Siem Reap Temples in the Grand Circuit

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

Preah Khan

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

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

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

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Neak Pean  

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

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

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

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Ta Som Temple

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

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

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

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East Mebon

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

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

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

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Pre Rup

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

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

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

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

Overall Conclusion

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

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

Thanks or reading…

Please read my further experience:

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

and also read my full experience in

 

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Reference:

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

 

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Siem Reap and its Temples (Tickets)

All the temples in Siem Reap require a ticket, the temples in both the Grand Circuit and Small Circuit only require a single all inclusive ticket for all . However some of the temples a bit further out of the centre have got their own independent ticket.

As the tourism industry is so important for the province and country the control of tickets is tightly managed. So controlled that you can only obtain tickets from the only official ticket office that exists. I believe the tight management in ticket sales are in order to deter any counterfeit tickets and maybe as the income is so great to also minimise the chances of corruption. Be aware that tickets are not sold elsewhere so purchases made from hotels, online and other 3rd party vendors will not be valid.

The tickets are varied in different categories. There is a 1 day, 3 days and 7 days tickets, whereas for the multi day tickets you wouldn’t need to use the tickets all in consecutive days and could spread these out for a total of 10 days for the 3 day pass and 1 month for the 7 day pass.

1 day pass = USD $37
3 day pass = USD $62
7 day pass = USD $72
(as of April 19)
I believe it is cheaper for Cambodian nationals.
The prices do contribute a little to a local children hospital fund.

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Official Ticket Centre

To get the tickets you would need to go to the only ticket outlet available, usually your tour operator or tuk-tuk driver would ask you if you already have a ticket or would need to go and purchase one. The ticket office is a nice new huge traditional building complete with shops, an ATM and many other amenities. There are different lines and booths for the different categories. At the time I visited there weren’t many people there and no lines at all.

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Ticket booths in the official centre

I decided to buy a 3 day pass as it was most convenient for my trip. You can pay your ticket by cash and even card and the tickets will require a photograph which is taken on the spot (I believe to prevent sharing of tickets or theft of ticket). In minutes you will receive your nice looking paper ticket which in my opinion looks really nice worthy of keeping as a souvenir. 

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Official ticket

The tickets (if multiday)  are validated upon entry at the entry points bordering the temple areas, at the beginning of each day the attendant would hole punch the current day as to know you have used up one of the day if you have obtained a multi day pass. Your ticket will be checked again at the entrance of each temple and the picture of your ticket will be closely monitored in order to make sure the owner is correct.

For other further temples such as Beng Melea, Koh Ker and even the Phnom Khulen National Park a separate ticket is purchased (im not to sure of the reasons for this). On my 5 day stay at Siem Reap I decided not to go to these long distant temples so Im not too sure about the tickets and the system of purchase.

Thanks for reading…

Please read my further experience:

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

and also read my full experience in

 

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Siem Reap

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

Brief

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

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

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The Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Angkor Wat

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

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

 

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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Reference:

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

 

Still The Best Place I’ve Been

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

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

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

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#2 Bayon

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

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

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

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#4 Finland, Rovaniemi

Oslo

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

Brief

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

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

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The Place

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

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

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

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

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

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Fontana Sentrum – where the ice rink would be placed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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A Small Circuit Around South East Asia

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

All were great and had its own approach

First Stop Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

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

Second Stop Siem Reap (Cambodia)

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

Then Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

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

Fourth Stop in Koh Lipe (Thailand)

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

Finale, Back to Kuala Lumpur

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

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Koh Lipe

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

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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Kuala Lumpur

Type : City break
Best Date :  May-Jul
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Shopping, Dine, Cultural
Points of Interest: KL menorah(tower), Petronas tower, Jalan Alor (food market), Bukit Bintang, Batu Caves, Central Market, Petalling Street and many more

Brief

Kuala Lumpur also known as KL is the capital city of Malaysia situated southwest of the country. It is the largest city in the country and is known to be the fastest growing in the ASEAN (Association of south-east Asian nations) region which include nations such as Brunei, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines and a few more. Kuala Lumpur only acquired its city status in 1972 which also means it is one of the newest in the region, only being founded by Chinese miners at 1857.

