Santorini Lovin’

Santorini was definitely my highlight while planning my Greece travel as well as post travel, looking back on all the islands. It was definitely a place I wished I had more than 3 nights in. But, we’ll be back for sunset sailing as well as Santo Winery definitely!

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True to it’s postcard images, the blue and white domes, really leave you in awe of the beauty of the island against the caldera at the background. Before, I take you through my amazing 3 days in Santorini, a few travel tips to note, while planning your days.

  1. Santorini is probably the most visited island in entire Greece. As such, prices for accommodation as well as food are expensive. We definitely felt the price hike even though we arrived early in the season. Especially, since we arrived from Naxos, where everything is relatively cheaper all year round.
  2. The entire island, sits at the top of the volcano. Apart from the old/new port, all the action happens above sea level (no pun intended there). As such, from any where you are in the island, you have a breathtaking view.
  3. Booking your accommodation as well car (if you are planning on renting) early helps in securing a good deal. Do not wait to arrive to book a hotel or car, because you definitely will be paying a higher price if something is available for you. Things get snapped up pretty quickly and way in advance especially during summer.
  4. We were told my locals there that people visit the island even during winter. That, was definitely news to me. Although, personally, summer travels are always the best (for me).
  5. The entire island was crowded (by my standards) although we were still early in the season. As such, restaurants (especially the ones with good food + a view), get booked up quite early. We were advised by fellow travellers we met along the way that making reservations would be the best to not get disappointed.

Disclaimer: We splurged on our Santorini leg with a fancy ride as well our accommodation, since we were gonna make this the highlight of our first Europe travel together. 

Our 5-star airbnb stay in Pyrgos (https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/16417609) featured above with a hot tub overlooking the island. A night was around SGD 400, but totally no regrets with our stay at Daniel’s place.

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Rented a Mini for the husband (50E per day)

Food

1. Metaxi Mas (Meal for 2 was 23E)

Recommended by our Airbnb since this place was very close to our home, we arrived for late lunch and it was packed with tourists.

2. The Cave of Nikolas (Meal for 2 was 60E)

Fish platter with amazing wine to end of our meal. Again, hospitality was top notch.

3. To Ouzeri (Meal for 2 was 43E)

 

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Amazing stuffed calarami! 10/10

4. The Athenian House (fancy!)

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No photos of our meal but fine dining. We were recommended to dine here by fellow travellers we met in Mykonos. Went early to catch sunset from the restaurant while enjoying each course of our dinner. Amazing experience. Indulge if you can, although we were 121E poorer after our dinner there.

5. Lolita’s Gelato 

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A refreshing stop for the summer heat.

 

6. Ammoudi Fish Tavern (Must visit!)

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Debone fish service included 🙂 (Meal for 2 with wine was 65E)

Things to do

1. Sunset at Profitis Ilias Monastery (the highest point of the island at 567 meters) 

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Sunset here was breathtaking as it felt like we were in the midst of the clouds. Was amazing to be greeted with such a beautiful sight on our arrival in Santorini, despite the cold winds.

2. Explore Prygos town

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3. Walk from Fira to Oia 

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We didn’t actually complete the entire stretch by foot because we kept halting for a photo moment as well as it was too crowded as were in the stretch mid-day. This 10km stretch would take you about half a day to complete depending on how fast your strides are.

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Travel Tip: Having visited Santorini, our recommendation would actually to do the reverse direction (i.e. Oia to Fira). Instead of catching sunset in Oia, as 99% of the tourists have planned, catching sunset in Fira instead, let’s you enjoy the peace and tranquility a bit more instead of thronging with the masses to get a good spot. As I mentioned before, because of the landscape of the island, from every angle you actually can witness the sunset. 

Also, while walking you can break up the walk by stopping for a drink or meal at Imerovigli. A quieter town that many skip stopping by at.

4. Skaros Rock

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Another spot to enjoy sunset away from the crowd would be Skaros Rock. Just be mindful, the path is not the best so covered shoes are a must. We ended up in the area in flip-flops so didn’t manage to scale to the top of the rock.

5. Ammoudi Bay (my favourite!)

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Ammoudi Bay is about 300 steps below Oia town. Set aside about an hour (maximum) and you should be ok, nothing too arduous. Since we had planned on lunching at Ammoudi Bay, we parked our car at the bottom and decided to hike up before the mid-day sun came scorching down on us. Was a good move by the husband so that we didn’t have to conquer the steps after a hearty meal. If you not keen on walking up/down the steps, there are donkeys you could ride on. But, it’s better to go up on the donkeys as downhill might be a tad bit scary.

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Cliff jumping at Agios Nikolaos (stone’s throw away from Ammoudi Bay)

6. Oia 

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You can easily spend half a day getting lost in the streets of Oia, the most picturesque village in Santorini. Plenty to do! Byzantine Castle Ruins for some photo moments (the hot spot for sunset), get lost within the oldest bookstore, Atlantis Books, wander the cobbled streets of the town.

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7. Beaches! – Kamari/Perissa/Red Beach

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Kamari Beach

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Red Beach

Like I mentioned when I begun my post, 3 nights in Santorini weren’t enough for me to explore all that the island offered. I would have wanted more time to spend some time at Megalochori as well as Akrotiri towns. There is always so much to do at some places. Santorini was definitely one of those islands for me. But, I will definitely return for boat tours, wine and donkey beer. 😉

Here’s a few options on other resources that helped me plan my time in Santorini. Hope it helps with yours too.

  1. https://santorinidave.com/best-things-to-do-santorini
  2. https://finduslost.com/complete-santorini-greece-travel-guide/
  3. https://santorinidave.com/best-restaurants-santorini
  4. https://handluggageonly.co.uk/2015/06/09/11-delicious-foods-you-have-to-eat-in-santorini-greece/

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

 

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Naxos and/or Paros, for you?

While planning my island hopping adventures, the people I spoke to all had one (very) common thing to ask me. 4 different islands in Cyclades? How different can the islands be? Boy, do I now know, how different the islands can be. Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades region, is well known for its agriculture due to it’s fertile soil. A restaurant we dined at in Mykonos, told us their lamb actually comes from Naxos because it is tasty.

If you are looking for a party island/great beaches, skip Naxos. But, if you are looking to explore something apart from booze and beaches, Naxos will be your #1 choice. It’s mountainous regions offer a very different perspective stay to your typical image of what an island should be.

We had no complaints about our amazing stay at Ampelos Suites (SGD 60/night) located very near the square in Naxos (which is walkable from the port, about a 10-15 min, depending on how heavy your luggage is). We got a free upgrade to the suite as we indicated we were on our honeymoon. Reception staff was friendly and very helpful.

First order of business, after checking in, was to grab some lunch. We were recommended Maro Tavern (very close to the square), by the hotel staff. A very cozy and homely feel when you step foot in Maro. Food doesn’t disappoint either. After lunch, we picked up a rental car (40E, for 48 hours). We were recommended to take a FIAT panda so that the car won’t struggle when going up the mountain areas of Naxos.  We had no problems at all with the car when we drove the next day, so that was a very useful tip by our rental shop.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the western side of Naxos by driving along the coast. We stopped at Agios Prokopios Beach to catch sunset with some drinks. As we were in Naxos, early in the season, there weren’t too many restaurants that were open. But, the plus was, we had the beach all to ourselves. Not a bad trade off, eh.

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Prawn and fish with greek salad (always a staple) for 28E

We were recommended to dine at Flamingo Restaurant by our “non-greek” photographers-turned-friends. But, to be honest, unfortunately, our experience wasn’t fantastic. A lot of items were not available partly because we arrived for dinner quite late and also because, it wasn’t full season yes. But, nonetheless the Greek hospitality is something that blows you away each time you visit a restaurant even if the food doesn’t.

