonetheless there are many quiet bars, restaurants and massage places beachfront which makes this my favourite place to roam.

Walking Street is in my opinion the main roaming place away from the beaches. This short 15 minute (walking) stretch is full of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. In my opinion at night this is the brightest and noisiest area in the island it is a busy street however it is not overcrowded and messy. This street has plenty sea food restaurants which is very popular in the island. There are also plenty souvenir, tour shops and massage parlour around here and most importantly for tourists this is the place for ATM machines and money changers which are very relevant in the island.

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Tourists come to this islands for the calm and relaxing atmosphere which you wouldn’t normally get from other islands. However a few activities are very popular in Koh Lipe, these are Snorkelling, Scuba Diving and Kayaking. There are a few different companies to choose from so research for best prices are a good idea. I did love my Scuba diving experience where I saw schools of fish, many different breeds and types of underwater creatures.

Conclusion

When I planned this trip I knew it would be a quiet calm place with maybe a few hundred visitors. However I was surprised when my hotel and scuba diving activities were fully booked, the island also had a few more people than I thought but it wasnt overcrowded. The sand and beach was lovely but there were plenty of boats parked in the shore which in my opinion ruined the potential scenery of the island. There were plenty of dogs around and unlike the aggressive dogs around the Philippines the dogs here were very friendly and many tourists love to play with them. My favourite part of the visit was definitely the Scuba Diving and also just walking around this small island itself. I’d say a 2 night stay is enough as anything longer would result into potential boredom as the island is small with not much activities or things to do, however if your purpose is to relax then maybe you could stay a little longer.

Back to “A small circuit around South East Asia”

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Devon (Ilfracombe)

Type : Provincial, Countryside, Coastal
Best Date : May – Sep
Expense : Cheap
Things to do: Fishing, Relaxing, Dining, Golf, Walking, ect
Points of Interest: Verity Statue, Hele Bay, Ilfracombe Aquarium, Ilfracombe Harbour, Hillsborough Hill, Ilfracombe Museum, Chapel of St Nicholas, Rapparee Cove ect

Brief

Ilfracombe is a small  coastal,cliff and harbour town north of Devon, south west of England, where the famous Hillsborough hill is situated and Hele bay.

The Place

Ilfracombe is a beautiful relaxing coastal town that I have visited various times. It only has few points of interests but its outstanding scenery and friendly atmosphere is a major reason to visit.

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Firstly one of Ilfracombe’s main asset is “Capstone Hill” which features centre point of Ilfracombe’s Seaview. Above the huge rock about a three to five minute walk stands a nicely placed British flag and looking back will give you a one of a kind panoramic view of the village. Anyone can walk up this hill but be aware of heights and the steep and sometimes slippery walkways.

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One for the kids is “Ilfracombe Aquarium” which is a small award winning exhibit which is located in an “Old Lifeboat House” along Ilfracombe’s harbour. The exhibit showcases around 75 different species of sea life found around the area. After the exhibit the aquarium’s café is also a popular place for tourists and locals to relax and chill through the day.

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“Ilfracombe Museum” and the “Landmark Theatre” are also popular for tourists and locals a like. Landmark theatre which hosts various events and meetings can fit around 500 seats. Its architecture is unusual consisting of what looks like two overturned buckets which is quiet popular with tourists. “Landmark theatre” replaced the “Pavilion Theatre” a Victorian building destroyed by fire in the 1980. The “Ilfracombe museum” which is located just five minutes left of the theatre is another attraction in Ilfracombe. Housing many collections from Ilfracombe’s rich history from archaeology, art and photography this place is definitely a must for every visitor.

Ilfracombe’s newest statue “Verity” is proving to be a highlight attraction for Devon, attracting plenty of customers since its completion. The 20m tall statue built using  bronze and stainless steel is a master piece by world renowned sculptor “Damien Hirst”. The statue which is a pregnant lady holding a sword proudly whilst standing on a pile of books. Half of the lady is normal whilst the other half is of her inside organs including the unborn baby. I am not too sure of the story of this statue or what is its meaning but the statue is a sight to see.

Minutes away from the statue is the “Chapel of St Nicholas” which dates back to the early 1300s. Through the years the chapel has been used as a lighthouse, laundry, reading room and a place of worship. The chapel is free but donations are also welcomed.

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Other than these points of interests the town is just a marvellous place to be in.

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Reference:

http://ilfracombeaquarium.co.uk/
https://www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/Landmark/Venue-Hire

Photos:

http://ilfracombeaquarium.co.uk/
https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/5121443

Review: Avianca

The Airline

Avianca is Columbia’s flag carrier since 1919 undeFile:Avianca Logo.svgr a different name. The airline which has a fleet of 189, routes into 26 countries throughout the American and European continent.

 

Brief

I used Avianca whilst on my South America trip in a night flight from Lima to Rio de Janeiro.

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Aircraft and Flight

My flight from Lima to Rio De Janiero used a small Airbus A319 in a 3-3 configuration. The aircraft did incorporate a business class which was divided using a simple curtain assembly, it looked nice however I cant write about it because I flew on economy.

Firstly I’d like to start off with something I was not too keen on and that was the Cabin crew’s uniform. It had a red cloak styled jacket with a red cloche styled hat which was designed by a famous Columbian designer. The uniform has had many praise from other fellow bloggers, however for me it was too fancy for a flight (my personal opinion).

The economy seats were similar to that of any other standard airline, it had a cup holder, magazine pouch, foldable table, personal light and air. The seat was leather with adjustable headrest which I always appreciate in an aircraft. Furthermore seats had an entertainment system which for some strange reason I didn’t think they had as it was a small aircraft. Come to think of it this flight was the smallest aircraft I know with screens incorporated in it.

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Avianca’s entertainment system was (along with ICE of Emirates) one of the most comprehensive and pleasing I have ever experienced. Its program and controls  were very tidy and easy to navigate around in which even the freshest user wont struggle. Firstly the airline’s promotional videos upon boarding, taxiing and before each movies were amazing, short pleasing clips of tourism in South America which makes people want to travel to the destinations in the future. Secondly one thing that I quickly acknowledged that was pretty impressive was the entertainment system’s front, starting or home page whatever you call it. It was easy to use and understand  no matter where you have come from with the upfront choice of languages. Furthermore the division of the adults and children’s menu, I found very plausible. The entertainment catalogue have a comprehensive choice of the latest most notable tv shows, movies and music from Latin America, Europe and the US, so it wont be too difficult for each passengers to be entertained.

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My service in Avianca was simple, it was a night 5 hour flight so  we only got one meal service. The meal was simple with only a few things to eat including a salad, main dish (chicken and rice), bread roll and a sweater bread I can only think is a traditional desert of some kind, obviously including the normal choice of beverages. The meals were delicious but you can taste the simplicity of the dishes, there were no elaborate ingredients and there was very little to eat so it wont fill you if you was very hungry.

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After the meal service, as it was a night flight the main lights were switched off or dimmed I can only guess for sleep. Before landing cabin crew gives the relevant immigration cards for ease in arrivals. 

Conclusion

Avianca to me was neutral it had its goods and it had its bad, the biggest positive for me was the entertainment system, a brilliant program with many enjoyable films from western to Latin America, the ease of use was brilliant. The meal for me was a bit of a disappointment it was very simple, small and untidy in its presentation. However ive only flown with  the airline once in a single route so I don’t know its consistency with its other routes. Its a fine airline to fly with and I would definitely try them again.

Back to airline list

Reference

https://www.avianca.com/us/en/our-company/corporate-information/corporate-profile

Photo

http://www.avianca.com (for the logo only)