On The Road Again

After returning to Shanghai On October 9, I had three days of catching up with laundry, getting myself sorted and getting over jetlag. I then headed off to Singapore where I’m currently hanging out for the week. The mission is to complete my PR application. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

I’m staying near Bugis, a very colourful local area close to where Christoph used to live when he first moved to Asia. There is the Sri Krishna Hindu Temple which is located just two doors away from the Kwan Im Thong Hood Choo Buddhist Temple. And not too far is Little India and Arab Street. I love the melting pot of cultures and religions and how everyone just gets along with each other and life. After so much time spent in China, it is so refreshing for me to meet and speak with such friendly and polite people everywhere I go here. I can chat with just about anyone and language is not a barrier and neither is culture.

However, what is new to me is the recent influx of Vietnamese residents. I was super surprised and happy to hear the southern Vietnamese language being being used. With Teo Chiew, Mandarin, English and now Vietnamese being spoken… I feel like I could very easily fit into the mix :o)

Home Sweet Home

Greetings from a sunny blue-sky November day in Shanghai. It’s been a travel busy few months, which of course I loved but I am also happy to be back home. I hope you all had a wonderfully sun-blissed summer as well.

While I was in Greece with Linh, Christoph was kept busy with work. The factory project, new government policies and visiting colleagues fill his days which turn into weeks. So as the October National Holidays approached, Christoph was definitely ready for a break from the grind. We met in Berlin, re-packed and went on a driving holiday with friends, UM and TM, through Scotland. We flew into Glasgow, picked up a car and headed straight for the Highlands. What a magnificent area!

The pass at Glen Coe

The pass at Glen Coe

Our itinerary was Glasgow-Glen Coe-Dornie-Inverness-Perth-Edinburgh-Glasgow. The country’s landscape is just spectacular and we hope to go back again for a longer visit in the future. The main challenge with a Scotland trip is the unpredictable weather. We had a few days of light drizzle, one day of horizontal rainfall with high winds, a few overcast days but of the 9 full days, we had 3 beautiful clear blue sky days and felt very lucky for it :o)

Some highlights from our trip were the Pass at Glen Coe (see above picture), the Eileen Donan and Urquart Castles, the Porridge Making World Championships at Carrbridge, a cool gin bar in Perth, the Royal Mile and Whisky Experience in Edinburgh and meeting many warm and friendly Scots along the way.

After Scotland, we headed to Switzerland for a very short visit as we promised Christoph’s dad last year that we would attend his Autumn Party on October 13. We were both quite travel weary by then; arriving into Zurich on October 12 and after going up and down a mountain, flew out on October 14. However fatigued we both were, it was worth the effort as we were rewarded with the most fabulous weather, views and company.

The view over the Lake of Lucerne from Stoos. 

The view over the Lake of Lucerne from Stoos. 

I miss all the beautiful landscapes and scenery we saw but it all reminds me of how extraordinary our world is and how lucky we are to be able to see and enjoy it. I’ll post photo galleries of the various trips soon :o)

Updated Galleries

I've had a slight challenge with updating the photo galleries on this blog, as you may have noticed, but it's finally done! Yay! I've thus far only put two new ones up, one from our Greece trip last October and our Hawaiian trip from earlier this year. They were the two get-away-from-China trips that were absolute highlights for us. Hope you enjoy them.

Next on the agenda, Christoph and I will travel to the Maldives for his upcoming birthday. I'll keep you posted ;o)

Mini Vacation

While Christoph has been melting in Shanghai, I've just come back from a three day visit to friends, MP and BP, in Budapest. The last time I was in Budapest was with Linh in 2013 when we went around and explored most of the major tourist spots. In turn, this trip was different in that I could spend time with actual residents and got to see the city from a local's perspective. And it was exceptional!

Clockwise from top left: the stairwell to my friends' apartment, the facade of a trendy city hostel, the extremely steep escalators in the subway, wall art at the Passage. 

Clockwise from top left: the stairwell to my friends' apartment, the facade of a trendy city hostel, the extremely steep escalators in the subway, wall art at the Passage. 

Budapest has been driven by tourism to improve its facilities and offerings and it must be paying off because they are currently hosting the FINA Championships; the opening ceremony was on Friday 14, July. My friends tell me that there have been lots of roadworks, repairs and general beautification leading up to the the FINA event. On my first day, we took out the bikes and rode along the Danube where new bike paths had been laid and well-thought areas built for public use. It was a great day to be outdoors and a great way to see the city.

Clockwise from top left: traditional kürtóskalács with a twist- this one is smaller than the original as the shop uses them to serve icecream instead of a cone, Kávétársaság- great coffee and space, tofu with shiso paste and roasted pecans at Nobu, Espresso Embassy- also serving really good coffee

Clockwise from top left: traditional kürtóskalács with a twist- this one is smaller than the original as the shop uses them to serve icecream instead of a cone, Kávétársaság- great coffee and space, tofu with shiso paste and roasted pecans at Nobu, Espresso Embassy- also serving really good coffee

In the years since I was in Budapest, the city has had an influx of high quality restaurants and cafes. The typical Hungarian cuisine of heavy meats, potatoes and carrots is still there but the newer establishments are now offering lighter, healthier fare which I was very excited to see. I was able to eat very well each day with minimal meat, I had some fish on a couple of occasions, but I would never have thought that I could avoid meat in Budapest four years ago. At Marga Bistro, the barley risotto with chanterelles was excellent and then a spinach salad with olive tepanade and pickles at Szimply showed me that salads are still in. On my last evening we dined at Nobu where I had a 7 course vegetarian omakase menu which was divine. I ate very well in Budapest :o)

I was very happy to be surprised by the dining scene but the greatest surprise was the emerging coffee culture. Berlin has the past two years introduced the flat white, a quintessential Australian coffee, but in the various Budapestian cafes we went to, they all used artisan roasted beans and served flat whites. Therefore, please go visit Budapest if you haven't already and enjoy not only the history and baths, but also the fresh emerging vibrant restaurants and cafes!