We begun our next day early for our real adventures! But, first a good brekkie and coffee before we hit the road. We started our morning at Padelis’ Coffee Shop on two of our three morning in Naxos. 🙂

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Breakfast spread for 20E

Stop #1: Dimitras Temple

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Stop #2: Drive through Halki and Filoti towns

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Church at Filoti

 

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Picturesque corner of Filoti

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Chanced upon this cute little store as we drove out of Filoti town

Stop #3: Lunch at Apiranthos

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Aperinthian Woman’s Association

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Interior of a supermarket to blow you away

Stop #4: Weavers at Moni (personal fav!)

A community of weavers nestled in this small village tucked away in the centre of the island.

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A lady kind enough to open up her workshop (i.e. home) up for us

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Unparalleled views while driving

Stop #5: Castro, Castle of Naxos

Stepping into 1207

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Chanced upon a royalty while walking into the castle who took us right into her shop (she lives right above the shop, holy cow! what are the odds!)

Stop #6: Sunset at Portara

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Ended the day with dinner at Duokato restaurant.

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Greek salad and octopus in tomato sauce and fried potatoes (20E)

Travel Tip: Another pitstop I would have loved to visit was Mount Zas Cave, the highest peak on the island. However, we were advised we wouldn’t have enough time to slot in a trip to the cave, if we were trying to get back to the town by sunset. 

Day trip to Paros

The following day, we did a day trip to Paros. Again, when planning our trip, some told us Paros is better island to be at than Naxos. But, to be honest, we choose to stay in Naxos solely because we couldn’t find an accommodation better or at least comparable to Ampelos Suites (at that price range). So, we told ourselves, a day-trip would work so we won’t miss out on the fun. And it surely was! Loved our day-trip out to Paros. Tickets costed us 42E for the 2 of us.

Paros is better known for their beaches and beach bars (Santa Maria and Punda Beach Club). It’s interesting to note that, despite both islands being so close to each other (under an hour ferry ride away), the feel of the island are very different.

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Picked up a smart car at Sardis Rentals to explore Paros for 20E

Plenty of beaches all around Paros for swimming as well as water sports even at Santa Maria Beach. But, our personal favourites were Kolympethres Beach as well as Faragas Beach. The waters were so crystal clear it’s impossible to resist jumping in.

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If this isn’t bliss, I don’t know what is [waters of Kolympethres Beach]

Both meals at Christiana’s as well as Alyki Restaurant were amazing! Highly recommend Alyki Restaurant especially. Also, while in Paros, be sure to stop by Lefkes Village just for a bit. Getting lost in the narrow alleys without crowd (think Mykonos) feels amazing.

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Calamari (not featured), crab salad and fish for 35E

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Amazing grilled fish (not featured) at Alyki Restaurant

Exploring Lefkes Village

We caught the 8.45pm ferry from Paros and reached Naxos in time for dessert before calling it a night. 3 nights in Naxos was just about right to get ready for the throng of people that awaited us at our next island. It’s time for Santorini, woohoo!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

 

Party it up in Mykonos!

2 things Mykonos is known for = strong winds and party!!

Due to our ferry delay, we arrived in Mykonos port way past noon. After much haggling with the driver, we arrived in Fabrica Bus Station in Mykonos town EUR 10 poorer. Our accomodation, Orpheas Rooms (SGD 100/night), was located strategically en route to Little Venice (the heart of Mykonos). Accommodation was pretty basic with the room size being quite small but service by the staff and the location definitely made our stay memorable. Highly recommend staying in Mykonos town otherwise another option to consider slightly away from town would be Platis Yialos to give you access some of the more popular beaches of Mykonos.

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Our accomodation – Orpheas Rooms

Mykonos is known for their white cobbled paths and blue houses. And, the reality wasn’t too far from what I had imagined it to look like. Except, walking through the town makes you feel like you are in a labyrinth. It is said though, the reason for the paths being designed such was that so people could keep themselves hidden from the eyes of pirates.

Things to do

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Sunset view from Boni’s Windmill

  1. Windmills! –  The windmills are among the most recognized landmarks of the island and one of the most famous Mykonos attractions. During the 17th and the 18th centuries the island had more than twenty windmills, which contributed to the wheat production, a fundamental element of the island’s economic development. Nowadays seven of them are maintained in decent condition. The most famous ones are the Kato Myloi ( Lower Windmills) that stand on a hill facing the sea. I highly recommend that you walk up the hill in Chora and visit the windmill of Boni that is now a museum. The view from up there is incredible, and it’s also one of the best places to watch the sunset. It’s the perfect location to bring a blanket to sit on and cozy up for the sunset.
  2. Little venice – One of the most famous and charming areas in Mykonos is called Alefkantra, or Little Venice, as its picturesque setting next to the sea is reminiscent of the Italian city. Sip a cocktail in one of the bars and restaurants in the area to enjoy one of the best sunset views. Kastro’s Bar is home to arguably the most photographed passageways overlooking the water (pictured above).
  3. Stroll around Mykonos town – Lose yourself in the winding alleys of Mykonos town with the white houses, blue doors and windows and colourful bougainvilleas is a must do in Mykonos.
  4. Rent an ATV and scoot around the island – ATV rental costed us EUR 25 but we saw so much of Mykonos and had so much fun exploring out of Mykonos town. Highly recommended!
  5. Take a boat trip to archaeological site of Delos – The island of Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most important Archaeological Sites in Greece. According to Mythology, it was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. The island is now uninhabited, but you can visit it by taking one of the many ships that depart daily from Mykonos. (except Monday when the site is closed) Tickets to the Archaeological site of Delos cost: Full 12€, Reduced 6€. (student cards do work, so bring them along!) While at Delos, it is highly recommended to do a guided tour. Another option to explore Delos would be to do a day cruise out of Mykonos. We booked our full day boat tour (Rhenia Islands + Delos) via Viator. (SGD 350 for 2 of us) Despite the price being quite steep, it was a memorable day out on a boat despite getting severely sun-burnt.
  6. Nightlife – Mykonos is a party island and has the best nightlife in Greece. You can start your evening by watching the sunset and sipping a cocktail in Little Venice and as the night progresses you can visit the legendary Scandinavian bar, the gay-friendly Jackie O, Cavo Paradiso or you can head in one of the famous beach bars like Nammos, Scorpios and Jackie O on the beach. The options are endless.
  7. Beaches – The beaches of Mykonos are famous for their golden sand and crystal clear waters. There is a beach for every mood. If you want to party, then Paradise beach and Super Paradise beach is for you. If you want a family-friendly beach, you can head to Kalo Livadi, Elia, Ornos, and Lia.  If you are looking for a secluded beach, then you can go to Kapari or Agios Sostis. Now if you are looking for a trendy beach, where all the celebrities go you should go to Psarou. There you will find one of the best beach bars worldwide, Nammos. Beware though it is expensive. If you are looking for a trendy place, then you should go to Paraga beach with the famous beach bar Scorpios or Ftelia beach with the Alemagou beach bar. My personal favourites – Agios Sostis and Kapari! Kapari beach felt like it was we were the only ones in the middle of nowhere (because it literally was that, there was no one else on the beach).
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Agios Sostis Beach with Kiki’s Tavern nearby (a good spot for lunch)

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Sitting perched on boulders stone’s throw away from Kapari beach (on the top left of picture)

Eat

1. Pepper

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Pepper salad with gyroz (EUR 12.50)

Our first meal on the island surely didn’t disappoint as it was recommended by the staff from our accommodation as well as the reviews we read online.

2. Captains

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Seafood platter for 2 (EUR 49)

Perched along the waterfront area in the Old port, dinner at Captain’s surely didn’t disappoint. It is an all-day restaurant that serves breakfast, snacks, and lovely Greek food.

