Saturday, 29 October 2011

What Made Me Stay in Bangkok for Five Days

Arrived in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport one afternoon from Osaka.

I have cruised the Chao Phraya river, enjoyed the food in the Floating Restaurant, purchased souvenirs in the Floating Market, and wandered the city of Bangkok to see the temples and all things nice. These happened in just 5 days. Read on and find out how.

It was my second trip to Bangkok, the first being 6 years back, and just as exciting as the first. 

One of Bangkok's Military Formation
I will always cherish our time together with our new Thai friends Denchai and Kwan. A very pleasant and hospitable couple. I met them in Osaka which was the first leg of my Asian tour.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Where in Malaysia Do You Want to Go? - Kuala Lumpur!


Are you getting ready for a visit to Kuala Lumpur?

Then, you are in the right place at the right time!

I have visited Kuala Lumpur and I want to share memories of this sprawling metropolis, a huge city that you will remember for a long time.

KL as it is known in the region, has transformed itself from absolutely nothing to a gleaming city with modern skycrapers and distinct local flavour.



Petronas Twin Towers


It is just amazing!  

On the other side of the landscape KLCC park, loom the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and its surroundings. It is just a magnificent work of art. I believe the twin towers is the most visited spot in the city. Surrounded by hotels, office buildings, parks and dancing fountainsI have seen it during the day and admired with the lights during the night. Sit and enjoy watching.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Jumping Norman of Arizona U.S.A.

1. Featured Traveller


 JumpingNorman
Anaesthesiologist 
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A. 


"When travelling, I do not dress to impress, but dress to be comfortable but still look good in pictures"

In spite of his busy schedule as a physician, Norman always has the time to wander around the globe.  He has, so far made it to more than 50 countries and still counting.

JumpingWife - JumpingDaughter - JumpingSon - JumpingNorman
He's been to North America, Central America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East.  Norman started travelling on his own when he was 16 years old, with a solo trip to Hongkong from the Philippines where he was living with his grandfather.  During his late teens, he decided to visit his parents and sisters who were living in the U.S.A.  From then on, he travelled back and forth between the States and the Philippines every year until he finished Medicine at a university in the Philippines.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Macit of Istanbul Turkey



2. Featured Traveller

 Macit
Retiree : Traveller
Istanbul, TURKEY


"A candle loses nothing if it is used to light another one ~ Mevlana"

There is so much to write about Macit when it comes to his travels. His profession requires travelling, and that was before he retire. He had the chance to visit half of the world and explore even the smallest village of his country. 

Don't get me wrong - Macit did not stop wandering. He continues his journey to countries you may not think of going.  Now that he is retired, he wants to realize his dream to tour the world --- this time with the use of his car. Wow, that is exciting, I told him.  

Well, he said, "maybe that is only a dream and I may not have the chance to make it, but --- even dreaming is a good motivation to start."  Good luck Macit.  I am sure you can do it!
The two continents in Istanbul


Although English is not his mother tongue, I can say that he is a linguist of some sort. Aside from his Turkish language, he can speak French, Italian, and Spanish.

For his hobbies, he is interested in sailing and motorcycling. And mind you, whenever he is in Istanbul, he travels from Asia to Europe, everyday, twice.  Wow, that is interesting!


For the knowledge of our fellow travellers and those who have not been to Istanbul --- it is the largest city of Turkey and the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents, Europe and Asia.

Emirgan Grove


"Every tourist have their own preference in exploring Istanbul. Some tourist do not want to go too far. 

If that is the case, Emirgan Grove is the right place.  It is in the middle of the city in the European side of the Bosphorus.  Have a sandwich and a tea when you are hungry. That would be enough when you go to the grove --- though there is a good area to picnic," says Macit.

Macit used to spend all his summer holidays in Heybeli where his mother lives.  The island is only 45 minutes from the city if you travel by boat.

Heybeli Sunset

The Princes' Islands are a chain of nine islands off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara.

These islands are Büyükada (Greek: Prinkipo, meaning "Prince") with an area of 5.36 km².

Heybeliada (Greek: Halki) with an area of 2.4 km².

Burgazada (Greek: Antigoni) with an area of 1.5 km².

Kýnalýada (Greek: Proti,meaning "The First", being the closest island to Istanbul) with an area of 1.3 km².

Sedef Adasý (Greek: Terebinthos) with an area of 0.157 km².

Yassýada (Greek: Plati) with an area of 0.05km².

Sivriada (Greek: Okseia) with an area of 0.05km².

Kaþýk Adasý (spoon island, named for its shape) with an area of 0.006 km².

and Tavþan Adasý( greek:Leandros) with an area of 0.004 km². 

Wow, that is far too many islands to go around. There is no traffic on the islands though. Cart driven by a horse is the way to move around.

