So it looks like things are slowly starting to open up again here in London and the United Kingdom as a whole after the COVID-19 virus seems to have passed its peak. However travelling abroad still seems a far reach at the moment considering all the extra border formalities including self quarantines and checks. Furthermore peoples confidence in travelling at this moment is low and some may not even want to travel at this moment in time.
For me I want to get out there and start travelling again but I do have to be cautious so I planned to travel and explore in stages in order to confidently get back to normal. This gives me the chance to explore local something that I have been meaning to do but have not been doing as I have always preferred a travel abroad. I have no idea as to how long I will need to go through these stages as I will follow government’s restrictions and advice. So my personal 5 stages back to normality is like this:
Explore United Kingdom
So at this moment I’m in the Explore Local Stage which I have been doing going around Greenwich the London borough I live in. I have since updated my write-up on Greenwich, please feel free to check-it out.
It is always a good and common topic amongst us travellers as to “why do you travel?”
I have been asked a few times from certain people, friends, family and colleagues about this topic, on why I love to travel so much? Why I love hectic adventures rather than relaxing retreats? Why hostels and not hotels? Why there not here? Why not save money? and so many questions a-like. It is also a common topic when meeting other travellers, from the long duration backpackers or the shorter stint adventurers.
Well I put it down to 3 main reasons.
People: The people I travel with, the travellers I meet and the communities I become a part of.
Our World: To enjoy and bask in the world we live in. To witness the beauty of our nature and to see magnificent architectural structures both old and new. Time warp into histories and learn about other cultures.
Myself: It is what I enjoy, the independence, the learning, to push myself to limits in thrill seeking activities and adventures I wouldn’t be able to find at home.
Everybody has their own reasons why they travel abroad whether on a backpacking trip or a holiday. Some to party, others to learn, some to shop and others to relax. I have had the pleasure to meet so many different travellers from many different backgrounds, different ages and including my travel companions there are varied answers to this common question.
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 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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Type : City break Best Date : ? Expense: Expensive Things to do : Shopping, Dine, Cultural, Christmas market, Points of Interest: Senate square, market square, Temppeliaukio Church, Suomenlinna, Helsinki central station, Uspenski cathedral, Kamppi Chapel, Sibelius Monument. The Good: Friendly warm atmosphere, Artistic city The Bad: Not too much to do
Helsinki is the capital city of Finland and the country’s largest with around 600,00 in population. According to various sources Helsinki is one of the best places to live and has the better standard of living around the world. Although Helsinki’s population grows every year it is still considered one of the smallest.
Helsinki was the central point for me on my travels to Finland and Estonia. I stayed in the capital first then branched back and forth to Rovaniemi and Tallinn eventually ending and flying back home from the city.
Before the trip my research into the city showed that there was not plenty of attractions or points of interest within the city, it also doesn’t have a monument or building with the magnitude comparing to the Eiffel tower or statue of liberty. However my first impressions of the city was that it was very artistic or art conscious with plenty of the streets having its own decorative designs, even as simple as a street light had a modern imaginative design. As you start to roam the city in depth you will start to realise why the city is one of the best cities to live in (according to metropolis 2016), and not such a bad place to visit as a tourist.
Firstly a must visit for tourists is the Helsinki cathedral which is situated in the Senate square. Built around 1852 this Finnish Evangelical Lutheran cathedral which is operational and performs mass services proves to be the main stage for tourism in the capital. The cathedral which has huge historical significance to the city proves to be an area where tourists flock to take pictures. Senate square marks the centre of old Helsinki and is a good example of neoclassical architecture, the square is surrounded by the government palace and the main building of Helsinki University and the Library of Finland all equally as picturesque within the square. Furthermore the city’s main Christmas market is placed here at the start of December each year. In my opinion the market was the cleanest and neatest of all Christmas markets ive been to its relaxing ambience and sauna was something new, but it was too quiet for my liking. Nonetheless their products were much better quality than that of other markets and food were outstanding. The Christmas market is worth a visit if your around the city at that time but I wouldn’t set up a trip solely for this market.
