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Vatican without hassle

Posted by on Nov 6, 2014 in All posts, Italy | 0 comments

Crossing the border of one state to another can take as little as a leisurely stroll.   That is what we did today.       Entering the walled enclave that is Vatican City, standing proud right in the middle of Rome. Huge columns forming a colonnade around St Peter’s square leads all visitors towards St Peter’s Basilica.  St Peter’s Basilica. And the Egyptian obelisk that witnessed the crucifixion of Peter, a Christian martyr who died in Rome in the year 64 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero.     The Basilica was actually erected on the burial site of Saint Peter, hence the name.   Imposing arches with intricate carvings.   The Vatican walls.   The smallest country in the world but one of the wealthiest, most powerful and probably strangest. The home of important people...

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Hiking Mt. Takao for Mt. Fuji

Posted by on Dec 1, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

When our Japanese friend Misako invited us to join the Mt. Takao hiking tour with her work colleagues, and Tomek asked me if I like to ride the ropeway to see more stunning autumn leaves (koyo) but most of all mount Fuji, I knew we were going on another relaxing koyo watching trip. As I learned on the spot, we were going to hike up and around Mt. Takao for 10 km to see Mt. Fuji. The ropeway was going to be an option towards the end of the hike, for people who ‘are too tired’. This is what the yellow sticky note on our map said, handed out by our well prepared tour guide and Misako’s co-worker. Getting there. Mount Takao is in Hachioji City. It is easily reached from Takaosanguchi Station, which is around an hour from...

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Vientiane – what to do in the capital of Laos

Posted by on Nov 1, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

The capital of Vientiane has little of a bustling central city. It projects village atmosphere and the amount of tourist attractions is narrow. Most hotels are located in this touristy part, which makes it easy to explore the city, even by foot. To visit Vientiane we did not need to take tuktuk rides nor rent a bike. There is not that much to do really but it is a pleasant place to visit for a day or two. Here is a list of things, if you don’t know where to start: Feel golden at the most important religious monument dating back to the 16th century, That Luang Stupa.   Patuxay – the Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph, is the landmark in Vientiane and situated right in the city’s centre, in the middle of a big roundabout.   The...

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Best of Fukuoka – great sights, good eats, cheap shops

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

Fukuoka translates to fun. It is a small city – for Japanese standards – and easy to navigate. The city reminds me a bit of wonderful Budapest, as Fukuoka was also once divided into the west bank dominated by Fukuoka castle and the east part, still known as Hakata. Merged in 1889 it is now modern but has preserved its compact layout. Starting centrally from our apartment located near Tenjin Station, we pretty much walked to all major sights (scroll through post for more info and location): ❤ Fukuoka castle ruins – enjoy a fantastic city panorama ❤ Mandarake – for anime and manga fanatics on a tight budget ❤ Book Off Bazar – rewards bibliophiles and fashionistas on a tight budget ❤ Kihinkan Hall – for its early 20th century European flair ❤ Canal City – family entertainment...

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Insiders perspective – caves and villages in Luang Prabang

Posted by on Oct 26, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

We had a great time in Luang Prabang… doesn’t quiet cut it. It was more like wonderfully marvellous. Me, not at all the nature lover backpacker, truly took joy in the dense vegetation of the elongated peninsula and village character of Luang Prabang – a somewhat magically enchanted city. The drumming and chanting of the monks, the temples, the romantic facets of by-gone French architecture, the small streets without traffic, the occasional bike and orange robed monks… as if the trend-formula of ‘slow’ life had originated right here. I recall to seriously enjoy a slow boat ride and the following exploration of caves. Pak Ou are not just empty caves, they are enigmatically filled with countless Buddha statues. The other sight was the livelihood of Lao village people, on our way to Pak Ou – which opened my eyes...

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Gems of Luang Prabang: Wat Xieng Thong and Royal Palace

Posted by on Oct 24, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

Luang Prabang offers laid back sightseeing and it is impossible to miss the Royal Palace, as it is just in the centre of the city, but with an abundance of beautiful Wats, make sure not to skip the oldest and most magnificent temples, Wat Xieng Thong. Wat Xieng Thong means temple of the golden city and although it is not nearly as gold coloured as Vientiane’s stunning stupa, it compensates and shines in detail. It is part of a complex which includes the main temple in typical Lao architecture, surrounded by a few small shrines and a royal barge building to store ceremonial boats, built in 1580 by King Setthathirath. As we went in the evening (at around 6pm) there was no admission fee to be paid (although during the day there is) but the best happening was our chance...