They are incredibly peaceful as compared to the city of Istanbul. The islands are just a short ferry ride from both the Asian (at Bostancý and also Kartal) and European sides (from Sirkeci/Eminönü, Kabataþ and Yenikapý) of Istanbul.

Ciragan Palace - Istanbul
Now, Macit will take us to the Ciragan Palace.

The ceilings and the interior partitions are made of wood, the walls are covered by marble. The columns are superior examples of stonemasonry.


Generally, the palace was lavishly decorated with rare and expensive carpets, gilded pieces and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Like any other palaces on the shores of the Bosphorus, the Ciragan had been the venue of important meetings. Macit used to swim in the shores of the palace when he was young.


The palace was built in 1871 but was burned down in 1910 and because only the outer walls were left intact, it was used and served as a football stadium for many years -- some of those years Macit plays football in the facilities.


In the late 80s, the ruined palace was bought by a Japanese corporation and was turned into a luxury suites.  A renovation done in 2007 resembles the authentic palace with baroque style and soft colours.  

Dalia Beach - Istanbul
Though there are beaches in Istanbul, it is not easy to have a swim in the city.  Most of the swimmers has to go to the Black Sea Coast.

Dalia is one of best beaches which is situated between Kilyos and Demircikoy. It is a private upscale family club with an excellent fish restaurant, with emphasis in seafood, and a cafe that offers traditional Turkish fare. The place is for nature lovers who believe a day at the beach should be relaxing and tranquil.


Polish Village

Now, let us go try the lighter side of Istanbul.

Let us have a glimpse of the Polish village called Polonezkoy. A very pretty place on the Beykoz-Sile road on the Asian side.

For the information of our fellow travellers, Polonezkoy was founded by settlers from Poland who took political asylum in the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.  It offer the visitors the natural beauty and fresh air though it is mushroomed with restaurants, motels, and pension houses to comply to the intensive tourism demand.


You can picnic and taste the Polish food prepared by the handful Polish locals of the village and have some fun in strolling afterwards. Sports enthusiast visits in the spring and summer times, while the hunting excursionists come at winter time.



Grand Covered Bazaar - Istanbul
Let's head out to the bazaars.

You must have heard of the big Egyptian bazaar and Grand covered bazaar in Istanbul. The covered bazaar is a 'must see in Istanbul'. You don't want to miss the ancient history of this structure. It houses mosques, hamams, fountains, restaurants and cafes.  The complex consists of 12 buildings and you won't believe it.....22 doors!

You are now coming to the Spice Market or the Egyptian Market.  It is filled with the fragrance of the exotic East.  Spices, dried fruits, nuts and seeds.


Though you will experience some hassle with the shop owners especially street sellers, you will also find all kinds of stuff varying from silk carpets, leather coats, and the most popular Turkish delights. 


As we are tired exploring the city, let's go and eat our early dinner. We will try either the Villa Bosphorus or the Zeyrekhane Restaurants.

The former is an example of a resto frequented by the local people. It is situated in the first village in Bosphorus called Beylerbeyi just after the Ataturk bridge on the Asian side. It will be an amazing experience with the food; fish/seafood followed by chicken and lamb kebab but oven-baked helva is the most famous.


Try it if you happen to be in that area, but let me tell you that there are quite a few bad reviews addressed to this restaurant especially if they are busy and more customers are coming.  Check reviews before heading out.


Sultanahmet Camii Blue Mosque - Istanbul

Here is another restaurant, Zeyrekhane which means 'wisdom house'. A restored house just in front of Pantocrator Monastery atop the Byzantine walls. An extraordinary resto with all the original or genuine decoration that becomes the destination choice for few foreign visitors. The interior is all cool stone and enormous brick. The ambiance in a semi-circular terrace is perfect considering the romantic view of the city in the evening, although the reviews recommend a lunch than a dinner.

You should not miss the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or most famous for the name Blue Mosque situated in the centre of the city. In Istanbul, the Turkish call this place of worship as the Sultanahmet Camii.  Its design is the culmination of two centuries of both Ottoman mosque and Byzantine church development. Though it is still used as a mosque for most of the locals, it is becoming a popular 'must see' tourist attraction.

A good view of the mosque can be seen from the Sultanahmet Square, close to Hagia Sophia.


The exterior looks great with the facade of the forecourt.


The interior is lined with thousands of ceramic tiles in tulip designs.



Villa Bosphorus Restaurant

For your shopping spree, Macit would like to show you a new 4-storey open air shopping mall that opened its door in 2006.  It is the best place to shop as it can easily be reached using the metro line coming from Taksim Square. It is located at the Levent district of Istanbul.

Take the Metro and when you are at the Levent Station, it means you are already at the Kanyon Shopping Mall. Shop until you drop at the 160 shops!