3. Courtyard by Thodoris

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Lunch view

Dining at Thodori was my personal favourite in my 3 nights on the island. Perfect place for lunch as you can dine with the waves crashing the shore. It was a good mid-day break between hitting the beaches for a good lunch – quinoa salad and fresh fish.

4. Avra Restaurant 

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Lovely ambience at Avra

Recommended by fellow Singaporeans we met in Mykonos, Avra lived to it’s mark the minute we stepped foot into the restaurant. Their food spread as well as service was top notch. We ordered sesame feta (highly recommended!), roast lamb as well as asian curry chicken (for the asian deprived soul in me). However, meal for 2 costed us EUR 71.50 for the 3 dishes we ordered. Slightly steep but worth a visit before you leave Mykonos if you have some extra dollars to spare.

5. Gioras Wood Medieval Mykonian Bakery

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Didn’t have time to stop by as we went in after-hours. But, do check it out if you are around the area.

6. 180 Sunset Bar

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Definitely for drinks and not food! Again this was recommended by the staff from Orpheas. Minus the fact it is an uphill slope to conquer, these are notably the best (paid) seats for a view of the island as the sun sets. Be sure to get there as early as 6pm during summer for the better seats.

For more food options, this blog has some other recommendations! Here’s another blog with more details on what to expect on the different beaches in Mykonos as well as other information to help you plan your time in this party island!

After spending 3 nights in this crazy island, we were ready for some down time in Naxos before hitting Santorini and ending off our island adventure in Milos. Keep reading and party it up till then!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

A for Athens.

Back in November last year, Scoot had a really good deal for direct flights to Athens from Singapore. It was really too good to miss! We paid SGD 950 for the 2 of us (return included) with 20kg baggage for each of us, each way. HOLY MOLY?! Enduring the 11 hour flight was nothing with a deal as sweet as that. The timing of the departure flight from Changi Airport was at 2.45am which was perfect to knock out in the flight after some light meal. Our return flight was on Tuesday morning at 11.30am from Athens. Considering it was a weekday return, we were lucky for a really empty flight that we scored ourselves a full row to snooze and catch up on NETFLIX. Would I do it again? Definitely, when it works out to only SGD 425 per person!

Travel Dates: 

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Route Overview: Athens (4N) –> Mykonos (3N) –> Naxos (3N) –> Santorini (3N) –> Milos (3N) –> Athens (1N)

Commuted Via: 4 Ferries and a Domestic Flight from Milos to Athens

Arriving in Athens around 9am, we followed the suggestion of a fellow passenger on our flight to take the bus to get ourselves to the city centre instead of the metro (as suggested based on my online research). X95 bus (Airport to Syntagma) costed us 6E per person for the 45 minute journey. From what I gather, metro tickets cost around 9E and it’s said it be slightly faster. We were not in a rush to get to the city, so we didn’t mind the slightly longer route which let us sightsee Athens.

Travel Tip: X95 runs every 15-20 minutes depending on the season. The bus station is located between between Exit 4 and 5 at the arrivals level of Athens airport. Also, the bus route is available 24 hours a day – 7 days a week. If you are not staying in Syntagma (the heart of Athens), some other bus routes might possibly work for you. For more information, this website will be helpful. 

Eat

The food scene in Athens was so vibrant and bustling that each time we walked past a street in the city, at least one restaurant called out to us, me at least. Our first meal upon touch down in Athens was in Ta Karamanlidika Tou FaniOozing with tradition, style and old world charm, this meze/deli house has won the tick of approval from locals of where to eat in Athens. There is a well-priced menu including hot and cold meze plates, deli meats, aged Greek cheeses and more sizeable dishes too.

Based on recommendation from the waiter we tried their cold cut platter, aubergines & zucchini with feta cheese, greek salad as well as hand-made stuffed vine leaves. Evidently, we got carried away and ordered far too much. Lunch costed us 33.50E. To end of our first meal experience, we got served a complimentary dessert on the house.

During our time in Athens, we had dinner at Tzatziki twice. The exterior of this place was enough to lure me in each time. The bonus was, of course, really affordable and huge portions of gyroz. Refer to the below picture, I surely wasn’t kidding about the size. We brought our friends, the second time we visited Tzatziki, hence the 4 gryoz pictured. Dinner for 2 approximately was just 10E. Major win!

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Walking past Savvas turkish place, stone’s throw away from Monastiraki Station, we knew we had to check it out during our time in Athens especially when it was mentioned by our guide during the Athens free walking tour. Except for the fact, that again we over ordered, Savvas is definitely a must visit for some turkish cuisine while in Athens. This 3-storey building boasts an amazing roof garden with the view of the Acropolis that it is advantageous to visit for dinner with the sun setting at the background. Dinner for 2 was 31.50E.

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Dessert and Drinks

  1. Lukumades – Traditional greek home-made delight

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2. A for Athens – definitely the most popular bar in Athens since it was brimming with people when we dropped by and couldn’t get ourselves seats

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View of Monastiraki and Acropolis from A for Athens

3. Little Kook – very whimsical and quirky cafe, portions are definitely good for sharing

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4. Brettos – the oldest distillery in Greece since 1909 and boasts the world’s famous ouzo in 4 flavours

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Sightsee

If you have time for just one thing to do in Athens, I’d highly recommend signing up for Athens free walking tour! It would you be the best 2.5 hours you have spent. Trust me! The tour guide is usually a local who provides you with so much insight to the things you will be seeing around the city. Something, guide books definitely won’t be providing you with.

There are usually two timings for the tour during summer – 12 noon and 6pm. The 12 noon walking tour starts to give us time to catch the guard change at Syntagma Square which takes place every Sunday at 11am. There are changings every hour in the day, but on Sundays it is the official ceremony with the official costumes.

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The meeting point for walking tour begins at The National Library of Greece and covers the major archaeological sites. The walking route starts with The Academy, continues to The Parliament, Ermou Street (pedestrian only street), Monastiraki flea market, Hadrian Library, Roman Agora, Ancient Agora and concludes at the guide’s secret spot – Retaining wall of Pnyx.

Pnyx hill offers a panoramic view of Athens city with the Acropolis region in the background. Other more popular spots for good views of Athens, would be Filopappou Hill as well as Mt Lycabettus. From my experience, heading to Mt Lycabettus involves a lot of stairs. So, be prepared with comfortable shoes if you heading up to the summit. Also, if you are driving to the Mt, there is a huge open-air parking ground right at the top, before it’s stairs to conquer. Do not make the mistake we did, of being paranoid of not getting a parking lot and parking right at the bottom of the hill, because it really IS a long way up (hill)!

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Roman Agora in it’s full glory

Fun Fact: The literal meaning of the word agora is “gathering place” or “assembly”. The agora was the center of the athletic, artistic, spiritual and political life of the city.

It is recommended to do the walking tour on your first day in the city, as it gives you a great overview on Athens. It also gives you an understanding on the background of the Greek culture and history. After that, exploring the city would be more enjoyable with the knowledge you have gathered. The tour guides usually expect a tip for their time spent but trust me, it is well worth your dollar. On average, a 10E tip per person would go a long way to covering their daily expenses.

We continued the rest of the day exploring the other sites that the walking tour did not cover i.e. Arch of Hadrian, Temple of Zeus and Panathenaic Stadium. We took a break exploring Plaka neighbourhood before we conquered the grounds of Acropolis grounds.

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Plaka neighbourhood – lined with restaurants along pedestrian streets

If you are planning your time to Athens, I would recommend splitting the bigger sites i.e. Acropolis to another day and also to hit the site early in the day before the crowd comes in. And before the mid day sun peeks, staying indoors in Acropolis Museum would be a good idea.

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Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Parthenon

The common misconception that occurs is that people often refer to the above image as Acropolis. In fact, the word Acropolis refers to the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon (pictured above). A spot good for a panaromic view of the city as well as admiring the Parthenon from afar would be Mars Hill. Not too far away from the steps of Parthenon.