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The city has influences from British, Chinese and Japanese occupation and has the architecture and cuisine to portray these.  Furthermore KL is home to one of the tallest twin towers with the Petronas towers which was built within just 6 years. The city is one of the worlds leading visited for tourism and shopping a brilliant place for all.

The Place

Kuala Lumpur was the first stop and a central base in my latest South East Asian ventures. Malaysia is the first mainly muslim country I have travelled to and Kuala Lumpur my first city. It has been a place I have intended to travel for a long time with many positive feedback and recommendations.

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When I visited the city was hot and very humid with an average of 30c-35c degrees. It was a very diverse city with many different influence in lifestyle, food and other aspects.

Because of potential flight problems I took an earlier flight, which resulted being in Kuala Lumpur a day early resulting on an extra day.

Firstly I came across Bukit Bintang which is home to various points of interest in the city itself and the preferred location to stay with hotels for any budget. The region has both luxurious and affordable establishments with the famed Pavilion mall, Times Square Mall and the cheaper Jalan Alor which is the popular food market. Firstly the focal purpose of Bukit Bintang is shopping and dining with the Pavilion mall being the main attraction. This mall has the upper class and luxurious labels such as Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and others alike. They also have the finer restaurants around but also the popular chains. The mall itself had a beautiful architecture and is a sight to see. Next to Pavilion is a cheaper mall called Fahrenheit which also attracts shopping travellers. Further down around the corner of Bukit Bintang about 10 minutes walk from Pavilion is another mall called Times Square Mall a trendy artsy mall with many of the popular affordable shops. Lastly another main place to visit within Bukit Bintang is Jalan Alor a popular food market with plenty of local cuisines. The market is amazing however can get very crowded and is not as cheap as you might think. Overall Bukit Bintang is mainly for shopping, it is a nice central location to start off your visit it also is a convenient area to stay with nearly everything like restaurants, supermarkets and shops nearby.

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Bridge from Pavilion (Bukit Bintang) to Petronas Towers (KLCC)

Just a 10 minute walk away via a conveniently built elevated airconditioned walkway behind the Pavilion Mall is a place called Kuala Lumpur City Centre better known as KLCC which is a place where the Aquaria, Petronas Tower, Suria Mall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and others are situated. It is a more touristic area with plenty of sightseeing hotspots. Firstly one of the more family friendly attraction in KLCC is Aquaria which is located below the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre I didn’t personally visit this as I deemed it for families or kids, however ive been told it is underrated. Next in the area is the main landmark of the whole city and in my opinion the country aswell.

The Petronas towers also known as the Petronas Twin Towers  are two twin skyscrapers joined (midpoint called the skybridge) designed by an Argentine architect and built by two different companies, Japanese built tower one and a South Korean consortium built tower two. Known as the city’s crown jewel the 88 storey building is open to limited tourists per day (limited by day, limited by night) to go up and view KLs panoramic scenery. There are also high end restaurants inside the Petronas towers so those with a higher budget can dine in one of the highest points in the city. Below the towers is a popular mall called Suria Mall, this shopping area is somewhat similar to the Pavilion in terms of the shops and restaurants it accommodates. Another nearby area popular with tourists is the KLCC Park which is a nice place for tourists and locals alike to chill, there are many different trees and plants but most observed is the symphony lake which presents magical fountain shows at around 2000, 2100 and 2145 every night, it is nice to see but for me I have seen better. Overall KLCC is a nice area to visit the Petronas towers and its architectural surroundings are amazing and beautiful.

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The Kuala Lumpur Menora or Kuala Lumpur Tower which is more known to tourists is another must see landmark whilst visiting Kuala Lumpur. The tower which is the seventh largest telecommunication tower in the world has an observation deck, a revolving restaurant, sky deck, sky box and a few others. I only managed to go on the revolving restaurant called atmosphere 360, it was a good experience that had marvellous views of the city. Surrounding the tower is Kuala Lumpur Eco Park which is an interesting visit in itself. Like a botanical garden this parks has plenty different plants and trees. What’s more enjoyable about this Eco Park is the canopy walk which takes people into a nice desired height to enjoy and observe the park from a panoramic view.