Bella Milano

I just came back from two days in Milan and what a great first trip it was for 2017! Linh ended up flying to Perth from Milan and so we took the opportunity to spend a couple of days there to explore the city before she left the continent. Even though the weather was freezing, we decided to make the most of our time and spent the first day visitng Milan's many museums and churches.

Visiting one of Milan's most important cultural treasures ;-) 

Visiting one of Milan's most important cultural treasures ;-) 

On the second day, Linh made her way to the airport to catch her flight home and with a few hours spare, I squeezed in another museum and church on my own :-) The city was definitely a feast for the eyes and what a brilliant way it was to soak up some history and beauty.

Mingalabar Myanmar

It was difficult to choose which photos to use to represent our trip. Places like Bagan and the experience of the Phaung Daw U Festival at Inle Lake was beyond an image. There was no way to capture the peace and beauty of Bagan nor the buzz and excitement of the festival. Overall, we had an amazing trip and know that we will re-visit the country sometime in the future, but for now share the good memories here.

Heart-warming Myanmar

It's our last day in Myanmar and we are both pretty exhausted. We just got off another over-night bus (11 hours) and have checked in to our hotel. We're tired but have had such a wonderful experience seeing what we did of this beautiful country.

Our trip was the very typical tourist loop, starting in Yangon and ending in Yangon. We went clockwise and travelled Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle Lake- Yangon.

We started slowly in Yangon and visited the Shwedagon Pagoda and the city's downtown area. Shwedagon Pagoda is considered the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the country and it is where many Burmese make a pilgrimage. The downtown area captivated us and we loved strolling through the many streets with run down colonial buildings and imagining what it must have once been like... the good and the bad.

Our next destination involved taking an over-night bus to Bagan. The journey didn't take us too long (10 hours) and luckily the bus was very comfortable. Bagan is an archeological zone where over 2,200 religious monuments from the 11th to 13th-century remain standing. Originally over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed at the height of the Pagan Kingdom and after spending 2 days exploring the ancient area, it's just awe-inspiring to try to imagine the original 10,000 monuments! We then spent our last day in a car and visited Mount Popa.

Another bus journey (what was supposed to take 4.5 hours turned into 7.5 hours due to flooded roads) took us to Mandalay which is the second largest city in Myanmar and the economic centre of Upper Burma. The past twenty years has seen an influx of Chinese immigrants, mainly from Yunnan, which has reshaped the city's ethnic make-up greatly. It is nevertheless a melting pot of Burmese, Indians, Muslims and Chinese cultures. Here we visited the famous U-Bein Bridge, the sights around Mandalay Hill and the ancient city of Inwa.

From Mandalay to Inle Lake, we splurged and flew! We were on a plane which Christoph deemed was an unsafe aircraft, but we survived and the actual flying time was only 35 minutes! Inle Lake was very special because we happened to be there during the annual 10 day Phaung Daw U Festival. This is a buddhist festival that carries 4 images of Buddha to the all the villages surrounding the lake. The procession takes 18 days to complete with the finale being the arrival of the images at Nyaung Shwe town. Thousands of people converge for this event; they came from the mountains, villages, all over and it was so colourful! Everyone were wearing their best outfits and so we got to see the many ethnic tribes people at the temple and markets. A really great experience.

We've had 2 weeks in Myanmar and from what we've seen, Linh and I are keen to revisit and venture to the areas that we didn't get to this time round. The people have consistently been overly helpful, friendly and hospitable. Staying at guesthouses, you are really taken care of and can feel the genuine desire to make sure you are enjoying your stay. Tourism is definitely bringing in much needed funds to the economy and we can only hope that the people benefit from all the development that is happening as well.

A photo album is coming soon..

Thailand Travels

We three sisters had a fantastic time in Thailand! Chiang Mai was very special because of our friend DL who lives there. We spent the first full day visiting temples and sights and on our second day, DL took us to two very cool local hang outs. The Bua Tong Waterfalls and Huai Tueng Thao Lake are both located within two different National Parks. We were very lucky with the weather, it's still considered monsoon season at the moment, and had a dry day and so were able to clamber all over the waterfalls and then relax afterwards on the lake in bamboo huts with a grand feast of fresh seafood.

Bua Tong Waterfalls; that's me on the waterfalls, also called the 'Sticky Waterfalls', as you can climb up and down on the calcium deposits.

Bua Tong Waterfalls; that's me on the waterfalls, also called the 'Sticky Waterfalls', as you can climb up and down on the calcium deposits.

In Krabi, we were unfortunately hit with stormy weather for most of the time except for the one day we decided to try for the islands. We couldn't believe our luck and loved the day spent on the water with swimming, snorkling and sightseeing around the Phi Phi Islands.

Maya Beach; made famous by the movie 'The Beach'

Maya Beach; made famous by the movie 'The Beach'

Bangkok ended up being very hectic but also fun. The days were packed with massages, manis/pedis, shopping and chat time. We really didn't have a minute to spare! This was Alison's first trip with Linh and I and we naturally wanted to make it special for her. She is now back in Perth with hopefully good memories of our time together while Linh and I have continued our journey. We are currently in Yangon, Myanmar which has been amazing so far. The internet is patchy and so I will post proper photos after the trip. Happy days to everyone!