Travel Tip: Depending on the time of the year you are in Athens, please check carefully the opening hours of each site if you are planning to enter them. Do note, entrance fees apply for the sites if you are planning to enter them. For students, even if you are not an European, do remember to bring your student card as it allows you entry into the site for half the ticket price. Goes a long way, for sites like Acropolis that cost 20E -30E to enter. For more information on fees as well as opening hours, this website would be helpful. There are also Acropolis combo tickets that cover you entry to 7 sites. 

Another neighbourhood sandwiched between Acropolis and Plaka is Anafiotika. This tiny village gets you incredible views of the city below without throngs of tourists.

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As we were in Athens on 1st of May (Labour Day), we were told the best thing to do is to head to beach as the city is shut due to protests. We, among with most of the locals, headed to the beach stretch in Athens starting from Voula Beach. If you are travelling to Athens, in the same period as I did, do note ferries DO NOT operate on 1st of May. So, planning your schedule accordingly would be beneficial.

Road trips

A very popular and common spot to explore out of Athens city is Cape Sounion. A relatively easy drive (approximately 80km), this site is worth a visit. We squeezed in a trip to Temple of Poseidon right before our flight to catch sunrise. It would be a good half a day trip out of Athens city and it is recommended to rent a car (around 20E-30E for a day) to explore the area outside the city centre.

Another option for a half day trip would be exploring Delphi, nearly 200km away. Delphi was our personal favourite throughout our entire 17 day Greece travel. Taking the route via Elefsina and Thebes (Thiva), would offer more scenic views as opposed to the quicker route of taking the freeway.

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Temple of Athena

In ancient times, Delphi was considered to be the center of the universe and was guarded by a python dragon that was killed by Apollo. The ruins of Temple of Apollo as well as the ancient theater that seated 5,000 spectators and hosted plays, poetry readings, and festivals will blow you away.

Another spot further away from Athens is Meteora. Meteora roughly translates to “suspended in the air” and is home to six active monasteries open to tourists year-round. We did our research before we set off for our travel and picked Delphi over Meteora for the sheer fact we didn’t want to spend about 5 hours (one-way) on the road. And, we couldn’t plan our days such that we could spend a night in Meteora as well. I would suggest staying a night in Meteora if you are planning on visiting this beautiful site otherwise 10 hours on the road to and fro doesn’t seem worthwhile at all. Further information to help you plan your trip to Meteora can be found here.

Stay

Thanks to our mishap in our first Airbnb accomodation (SGD 100/night) near Syntagma, we managed to explore Plaka when we stayed at an alternative apartment our host provided us with. Both neighbourhoods were really good as most sites are within walking distance. The metro system in Athens is quite easy to work around with. Tickets costs 1.40E for 60 minute of travel but do remember to validate them so that you don’t end up with hefty fines.

Ferries

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  1. There is no difference purchasing the tickets from ticket offices in Athens or online way in advance. So it’s better to secure your spots early depending on your preferred time of departure.
  2. Even if you have gotten an email confirmation of your ferry tickets, you have to head down to the ticket office to exchange it for physical tickets. Hence, it is advised for you to book all, if not most, of your ferries from a particular company so that it saves you time from running to multiple ticket offices.
  3. There are plenty of sites online you can use to purchase ferry tickets. Ferryhopper was my personal favourite. 3 of our 4 ferry tickets were bought via Ferryhopper and the last ferry ticket was purchased via Dolphin Hellas because the tickets were cheaper when compared. It is always good to do your homework before your purchase the tickets on any particular site as a 40 minute ferry ride can cost up to 50E.
  4. It is possible to change your timings or departure date as long as you head back down to the ticket office 24 hours before your original departure date and time. Knowing that was really a blessing as we contemplated delaying our arrival in Milos as Santorini blew us away we wanted to have 1 more night amidst the blue domes. But, it’s best to call or email to check if changes are allowed before heading down.
  5. Ferries, more often than not, get delayed, super-delayed some times. We had a really terrible experience while travelling to Mykonos from Athens. Our 2.5 hour ferry ride ended up to be 8 hour ride because the vessel made a turn back to the port due to some technical issues. Who would have thought! So while planning your commute to the islands, do not pack the day you are commuting with many activities and keep it a rather light day.
  6. Among the 2 ferry companies we commuted with, Sea Jets and Blue Star Ferries, I would recommend Blue Star Ferries for a more comfortable ride. Some ferries assign you seats, but when you enter the ferry, literally no one follows the seating number. Even the captains on board, usher you to sit at any sector to get everybody seated fast so that the vessel can take off as planned or without any further delay.
  7. Finally, DO NOT rule out domestic flights as an alternative when commuting between islands. The 4 ferries costed us a whooping 370E for the 2 of us, which averaged out to 46E per ferry ride. That was the amount we paid for our domestic flight to Athens from Milos per person. The only consideration with flights is to ensure your luggage allowance has been catered for.

After spending 4 days in Athens, we were ready to hit our first island – Mykonos! The 4 islands we picked to visit in our maiden trip to Greece were all within the Cyclades islands, which comprises of about 300 islands.

Stay tuned for my next post on Mykonos, the party island and the island of winds!

Till then, efharisto.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

2 nights in Bagan and Mt Popa.

SAM_3577.jpgView of Shwedagon Pagaoda from Vista Bar, 2014

Back in 2014, when my friend and I visited Yangon we only had the chance to travel up to Bago to see the Golden Rock. We told ourselves that some day, we had to revisit to conquer Bagan and a hot air balloon ride had to be checked off the list as well. Nearly 4 years later, we got a chance to revisit this Golden Land again this January.

IMG_9627.JPGShwedagon Pagoda, 2016

We booked our flights on Jetstar for SGD 135 return during a sale last August. True backpacker style, we didn’t purchase check in luggage. Arriving into Yangon just before noon, we had about 7-8 hours to kill before our overnight bus to Bagan. Having seen the highlights of Yangon before, we fuelled up with some Thai at Green Gallery for lunch and chilled at Zephyr Coffee and Restaurant overlooking Inya Lake. Across the lake, you can see the house in which Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi stayed when she was under house arrest.

There are many ways to get to Bagan from Yangon but the most economical would be an overnight bus. We booked our seats via JJ Express in advance and were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable the ride was. The 9 hour ride costed each of us SGD 31. Comfortable seats, option to recline even, blankets provided, enough leg room, mineral water bottles. #manywins

Arriving in Bagan, just before 7am, be prepared to have a group of drivers approach you the minute you step down. These “hardworking people” greet your sleepy faces rather persistently to bring you to a secret spot to see sunrise. We were among the many who got scammed but lucky for us, we partnered another couple to save some costs in transport and it allowed to enjoy a comfortable car ride instead of a cheaper option of a horse cart. If you are pretty knackered from the overnight travel, I’d suggest skipping the sunrise as you’d be able to catch many more amazing sights over the next few days you are staying in town.

Travel Tip: To enter Bagan, a 25,000 Myanmar Kyat archaeological entrance fee is to be paid. It is usually collected when you cross into Bagan at the border. But, if you are not charged at that point, do purchase the ticket at your hotel otherwise the bigger temples in Bagan will sell it. The ticket also acts as your entrance ticket when visiting these temples. 

Temples in Bagan

Shwe Leik Too

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Nicknamed as one of the sunset pagodas, we caught the sunset on the first day in Bagan from this temple.

Ananda Temple – One of Bagan’s best known and most beautiful temples. The name ‘Ananda’ derives from ‘anantapannya‘ the Pali word for ‘boundless wisdom‘.