Other places popular to visit are the markets. I visited two of the city’s main markets, the Central Market and Petalling Street which is also known to be the city’s China town. Firstly the Central Market, which sells local handicrafts and eateries. Before visiting the place I thought it would be a local wet market selling produce but it was very focused selling to tourists. The Market was an interesting place to walk around which has had its own story to tell, you can appreciate the local Malaysian creativity. The market also offers delicious local delicacies such as durian, you would not be let down if you come here. Petalling  Street which is a short 10min walk from the Central Market is another popular place for tourists. Known as KL’s china town this area has many different street foods and cheap products. Also roamed by locals these side streets can also be a shoppers haven, a place where your haggling skills can be tested.

Just outside of Kuala Lumpur in the region known as Selangor which circles around the capital is home to one of the most famous points of interest in the ‘Batu Caves’ which is a limestone hill that has a series of caves which consist of over 100 year old Hindu temples. Firstly on the front there is a large golden (painted) statue of Lord Muragan in whom the temples are dedicated to. This statue is significant to the country as it is also the  largest at 43 metres high. Past the statue is 272 steps which lead up to the temple caves. These steps which have recently been coloured are somewhat obstacles for religious pilgrims. Whilst climbing these steps monkeys are ever present, they are very nice to take pictures with but be careful these monkeys are known to steal food and water, they will also bite if felt threatened. After the steps the cave is amazing and picturesque there are a lot of Hindu idols statues around and there temples are very active in prayers. The Batu cave is a must whilst visiting Malaysia it is free and there are no touts or vendors annoying tourists, the only thing you would need to think about is what you wear. It is a religious place and respectful attire are required, stricter for women than men.

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A popular thing to do whilst staying in Kuala Lumpur is to do a day excursions. I visited Kuala Gandah which was just over an hour drive from the capital. Kuala Gandah is usually visited for the National Elephant Conservation Centre (NECC) which is a retreat for rescued elephants, so visiting this facility is helpful to the creatures whilst a brilliant experience and spectacle to those who visit. In the conservation you will watch a short 30min video about the rescued animals, feed, learn and watch a show about these majestic giants. You will also be able to bath with baby elephants which is a popular thing to do for many tourists.

Conclusion

Overall Kuala Lumpur was an eye opener, it is definitely one of my favourite capitals I have visited just because of its culture and the amount of things you can see and do. The city is cheap but can be a luxurious as you want it to be. There is also a lot that can be done whatever your age, interest and budget. My particular favourite is the Elephant conservation centre which highlighted the importance of protecting elephants but any creatures altogether, which is something special to learn especially for tourists from large cities that don’t know about these problems. Another place I loved about KL is the Petronas Towers which is just an architectural spectacle from any angle.

A visit to Kuala Lumpur is something any traveller must do, nice people, delicious food, eye opening culture and outstanding architecture, you cant go wrong.

Back to “A small circuit around south east Asia”

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Reference:

15 Interesting Facts About Kuala Lumpur
http://www.petronastwintowers.com.my/en https://menarakl.com.my/index.php/the-tower/about-us

Travelling Around Tallinn

Travelling around Tallinn was one of the most difficult I have ever encountered around Europe in a tourist’s perspective. Not only was the journeys difficult, tickets were also confusing to obtain.  There were also only a number of modes of transport you can use as metro and trains are non existent in the city.

Walking- If fit the capital is small enough to walk around ,most of the attractions within the city are very close together, so walking is very convenient.

Bus –  The Buses in Tallinn was very cheap however, you can buy your tickets before you board from some machines situated in some stations, however this can be very difficult to find as there is not many around.  It is also possible to buy your ticket from the driver however this can be very difficult when the bus is full.

Trams- Similar to buses this vehicle is easy for locals but somewhat difficult for tourists. Reason being is that you have to buy tickets before boarding, usually done online which for tourists could be somewhat daunting. There are not many machines around and there is no way to purchase from the tram operators.

Taxi’s- Cheap compared to other countries around Europe but still expensive compared to the other forms of transport in the capital.

Back to “Two countries, three capitals”

 

 

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