As we are tired going around those historical places in Istanbul, let us now go for a Turkish bath.

We will now proceed to one of the best hamams of Istanbul. Talking of the best, let Macit guide us to Cagaloglu Hamami.


This hamam was built in 1714, the records indicate. Very impressive and historical building that is. It has separate sections for men and women, and open everyday.


Not all who'd been to this hammam liked it though. They said it is expensive for a session at 50 Euros or even more depending on the package.


Oh well, that is real expensive! Some say that if you are after the experience, then try it.


You can have the full Turkish massage experience --- deep massage, vigorous soap exfoliation, and hair wash.  Isn't that nice!



Mini Buses in Istanbul
Tramway in Istanbul
Though it is not that easy for a tourist to understand the transportation system in Istanbul, Macit is giving a heads up of the many ways of moving around.

You can either take a bus, a metro, tramway, light railway, nostalgic tramway, funicular (local people call it tunnel), city boats that was organized by the municipality for easier water transport in the city.


You will also see privately owned yellow cab and mini buses. There you go fellow travellers!  Just one piece of advice, if you are taking a taxi, write the name and address of your destination and show it to the driver to avoid losing your way.


There is some challenge with the language as most of the local people do not speak and understand English.


There you have it my fellow travellers. Just when you are ready to fly to Istanbul, send me a message.


I will help you make your stay in Turkey safe and memorable.


From the desk of: 
Freddie Miranda
A blogger and a Canada-based freelance writer. He shares the value of his travel experiences and discoveries with his friends and fellow travellers. Share your passion, join and visit him. Send a message @ fromatravellersdesk(at)gmail(dot)com.

Are you a traveller who would like to share your travel story with our blog and our readers?  Then, I'd love to hear from you!
Please email me at fromatravellersdesk@gmail.com

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Watch for these blogs! 
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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Discovering the Many Colours of Alexandria

I love Alexandria – there is no doubt about it.  

Our stay in the city is truly memorable. This is one place my family will keep on coming back.

Train in Alexandria
Alex (that is how my local friends call the city) is a modern and the second largest city in Egypt.  History tells us that it was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. and was the setting for the stormy relationship of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

I like travelling by train that is why I visited Alexandria from Cairo. 

The distance between the two cities is 225 kilometres.  I spent almost three hours on the train but not bored while I enjoy the scenery along  the way.  Seats are comfortable and inside the train is spacious especially for the first class passengers.

My trip was made possible with the help of my host Karim whom a I met in a traveller's website with million members few months back.  He came to the main train station to pick us up. As soon as I get off I saw him carrying a placard with my name.  I was very impressed especially when he told me that he will show us around the whole day and the rest of the night. 

Stanley Bridge in Corniche Road in Alexandria
We went straight to Stanley Bridge in Corniche and spent an hour admiring the towers that highlighted its physical beauty. The artistic design and fine craftsmanship of the tower made it an extravagant feature that adds to the beautiful view of the harbour of the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean is what made Alexandria famous. It is awesome! You will be amazed sitting and watching on the shore. The refreshing air gave us a very good impression of the city.  Along the Corniche is a long line of extraordinary high walls carved with coloured art, or shall I say murals.? These were so detailed that the creator of this kind of works must have an inspiration.

Murals/Carvings along Corniche Road in Alexandria
Just a piece of advice while wandering around Stanley bridge. 

I do not think you dare drive in Alexandria. Although it is not as worse as Cairo, but still the rules on the road is not followed. 

I am writing this warning not to offend anyone but to give an idea especially to tourist, not to cross the street in Corniche Road. I came in the morning at around half past nine and only few cars passed by. 

During rush hour, you will have no guts to try jaywalk on this street. The number of cars is approximately ten times the number in the morning. 

I admire my host, he is an excellent driver, he is from Alexandria. If you are not from this place, do not drive and do not cross the street - use the underground path.

Bibliotheque Library in Alexandria
We pass along Bibliotheca, a library which was inaugurated in the year 2002 which I learned became a special event as it was attended by dignitaries from around the world. It is located on the east side of the Corniche and the former site of the old library. It is more than a library -- so they say!  

It has museums, a planetarium, research centres, art galleries, and conference centres. If you are using public transport, you make take a tram and ask the driver to drop you in Shatby tram station.

Abu el-Abbas el-Mursi Mosque in Alexandria
We pass along the Abu el-Abbas el-Mursi Mosque. Very historic and beautiful.  This Andalusian-style mosque is the largest in the city situated in Al-Anfushi on Mosque Square overlooking the eastern harbour.  It has four domes and a very tall minaret.  

Women cannot visit the mosque itself but can visit the mausoleum and view the interior of the mosque from behind a barrier.