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Vientiane’s treasures: Buddha Park and That Luang Stupa

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

If you fancy some unconventional Buddhist craziness in Laos and the idea of entering an overdimensional pumpkin through a wide-open mouth in order to transcend from hell to earth to heaven, doesn’t scare you – you are the right candidate for Vientiane’s Buddha Park. Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) is located a 40 minute drive from Vientiane, about 24km south of the capital. The park is an open air space (bring an umbrella/sun protection) with many sculptures and statues from Buddhist and Hindu tradition. Built in 1958 by philosopher and shaman priest Bunleua Sulilat who constructed religious and mythological icons out of reinforced concrete, it is considered one of the major sights of Vientiane, despite the distant location. Sadly Bunleua Sulilat fled the country to Thailand due to communist repression. The park is now state owned. Sulilat has made another...

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8 attractions not to miss in Dazaifu

Posted by on Oct 20, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 2 comments

One weekend we went on a relaxing day trip to Dazaifu. Dazaifu is a small city housing Kyushu’s National Museum (a must for lovers of Japanese space station architecture), a famous shrine (if you wanna pass your exams go there) and a temple of Zen (get your tranquillity fix here). There is a lot to see but can be incorporated into an easy walking tour.   Eight sightseeing spots in walking order: ❤ Tourist Information at Dazaifu Station. Get an info map with sight explanations in English. ❤ Kasa-no-ya shopping street. Don’t forget to buy the most popular souvenir from Dazaifu: Mochi cake! (525 yen for a pack of five) ❤ Komyo Zenji Temple. (200 yen per person) ❤ Kyushu National Museum. (420 yen per person for the regular exhibition, 1500 yen per person for the Tokugawa family     treasures...

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Just another PTraveler day in Fukuoka

Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

Settling into Japan wasn’t much of a challenge. We live in Fukuoka – the largest city on Kyushu Island. Our apartment is right in the centre of Tenjin. A modern distrcit with boutiques, eateries, clubs and bars. We don’t need to use the metro to get to… well anywhere really and Fukuoka is a very walk-able city, too. Not as big as Tokyo – Fukuoka has only 1,5 million inhabitants – but with all the comforts.   Like vending machines.   If you look at the variety – non of it is Coke! Japanese vending machines are the best in the world. I am wondering why they never caught on in Europe. Well, maybe because in European cities… vandalism would finish these off in no time. This looks like a shop window.   Our first drink at the airport,...

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Walking up Phousi Hill in Laos

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

The centre of Luang Prabang is dominated by a hill that offers magnificent 360° views over the city. You can walk up Phousi hill through a gorgeous forest, flanked by the occasional frangipani and hibiscus. I have separated my Laos flower pics to another post – instead I like to show you the fantastic temple structures on the hill. On top of Phousi you will find the prominent golden stupa, also known as Wat That Chomsi. In the very back, on top of the green hill (and behind those black Asian cables) you can see the golden stupa. Let’s go up!   It is over 200 steps (numbers vary to up to over 300 – I should’ve done a count!). You can walk up the hill from two sides. If you walk up one side and down the other...

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Luang Prabang – charismatic city of the monks

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in All posts, Laos | 0 comments

Luang Prabang is located between the Mekong and the Khan river with lush vegetation on the slim peninsula. In its centre stands a small mountain called Phousi hill (a bit of a strange name if you are an English speaking person). The hill is topped with a beautiful golden stupa. The city is marked by Buddhist tradition. There are over thirty temples, most intricately adorned, housing several hundred monks, who enrich the town with their orange-robed presence. Every morning the people of Luang Prabang line the streets to offer food and pay respect to the monks. The monks form a procession through town to receive alms, between 5.30 to 6 am, making for one of the biggest tourist attraction in town. Luang Prabang is a city that we came to visit for only a few days but got captured...

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Taoist Temple in Taipei

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in All posts, Taiwan | 0 comments

Taipei is such a pleasant place. It is already creeping up my heart and becoming one of my favourite cities in Asia. The food is delicious, the metro system excellent, the people super friendly and the sights a lot of fun. Here is our find while strolling along the streets.   We got off at Yuanshan Station to find an ATM machine, that would accept our credit card but as we passed Dehui Street, we stumbled upon this fascinating temple. The ATM was forgotten.   I have to smile when I see those modern bright digital displays, contrasting with traditional, old architecture.   Walking into the front yard of the temple. The broad curving roofs are adorned with divine figures and traditional symbols of luck.   Dragons and carps are motives of good luck.   There were so many...