KVAC1797.JPG2 out of the 4 Buddhas in Ananda Temple

Thatbyinnyu – Tallest temple in Bagan, one of the four temples that survives in Old Bagan

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Pahto-thamya

Mimalaung Kyaung – A nice set of chinthe (half-lion/half-dragon deities) guards the stairway leading up to this small, square monastery platform

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Dhammayangyi – Largest temple in Bagan and was built similar to that of Ananda Temple

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Oak Kyaung Gyi Monastery

XEFT4318.JPGSunset from Oak Kyaung Gyi

To earn the beautiful sunrise view that you have been searching for, you have to climb up the small and dark staircases inside the square monastery. So prepare a torch or headlamp and watch your step.

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Travel Tip: You need a map, sometimes even more than one, to navigate around the temples as more often then not, reception is really poor even if you are travelling with a data sim. 

To cover the plethora of temples within Bagan we got ourselves a guide from a travel store just across our hotel, Zfreeti hotel (SGD 110/night). We paid the guide SGD 35 each to take us around for about 5 hours. We found getting a guide to be helpful as it allowed us to have more insight into details of the temple as well as the myths and legends behind each temple. Would recommend exploring a bit of Bagan on your own with a e-bike as well as spending half day with a guide to get more in-depth knowledge about beautiful Bagan.

Hot Air Balloon Experience

Prior to our arrival in Bagan, we booked ourselves with Golden Eagle Balloon Company about 2 months in advance. As the balloon season in Bagan is from October to April every year, slots get booked up pretty quickly as there are only 3 companies that operate. Balloons over Bagan and Oriental Ballooning are the 2 other companies.

All 3 companies would offer pretty much the same experience as the take off area is the same spot. Depending on the weather conditions and the pilot, your landing spot may differ as such your air time. But apart from that, it is usually 12 people in the basket at one go. For Balloons over Bagan, I gathered it could be up to 16 people. Price wise, when I did my homework, all costed between 290 USD to 300 USD.

Compared to other popular ballooning spots like Cappadocia and Jordan, Bagan is indeed among one of the most expensive ones. However, the tranquility of the one hour ride is quite unparalleled that is was worth every dollar (for me at least). Hopefully, the photos do some justice to my out of the world experience.

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Eats in Bagan

Frankly, Burmese food isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Myanmar. Especially, given the many other Asian options that are available to us in the region. Given our accomodation was at Zfreeti, the restaurant street was less than a 5 minute walk away. Do recommend staying somewhere around there if you are looking to reside in New Bagan.

IMG_2753.JPGOur first meal at Black Bamboo Restaurant

Usual items in the menu that are pretty safe bets are Burmese local curry with fish/chicken, served with rice and seafood fried rice.

Our favourite place in the few restaurants we sampled over the 2 days in Bagan was Weather Spoon’s Restaurant. Serving Thai, local as well as American cuisine, you would quite easily find something that catches your eye when you are browsing their menu. If you are looking to try a local dish, I’d recommend tea leaves salad. It is a mix of flavors and textures that includes soft, pickled tea leaves, crisp, roasted peanuts and other crunchy beans, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic and, if you like, dried shrimp and chopped tomato.

UGBB0107DIY tea leaves salad at a local shop with homemade palm sugar on the drive to Mt Popa

Wonderful Tasty, Rain restaurant and Novel restaurant are some of the other eateries we had meals in while at Bagan. As a general rule of thumb, any restaurant with people dining in, are average places you can consider dining at.

For the 3rd day in Bagan, we checked out of Zfreeti Hotel and headed to Mt Popa for a night. Most people visit Mount Popa as a day trip from Bagan as it’s only about 50km away. However, we decided to spend a night at Popa Mountain Resort (SGD 200/night) to enjoy the view in its fully glory over different times of the day.

IMG_3904Sunset from the pool with Mt Popa at the background

WSKV7216.JPGOur amazing breakfast spread which we kind of starved ourselves for 😂

If you are planning a night at this mountain resort, please bear in mind, it’s literally away from civilisation. So do pack supplies if you are not planning to have all your meals in the restaurant. The resort has transport options to get to the bottom of the hill but it’s fairly expensive so please be well prepared if you do choose to stay. Wifi only works in the resort’s lobby, not even in the pool. So the 1 night stay for us was a break away from people and technology and fully immerse ourselves with each other’s company.

With regards to visiting the Popa Taungkalat monastery itself, you have to tackle the 777 steps to the summit. The monastery is entirely surrounded by sheer cliff faces and offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself. But beware the monkeys! These fellows may look curious and friendly from a distance, but given half a chance they will steal anything they can get their hands on: food, purse or camera! They are highly aggressive so please be careful to take extra precaution.

For us, we skipped our visit to the monastery based on the reviews we read online. When we got to the hotel, it was also too comfortable to leave and venture out. I checked with fellow guests in the hotel who shared similar sentiments as the netizens who posted, that the monastery itself isn’t as beautiful as it appears to be from far. Especially after the tens of temples you have surrounding you in Bagan this monastery pales in comparison when you step foot in it.

All in all, our 1 night at Mt Popa was a good break for our tired feet from the numerous temples we visited in Bagan. Next up, we headed back to Bagan and off we went to Mrauk U.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Great Ocean Road Self Drive!

Having visited the 12 Apostles for the first time back in Nov 2014 while I was travelling on a tour group (Wildlife Tours) to get myself from Melbourne to Adelaide, I told myself I had to be back and visit again on my own with my own 4 wheels. Low be hold, I got a chance to visit back again in July 2016 with then fiance, now husband. 😂

And just last December, in between our days in Tasmania and Perth, the dad wanted to make a drive down Australia’s most scenic coastal drive. Despite this being probably the only coastal drive I have ever done, it will always remain the closest to my heart.

IMG_0549.JPGGeelong town

On route to GOR, there is a seaside town called Geelong, not too far off from Melbourne City. I loved the beach vibes that were going on in Geelong town that I highly recommend stopping by for half day if you aren’t in a rush to visit the 12 Apostles. Please refer to my previous post on Geelong to know what you can expect.

The best recommendation to visit the 12 Apostles would be on a self drive as it gives you the chance to pull over at any spot (safety first though!) for a quick snap. So many breathtaking views along the over 200km coastal drive, you will be literally spoilt for choices!

If you can afford to stay one night, I would recommend you to do so as it helps break up the drive and you also have a higher chance of seeing the same spot in different times of the day.

During 2016, I spent a night at amazing Seafarers Getaway (SGD 230/night), located in Apollo Bay. Was a steep price, but the views more than made up for it.

IMG_0651.JPGView from our balcony at the break of dawn

Last December, since I was travelling in group of 4, I stayed with the family in an airbnb in Apollo Bay for 2 nights (SGD 280/night). Was a good decision to stay for 2 nights as it meant we could do a really leisurely drive. On the first day, we set off from Melbourne past noon, stopped at Geelong for an hour or so, before driving straight to Lorne for dinner before we checked into our accommodation. It allowed us to set off past 11am the next day and have a leisurely picnic lunch by the waters before beginning our GOR adventure proper.

IMG_8385.JPGAsian dinner at Chopstix Noodle Bar, Lorne

IMG_9046The arch commemorates the building of GOR as a memorial to WW1 Victorians

Pitstop #1: Point Danger – really windy area, which has resulted in the trees in the area windswept that they grow in a certain direction

Pitstop #2: Point Addis – impressive ocean, beach and sandstone cliff views toward Bells Beach and Anglesea

Pitstop #3: Anglesea – breathtaking coastal views from elevated memorial lookout

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Pitstop #4: Aireys Inlet – drive or walk up to split point lighthouse, ocean views over eagle and table rocks

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Pitstop #5: Teddy’s Lookout – one of the best along GOR, my personal fav!