Qaitbay Citadel in Alexandria
Then we headed to the Qaitbay Citadel at the entrance of the eastern harbour on the eastern point of Pharos Island. It is on the site of the ancient lighthouse that was destroyed by earthquakes in the 14th century.  

It is nice to watch the people of all ages, locals and tourists alike are frequenting and admiring the beauty of this wonder.  Very interesting!

Egyptian Girls at Fort of Qaitbay in Alexandria
We are now on our way to discovering the Fort of Qaitbay

We went around and I must tell you that the view is fascinating.  Local people are lined up on the streets selling their wares which are purely local. Walking is fun in Alexandria.  Oh yes, I have seen people; the local young boys and girls, some of whom have their parents with them. They are very friendly and comfortable talking to us.

I can also say that Alexandria has many colours.  From the dresses that the Egyptian women wear and so with the flowers surrounding the mosque near the fort of Qaitbay.

Small Fishing/Passenger Boats in Alexandria
Alexandria is the primary port of Egypt.  

There is a place in Alexandria for small boats to dock at the seashore.  Most of the small boats are used for fishing and some are used in transporting passengers on short distances.  

Then I feel in a hurry to go to the famous Al-Montazah Palace and Gardens.  Along the way to the gardens, a clowder of stray cats catches my attention.   When I started taking their pictures, each of them started moving as if they like what I am doing. 

Al-Montazah Palace in Alexandria
The Al-Montazah Palace (meaning ‘Park’ in the English language) was built on a high hill overlooking the most beautiful beach of Alexandria, surrounded by garden of exotic flowers and palm trees. 

President Anwar El-Sadat renovated the original Salamlek Palace as an official presidential residence which was used most recently by former president Hosni Mubarak.  

To avoid the heavy traffic and the hustle bustle of the city, the park is the best place to relax and unwind.

Greek-Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria
We did not miss visiting the amphitheatre.  

It is worth spending at least an hour or so – wondering how people of ancient times built this amazing work of art. At the Roman amphitheatre, you will see galleries, mosaic floors and marble seats with a capacity of around 800 spectators. 

You can imagine how artistic the ancient people are when you see every part of the theatre.  The amphitheatre is in a general area called Kom El-Dikka, which has become the city’s largest archaeological park not far from the main train station.  Close by is the Pompey’s Pillar which is a Roman triumphal column located in ancient acropolis – a hill adjacent to the city’s arab cemetery.

Beneath the acropolis are the remains of the Serapeum and going farther are the catacombs, large spiral staircase, statues, burial niches, and other Romano-Egyptian religious symbols. These monuments are within the Greco-Roman Style Square in Mostafa Kamel where you can find more ruins spread all over.

To have a break of the antiquities, we headed to one of the biggest shopping mall which is a short drive from the heart of Alexandria.

Alexandria City Centre Mall
The Alexandria City Centre Mall is so huge that you can buy almost all types of products like designer bags, fashion clothes, stylish shoes, accessories, appliances, and various international brands to name a few. 

The main anchor store here is the Carrefour, a well known French supermarket. The Alexandria City Centre Mall also offers sophisticated and contemporary shopping and entertainment complemented by a Magic Planet, a six-screen cinema and a variety of dining establishments.



Shopping at the Alexandria City Centre Mall is convenient and entertaining. Come and enjoy the ambiance. 


Have a sit in the Starbucks Coffee or the Costa Coffee within the mall.  Take your pick. Enjoy the aroma if you happen to be in Egypt.  Afterall, these coffee shops are the leading American and British coffee shops all over the world.

Yellow/Black Taxi in Alexandria
If you are in the city using the public transport, you will see black/yellow taxi all around Alexandria. This is the colour of taxi used by everyone. Each taxi should have a metre but it is a practice that it is not being used. You may ask a local person on the approximate fare from point to point and when the time comes that you need to board a taxi, make sure you agreed on the fare before you get in.

Hantour - Traditional Carriage in Alexandria
I took a photo of Hantour, the traditional carriage in Egypt.  

I feel that this is the best and most enjoyable way to tour the city. I suppose the carriage can be hired with a driver which can be found on the main street.

There is heavy traffic in many streets in Alexandria especially on narrow roads. I have seen it, though I cannot take photo with good angle to show you the  traffic. 

I am giving this warning especially if you are a tourist and you are on your way to the airport or railway station trying to catch your flight or your train schedule. Make sure you give time allowance for the traffic, just in case.

Now if you are ready to fly to Egypt, think about Alexandria.  And if I am able to convince you to visit the city, you will be glad you read my tips and blogs.  At least you will have an idea what to expect.

Have a happy and safe trip!


From the desk of: 
Freddie Miranda
A blogger and a Canada-based freelance writer. He shares the value of his travel experiences and discoveries with his friends and fellow travellers. Share your passion, join and visit him. Send him a message @ fromatravellersdesk(at)gmail(dot)com.