Other churches that are worth a visit are Temppeliaukio church, Uspenski cathedral and Kamppi Chapel. Firstly the Uspenski orthodox cathedral which was built around 1868 is advertised as one of the city’s main place to visit, with its red bricks and golden cupolas the building is and interesting place to visit. Although a great piece of architecture with a nice of history for me it wasn’t something spectacular and I see plenty places of worship on par with this one. A more modern religious structure which was only completed on 2012 is the Kamppi Chapel. Built with local Finnish wood in the centre of one of the city’s busiest street the chapel also takes the name of “Chapel of silence” as it is meant to be a place of calm a serenity within the city. Lastly in my opinion one of the most fascinating place to visit in Helsinki is the Temppeliaukio church which is unlike no other church I have ever seen from all my visits. The architecture is different in that the building is excavated straight under solid rock, its roof is a large copper dome like plate supported into the rock by beams and when the sun shines proves to be a spectacular sight to see. The church built by architect Tuomo Suomalainen on 1969 is the best spot I visited in the city and I highly recommend this place.
The Sibelius monument built in dedication for the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius located in Sibelius park is in my opinion the best piece of art work within the city. Built with 600 hollow steel organ pipes built in a wave to portray sound waves with the composers face protruding in front of the monument is a nice sight to see whilst walking around a admirable park.
Another popular place for tourists is a visit to Suomenlinna island . I did not particularly have time to visit this place as I ran out of time but am told this is another must go area to visit. Reached by boat included in the day passes or tickets in the ordinary machines around the city the island has enough to consume a full day. The UNESCO world heritage site use to be a fortress for the Fins, Swedes and Russians. The island has beautiful sights, museums , restaurants and cafes.
Helsinki central station is another place to see. You wouldn’t need to go out of your way to come across the central station as it will probably connect your hotel and any points of interests you visit. The station was voted the worlds most beautiful station in the world in 2013 (BBC) and has consistently been within the top batch each year in various lists. The station initially opened on 1862 but grew after a competition on 1904 where it was then designed by Finnish Eliel Saarinen and reopened 1919. The station has 4 large sentry statues which hold spherical globes illuminated oversee the masses of people go in and out of the station, this is the sight to see.
Other places to see is Market square and the city’s various shopping districts. The Market square which is in the eastern most part of the city nearby the senate square and adjacent to the presidential palace is another of the most recommended areas to visit by various tourism media. Why? I am not too sure why. I visited the area three occasions during my visit at various different times but I didn’t see the charm of it. However shopping in Helsinki in the many different districts or malls is a must. The many places such as Kamppi centre, Galleria Esplanade and Kluuvi shopping centre is just some of the places for a nice shopping atmosphere. Beware that items in Finland is a bit more expensive than others countries in Europe.
I don’t usually recommend particular restaurants or bars but the ‘Oluthuone Kaisla’ 10minutes from the Central station is one of the best craft beer in town, It was a brilliant atmosphere whilst visiting two friends that I met in a backpacking trip in Peru. There were a huge choice of beverages including Finnish and Estonian Beers. It was fairly relaxed and quiet when I went there but am told weekends is busy. One of the highlights of my visit.
Helsinki does not have any attractions that would compare with the magnitude of Paris’s Eiffel tower, New York’s time square or London’s Big Ben however the city’s beauty is with its lifestyle, arts and atmosphere. Within the city and from the airport Helsinki had one of the easiest public transport system from all the places I have been which is always a big plus for me and would be for tourist in general. Nonetheless once within the city all attractions are a walkable distance. However the city was expensive which wouldn’t be very attractive for the common traveller. Overall all I can say is Helsinki is a beautiful place to unwind get to know new cultures, try new beers and appreciate some history, you have to be open minded as the city isn’t as extravagant as other European capitals but it does have brilliant characteristics. A two to three day stint in the city is enough time to roam the city and enjoy its prestige.