Pitstop #6: Mt Defiance – panaromic ocean views toward Artillery Rocks

Pitstop #7: Cape Patton Lookout – spectacular views east towards Apollo Bay and Skenes Creek

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Pitstop #8: Marriners Lookout – fairly steep vantage point (about a 5 minute walk from carpark) but well worth the effort to get to

Pitstop #9: Cape Otway Lightstation – Australia’s oldest working lightstation, offers views of the rugged Otway coast (paid entry, AUD 19.50)

Pitstop #10: The Gables Lookout – magnificent views to Moonlight head, short walk to the lookout platform

This 10 pitstops are enroute the GOR as you are heading towards the 12 apostles. And now, on to the real deal.

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1. Gibson Steps – nice long walk down steps to the beach, you get a view of a few of the apostles from the beach level

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2. 12 Apostles – a collection of limestone stacks that has resulted it in being the most          popular  coastline, the viewing platform is a 5 minute walk from the carpark

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3. Loch Ard Gorge – a photo friendly gorge that allows you to get a dip in the waters

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4. The Arch – another amazing photo point

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5. London Bridge – a rock tragedy that resulted in part of the bridge collapsing into           the ocean

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6. The Grotto – part-blowhole, part-archway, part-cave, my personal fav!

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7. Bay of Martyrs –  a glimpse of the spectacular views, which encompass lush cliff              faces, sprawling beaches, and sparkling waters

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8. Bay of Islands – reserve providing picturesque views from its lookout areas of the          ocean, cliffs & rock stacks

From Bay of Islands, it takes about 3 hours to get yourself back to Melbourne City if you driving straight. So, do plan your visit as you are driving through the GOR. It’s quite usually the case where you underestimate the time taken to visit each stop.

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For lunch, there are a couple of restaurants in Port Campbell. Unfortunately, Karoa Restaurant, that I visited back in 2016 has been permanently closed. Such a pity as their food was so delicious!

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 5.17.54 PMOverview of our self drive route

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Perth, not quite the same.

Having visited Perth more than a decade ago, visiting my dad’s old friend was a perfect excuse for us to stop for a few days in the city, on our way back to Singapore from Tassy. I didn’t step into Perth with too much expectations to be honest, as I have been told it is very similar to Singapore, even in terms of the weather. Oh boy!

But, I have to say, I was blown away by the cafe scene in Perth. I still recall the numerous good eats over the 4 nights I spent in Perth. We put up at an airbnb in Bull Creek (SGD 170/night), not too far away from the city centre. Renting a car in Australia is always the best way to move around. Since there were 4 of us, we rented a Camry for AUD 200 for the time we were there. It allowed us to venture all the way down south to Sugarloaf Rock, 300km away!

We arrived late in the night at around 10pm in Perth via our Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne. On a sale, the fare costed each of us AUD 200.

FOOD

Day 1 brunch at Duotone

Despite having not a very extensive menu, Duotone offered a couple of interesting fit bowls like spiced vege bowl and poke doke which piqued our interest to pop in for a meal. Definitely didn’t disappoint!

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IMG_8332 2Day 3 brunch at Port City Roasters

This cafe is one of the more popular ones in town so be prepared for some bustling action when you enter. More often than not, you got to end up waiting for a table. Ours was a slightly longer wait since it was a Sunday. Their breakfast spread is one with the usual suspects like eggs benedict and french toast but with a twist. Port City Roasters, as the name suggests, is home their very own in house roasted coffee. For coffee lovers, you’d enjoy Port City Roasters a little more for this reason.

We had another quick brunch on the morning of flight back to Singapore at Sayers Sisters. The waterfront at Freemantle is another spot lined with many eateries. We made a quick pitstop at Kailis’ Fish Market Cafe to have some good ol’ fish and chips before concluding our Australia adventure in Perth.

ROADTRIPS

IMG_1373Crawley Edge Boatshed aka Blue Boat House

Apart from the usual spots in Perth city to visit, 2 spots worth driving out to would be The Pinnacles and Sugarloaf Rock. The former is north of the city centre and the latter is South of it as mentioned earlier. However, we managed to squeeze in time to do both in our 3.5 days in Perth.

IMG_1446.JPGThreatening skies during our visit there

The Pinnacles are limestone formations within Nambung National Park and is the most popular day trips offered by tour companies when you are in Perth. It’s quite amazing to see the beauty of nature and to marvel at how these formations have evolved over decades due to the forces of natural elements. It is quite easy to drive through the desert admiring the formations as there is a path you can follow. As long as you stick to that, you and your car will be okay.

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Our drive took us slightly over 2 hours for the 190km. But instead of heading to the Pinnacles directly we drove past it, to Cervantes town, for a finger licking awesome lunch at Lobster Shack.

IMG_8336.JPGHalf grilled lobster with either chips and coleslaw or fried rice

Our meal for 4 costed us AUD 163 but the lobsters were so good, we couldn’t resist.

Another slightly longer road trip out of Perth City would be driving to Sugarloaf Rock through Busselton town. I had heard such good reviews from my friends who visited just couple of months back, that I had to force the family to join me in checking it out. But, a pity, the weather that day was not good at all. It was pouring cats and dogs when we pulled into Busselton. We stopped to have a bite at The Goose Beach Bar hoping the skies would clear but we were not in luck. Was a terrible weather to be at Sugarloaf Rock as the winds were beyond crazy.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4ea8.jpgMy could have been view of Sugarloaf Rock (Pic credit, Anitha)

Perth was definitely a relaxing leg of the trip, after a week in Tasmania and a couple of days in Melbourne. It definitely was very different from my younger memories of Perth that consisted largely of homestays and kangaroos. Like I have always said, you can never leave a city feeling the same, even if you have step foot in it before.

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Tassy, you are your own beauty.

Last December, the sister’s graduation in Melbourne was a perfect chance for yet another family holiday. Having visited most parts of Australia across the 5 of us before, Tasmania seemed like a perfect bet to spend a week travelling. Return tickets for 6 of us with 80kg luggage on Jetstar costed us about AUD 100 per person, which was not bad at all, especially since we were travelling in December.

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This was our route for the trip. There is still so much of Tasmania to see that 1 week definitely wasn’t enough. But, I guess, we did the best we could. Tasmania is a country that you definitely need a car to get around. It gives you flexibility to stop and stare the beauty right out of your window as you are driving. For the 6 of us, we rented 2 cars via Bargain Car Rentals for slightly less than SGD 500.

Our flight landed us in Hobart at 8pm. And true to what people had warned us about Tassy, it felt like we landed ourselves in a ghost town. Nothing was open, hardly any human activity. Plus, it didn’t help that it was raining at that hour. I guess I am still very thankful we managed to get ourselves some hot food at a nearby lodge a stone throw away from the airport.

Our first agenda when day arrived was to visit Coles Bay, which was 170km from the airport. As such, we broke up the drive by spending the night at an airbnb in Spring Beach (SGD 200/night) . It was a really basic cabin house which was good enough to spend the night in. When morning came we checked out, had a quick breakfast at Gateway Cafe and headed straight to Coles Bay – our first stop for the trip. But, before that some wine tasting and oysters at Devil’s Corner Cellar Door awaited.

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Coles Bay is the main entrance point for visitors to stop by before heading to the Freycinet National Park. It was the same for us, except we decided to get lunch at Coles Bay town first. Highly recommend dining at Geographe Restaurant and Espresso Bar. We fuelled up with some amazing pizzas before driving to Wineglass Bay Lookout at Freycinet National Park.

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Starting from the Wineglass Bay Car Park, the wineglass bay lookout is about a 1 to 1.5hour return trek that offers a spectacular view of Great Oyster Bay. I would rate the trek as moderate difficulty, so as long as you have comfortable shoes you would be alright. The scenic trek takes you through giant granite boulders as pictured below.