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Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple in Seoul

Posted by on Jul 9, 2013 in All posts, South Korea | 0 comments

Before we went for more distractions after our visit to the Seonjeongneung royal tombs, we were looking for fresh juice at the convenience store.       I was looking for the best of the drink variety on Korea’s cooling shelves. Fresh orange juice.   I have so gotten used to fresh juices at Seoul’s convenience stores that it was a bit disappointing only to find sort of 100% apple juice and a non alcoholic mojito drink. The closest we got to juice.   With our sugar levels kicking in, we walked up to Bongeunsa, the big Buddhist Temple in Seoul. Location: Samsung 73-Dong, Gangnam-Gu, Seoul. Samsung or Chungdam Station. Admission: free.   I really liked the colourful ribbons forming a welcoming entrance to the temple.   The temple is 1200 years old and located in Samseong-dong in Gangnam-gu....

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The royal tombs of Seonjeongneung in central Seoul

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in All posts, South Korea | 0 comments

29th June 2013. This is our last weekend in Seoul and we were going to explore the Samseong Station area to visit two more relics of the once powerful Joseon dynasty. A beautiful, old temple and the royal tombs of Seonjeongneug. There are 44 royal tombs in South Korea, 40 are registered Cultural UNESCO Heritage sites and you can visit 6 in Seoul. The stone figures and halls are well preserved, showing the royal culture and understanding of afterlife during the Joseon dynasty.   Before we arrived at Seonjeongneug, the metro passed Seoul’s densely build residential blocks flanking the Han river. A lasting memory.   The architecture that surrounds the site of Seonjeongneung was coloured grey as if to make a statement to Seoul’s modern architecture. Location: get off Seolleung Station, exit 8. Admission: 1,000 won.   Upon arrival...

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Jongmyo Shrine – where Seoul’s noble spirits live

Posted by on Jun 18, 2013 in All posts, South Korea | 0 comments

15th June 2013. We gained more impressions of Seoul as a city and enjoyed Jongmyo Shrine, where we visited the ghostly spirits of Korean nobles. Korea has achieved major economic growth since the sixties which is mirrored by sparkling new skyscrapers and very modern urban design. In 1957 South Korea had a lower per capita GDP than Ghana, by 2008 it was superseding Ghana 17 times. It is now a fast growing developed country and one of the Asian Tigers. A major effort nowadays is to introduce green areas into Seoul, like ‘Seun Greenway Park’ (close to Jongmyo Shrine), completed in 2009, symbolizing the coexistence of nature and people. Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon oasis is another excellent example of how dense shopping, business and residential areas can be linked. I really enjoy the green in this mega-city.   Off, we go...

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Temple of Lanterns, Dongdaemun shopping, Cheonggyecheon Oasis

Posted by on Jun 13, 2013 in All posts, South Korea | 0 comments

8th June 2013. Continued. After two prime examples of Korean palace architecture, we were going to take in more delightful sights.   A serene, yet most colourful temple, called Jogyesa and a whole district in Seoul dedicated to fashion.   First we had to get our energy levels back up. Passing this inter-skyscraper garden was a first step.   Very popular in Seoul are juice bars and cafés, also serving freshest juices. You pick your plastic cup of fresh fruits, they add sugar and ice, et voilà…the orange juice smoothie.   Convenience stores are a great place for drinks but I was amazed how filthy most of them look. Trash lying around (inside and outside the store), cartons, boxes with new stock blocking the way, floors chronically dirty. There is no difference between Japanese convenience stores in Seoul (such...

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Final 24 hours in Tokyo: sightseeing, shopping, internet tips

Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

May 31st/June 1st, 2013. Diary format. In retrospect I  can say that I am very satisfied with our three months stay in Tokyo. We have eaten deliciously, we have shopped delightfully, we have visited Kamakura and Nikko, two cities of beautiful temples close to Tokyo, we have met great people and enjoyed our everyday life in one of the most fabulous and advanced cities on Earth. Our house was probably the best (and most expensive) place we have rented during our travels so far. And I have so gotten used to the life style of Japanese upper middle class. Time to let go. This is a loooong post on a loooong last day in Tokyo, before we left for Seoul. Enjoy a beautiful Japanese temple and my last shopping recommendations. Since we never watch TV – a shame, as...

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Goshuin at Tokyo Daijingu Shrine, Nihon Bashi Bridge, Shiodome Dinings

Posted by on May 24, 2013 in All posts, Japan | 0 comments

May 22nd, 2013. Diary format. Today was a culturally sophisticated day. We met our friend Saori and the mission was to get a unique souvenir from Japan. We were looking for a Japanese seal book called goshuin. Saori send us some goshuin pictures and we went to Daijingu, the Shrine of Love, provided very beautiful seal books (which differ from temple to temple). We explored Kagurazaka district, we saw Nihon Bashi Bridge, then had a fancy Japanese dinner, literally on the high rise. We met Saori at Iidabashi Station.   While waiting, we got lured in by this vending machine to get some refreshment. The weather has been great lately. It is a constant 25 C and that day was particularly sunny.   Our pick. I liked the pink colour of the enigmatic fluid and Tomek was ready to...

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