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After working out a sweat, our next stop was Bicheno. But, before that, we stopped by to have some ice cream at this quirky little cafe, The Pondering Frog, en route. True to it’s name apart from serving ice cream, there are plenty of frog collectibles in the store. After a short drive, we reached Bicheno. Home to a blowhole marvel and amazing fish and chips!

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IMG_8195Finger licking good seafood basket, AUD 31

We retired for the night at our airbnb at St Helen’s (SGD 360/night) which was a really spacious cottage with a huge living/kitchen area.

Day 2 in Tasmania begun with Bay of Fires! One of the highlights for the trip!

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This slice of coastal heaven that is the Bay of Fires stretches over 50 kilometres from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north. This beautiful part of Tasmania’s east coast has been named by Lonely Planet as the hottest travel destination in the world, and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Australia.

Our next pitstop for the day was Pyengana Dairy Company. A heaven for cheese lovers! Plenty of cheese to sample and a little cafe nests within the acres of greenery.

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We did a quick pit stop at Scottsdale for lunch before our next highlight for the trip – Bridestowe Lavender Farm. We made it just in time to join the farm tour that took us through the process of hand-picking the lavender seeds to the various uses of lavender today. It was a pity that it wasn’t full into flower season yet as we arrived early in December. We were told that in about 1-2 weeks the fields would be so much prettier to wander through. So if you can, please time your visit to the farm well to catch it in it’s full glory. Entry to the farm is AUD 10 per person during flower season.

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IMG_0423Everything lavender at the gift store 

I still remember the smell of lavender lingering long after stepping out of the gift store. Aaaaahhh.

After the lavender farm, we drove right to our accommodation in Launceston. This time round we didn’t end up with an Airbnb but instead booking ourselves a nice apartment in the golf course – Country Club Villas (SGD 320/night).

IMG_8216.JPGDinner for the night at Stillwater 

The following day, we checked out of the Country Villas and headed to Cataract Gorge. A true beauty of nature within Launceston. There is a walking path that takes you through the entire stretch of the gorge.

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Another option is taking the chairlift to have a bird’s eye view of the gorge as well. One way rides cost AUD 12 per person.

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We spent the rest of the day exploring Launceston after lunch at Pierre’s. Highly recommend checking Pierre’s out for a meal if you are in town.

IMG_0559.JPGPoached prawn + spanner crab + white fish + potato hash brown + wilted spinach + preserved lemon + hollandaise

IMG_0567.JPGOld Umbrella Shop in Launceston

Day 3 was pretty chill as the next day we were headed to Cradle Mountain, which also meant a hike awaited us. Our home for the next 2 nights was an airbnb in Sheffield (SGD 390/night), about 50km from Cradle Mountain, which was nothing short of AMAZINGNESS. Hands down the best accommodation for the trip! Despite the accommodation being in the middle of nowhere, the place makes you never wanna leave.

We spent a lot of time indoors enjoying the quiet and having quality time over home cooked meals, which was a good breather after a hectic past few days. The next day we did the Dove Lake trek in Cradle Mountain.

32F85ED8-1DA7-4396-8F59-77E8B12FA172.JPGVictory faces having conquered the 6km trek in 10 degrees

There are plenty of shorter and longer routes within Cradle Mountain. Camping within the grounds is also an option, like most national parks in Australia. Within the Cradle Mountain, there is a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary, that you can visit if you are looking to take a break from the outdoors.

The next morning, we checked out of the wonderful retreat and made our way down towards Hobart. Our final 2 nights in Tasmania before it was back to Melbourne for us.

On the drive down to Hobart, we stopped at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe. All sorts of food with raspberry was on the menu as well as homemade jams to sample before purchasing.

After 4 full days of touring the wilderness and nature around Tasmania, arriving in Hobart felt like reality had hit that the trip had ended.

IMG_0743.JPGLunch at Room for a Pony, Hobart

If you have time for only 2 things in Hobart it has got to be – Salamanca Markets as well as Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

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Do note, Salamanca Markets are open only on Saturdays from 8.30am to 3.00pm. As for MONA, I’d suggest setting aside at least half a day to wonder through the different exhibitions on display. Adult tickets cost AUD 28 but it’s well worth it.

IMG_8224.JPGFinal dinner at a greek restaurant, Mezethes

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Having visited many parts of Australia before – Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Perth, Tasmania was something different. There was so much untouched wilderness to see and immerse in. It was literally beauty in every corner. The long drives were so therapeutic to unwind from the busyness of life. Take me back (soon)!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Koh Samui, another paradise.

Good Friday meant another perfect window to slot in another travel. And this time round another beach destination on my list was on the horizon. The major setback with getting to Koh Samui is that there are no direct non-budget flights despite it being an under 2 hour flight. Many travellers come to the island via Bangkok. I didn’t have much choice being on a time crunch to fly via Bangkok Airways. Tickets costed me SGD 400 each despite booking my tickets nearly 6 months early.

Arriving in Koh Samui Airport felt like visiting a golf resort. We got fetched from the plane in buggies to the arrival gates which were little huts. Definitely chill vibes from the minute you land in Koh Samui.

We got ourselves 3 day SIM Cards with unlimited data for 100 THB. How awesome! I don’t think I can ever go back to travelling without Google Maps.

We picked up our motorbike which was 250 THB per day from the airport and headed right to our Villa. Many villas/resorts in the island offer daily spa treatments along with the room. Ours was no different – Villa Nalinnadda. For 3 nights, we paid SGD 450 for all inclusive breakfast, daily 60 minute treatment in the in-house spa room, as well as a jacuzzi in our balcony that faces the sea. Good deal? Definitely think so! Our villa was about a 20 minute motorbike ride to popular area, Chaweng. But, we didn’t mind as our villa was 10/10.

IMG_7310The view from our villa balacony

Koh Samui is a less visited beach destination of Thailand in my opinion, largely due to the fact budget airlines do not commute to the paradise (yet). As such, a lot of honeymooners flock to the island all year round.

Truth be told, having visited so many beaches in Asia, the ones in Koh Samui definitely didn’t wow me. The popular beaches in Koh Samui would be – Mae Nam, Chaweng as well as Lamai. Apart from Maenam, the other two are relatively more popular among tourists due to the location of them near usual spots people stay around. There was plenty of action both at Maenam and Lamai when we visited. From water sports ranging from jetski to banana boat to flyboarding as well as lounging on deck chairs, you will end up spending more hours than you had planned for in the beach.

Apart from the beaches, if you are on a time crunch, 2 places I highly recommend worth a visit are – Beach Republic and The Jungle Club!

Beach Republic is ranked probably one of the top few beach clubs around the island. As we rode past it multiple times during our days on the island, we had to pop in to check it out! And, I must say, the vibes of the place blew me away. There was a minimum spend of 1000 THB per person. Like us, if you end up lazing your afternoon away, it is worth it. We hit the minimum spend quite easily with their seafood platter for 2 and a few beers.

IMG_7421.jpgDeck chairs/cabana: Check, Pool: Check, Sea: Check, Music: Check

After a day in the beach, soaking in Vitamin D, if you wanna escape into some nature and wilderness, The Jungle Club would be your best bet. While searching on a place with good views in the island, this place kept popping up on my searches. Despite the tough ride on dirt road, this place is a must-visit! It is also possible, if you require the resort to come get you from the bottom of the hill. They charge a nominal fee of around 200 THB for their transport.

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3 tiers of bamboo decks with beanbags as chairs overlooking the entire coast of the island. Bliss! It was a pity we made The Jungle Club our stop during our final day on the island. Would have definitely loved to hang there longer.

I can’t decide which ranks higher for me, Beach Republic or The Jungle Club. But, I’m glad we squeezed in time for both over our 3 nights in Koh Samui.

For authentic local Thai food, 2 of the places we dined at were hits (at least for us). Haad Bang Po Seafood Restaurant, close to Mae Nam served very good steamed fish. I suppose this review was not inaccurate at all! Considering the location of the restaurant being far away from the main area, it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. How perfect! Check out our drone capture while waiting for lunch!

Another local eatery we kept driving past was Eat Easy Restaurant. A very humble, fuss free dining option for some authentic Thai. Thai fish cakes, green curry chicken, steamed squid in garlic and chilli and mango sticky rice concluded our final meal on the island before we headed back to the villa to get our bags and off we went to the airport.

Thailand, I discovered another part of you and you still very much remain to be my favourite destination in Asia to visit. I hope to visit you again before the year ends. Till then.

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All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.

Ready, Set, Go, HK!

Despite Hong Kong being a real short 2 night trip for us, I must say it was truly a blast! They say you can never see a country the same way twice and it was really the case for me. It felt like a totally different country I was stepping into compared to my last visit back in November 2012.

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Although the agenda for the trip was food and a hike. We ended up just eating and shopping. Well, in our defence, the poor weather was to blame. It’s definitely not an understatement when you hear people saying Hong Kong is a food paradise. Locals and tourists alike flock to get a table even if entails a waiting time. It’s easily a 30 minute wait at most places. Another concept you have to embrace when in Hong Kong, would be the idea of communal dining. It’s almost always you are sharing the same table with strangers and sometimes you end up having a stranger right across you. If you are lucky, it’s at least a 1m spacing, mind you.

Transport and SIM Matters

The transport in Hong Kong is very well developed and easy to accustom yourself to even for first timers. From the Airport, we got ourselves a MTR Pass which included 2-way Airport express for 350 HKD (about SGD58). The validity for the pass was 3 days, which was sufficient for us.

Before my travel, I bought myself a 1.5GB SIM via KLOOK for SGD 7. It was really useful as travel these days, unfortunately, relies a lot on Google Maps to bring you places.

Dim Sum 

Having landed in Hong Kong close to 2pm, we headed straight with our luggage for a late dim sum lunch at the famous One Dim Sum at Prince Edward. It was about a 20 minute wait before we got ourselves a table for 2.

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A stone’s throw away is another popular Dim Sum place, Famous Dim Sum. Following the theory of the more crowded a shop is the better the food is, we stuck to our wait at One Dim Sum. I found the variety of dim sum that was offered pretty limited as opposed to the options we had back in Singapore. But, however, there is no competition when it came to the quality and size of the meat. The prawns and meat portion were sizeable as well so succulent.

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Expected damage: HKD 113 for 2

Ramen

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I daresay, the dinner at the end of first day, at Butao Ramen at their Tsim Sha Tsui outlet, was hands down the best meal in our trip, for me at least. You get to customise nearly every aspect of the dish from garlic to oil level to noodle texture etc.

To begin with you have 4 options to choose from for the choice of ramen as well as on lucky days, you have an option called limited edition as well. No surprise, it had run out by the time we got there for dinner.

1) Butao King 豚王: the original, with a tonkotsu pork bone broth
2) Green King 翠王: an Italian inspired pesto, basil and Parmesan cheese ramen
3) Black King 黑王: a tonkatsu squid ink broth
4) Red King 赤王: a spicy miso broth

This bowl of goodness was perfect comfort food for the soul especially after our rather bad experience of the Symphony of Light show. It didn’t help that the sky was so foggy.

Again, relatively close by to Butao Ramen is another more popular ramen shop, Ichiran. This post compares both Butao and Ichiran for those of you undecided on which ramen store would better suit your palette. Given that I was fully satisfied with my bowl of goodness at Butao, I gave Ichiran a miss this time round.

Expected damage: HKD 263 for 2

Wanton Noodle

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Everyone is familiar with Mak’s Noodle at Jordan. However, we missed original, one-star Michelin Star Mak’s Noodle and landed ourselves few stores away at Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop instead. This is literally right next to Australian Diary Co, which has a queue of at least 15 people at any time of the day, so it’s quite hard to miss this.

Again, some reviews claim that Mak Man Kee Noodles are better than the original Mak’s Noodle. But, we were not too fussed that we learnt we ended up at the “wrong” noodle shop at the end of our late lunch. As hard as it is, you have got to pace yourselves in Hong Kong as there is literally something good to try at every corner. We swung by a dessert store for some sugar rush after our light lunch at Mak Man Kee Noodle’s.

Expected damage: HKD 157 for 2

Australian Diary Co. 

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This place definitely was better than I expected it to be because when I first chanced by it enroute to Mak’s Noodle I wondered to myself “how good can eggs on toast taste that people don’t mind queuing for it.” But, low behold, the next day (which was also the last day in HK) I dragged the husband for breakfast. Let’s just say, you’ll tolerate communal dining as well as rude waiters who pounce within seconds when your plate is empty to help clear them for you, just to have a good start to the day. At least, I didn’t mind. Added bonus, amazing milk tea!

Expected damage: HKD 80 for 2

Japanese

Thanks to the staff at Urban Coffee Roasters (next up!) our craving for Japanese for fulfilled on the last day for lunch. He recommended this joint (Hokkaido Katsu) which was nothing too fancy but high quality sushi and sashimi which was rather affordable.

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Expected damage: HKD 170 for 2

Alternative Dining 

Grassroots Pantry is a rather high end restaurant that serves fully vegetarian plates with a totally different twist. Some of the dishes on the menu include popcorn “chicken”, pulled jackfruit nachos and dragon maki roll. Wasn’t the most enjoyable meal for the trip but it was definitely refreshing on our taste buds, having had meat for every meal in our time in Hong Kong.

Coffee and Drinks

Having done my homework before the trip, I planned on checking out Urban Coffee Roasters for their speciality coffee as the husband is a huge coffee enthusiast. I planned it such that a good cup of coffee would help kickstart our fitness for the trip. But, turns out, as I mentioned earlier, the weather diverted our plans to staying indoors.

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Nothing fancy on the menu for food, the coffee is the real deal. Another joint we checked out was The Cupping Room located near Central. There are more food options in The Cupping Room so for the non coffee enthusiasts, don’t miss checking this one out.

There a plenty of bars that have opened up, especially around Central, but we only had one to check out over our 2 nights in HK. The Iron Fairies! I’ll let photos to do talking about this whimsical underground bar.

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Shopping

If you have only time for to visit one market, Ladies Market has to be your choice! From bags to electronics to toys the market has nearly everything for every age group. The bulk of our first day was spent frequenting the Ladies Market. Our hotel, S Hotel Yau Ma Tei, was about a 10 minute walk to the Market. Temple Street Night Market located at Mong Kok is another popular one. However, do note, it’s a night market so arriving after 8pm would be your best bet to see the market in it’s full glory. Here’s a list of the best 9 markets in Hong Kong for the shopping enthusiasts.

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Aside from markets, Mong Kok area has a plethora of electronics stores as well as sports stores. We frequented the area twice in the 3 days we had in Hong Kong.

Hike

For my next trip to Hong Kong, conquering the Lion’s Rock is in my to-do list. Hopefully,  our travel dates coincide with good weather. This guide has full details on what to expect during the hike. Another popular hiking trail is the Dragon’s Back. Some day soon I shall conquer you (both).

There were a couple of websites that helped me planned my food trail though HK. So, passing it on folks.

  1. http://www.tommyooi.com/must-eat-food-in-hong-kong/ 
  2. https://www.tripzilla.com/places-we-ate-hong-kong-food-guide/45682
  3. https://migrationology.com/hong-kong-food-guide/ 
  4. https://anakjajan.com/2017/06/28/hong-kong-food-guide-what-to-eat-in-hong-kong/
  5. https://chinchaijiak.wordpress.com/good-food-the-must-eat-in-hong-kong/

Till then, eat your way though Hong Kong guys!

All images belong to Solosingaporean unless otherwise credited for. Please give credit where it’s due.