European bus experience

So I’m in Europe now and are taking a lot of buses between cities. Why? Its cheap! Well, its cheaper than trains and I have time so why not give it a try, eh?

Before I decided to give it a try, mainly for financial reasons, I hated buses. There’s not enough room and you are kinda forced to sit for the entire duration of the ride. If the ride is a short one, then you are lucky, but in Europe, distances can be greater and this can lead to frustration in a bus.

So far (as of 13 Aug 2017), I’ve done a few trips:

  • Prague to Vienna – 6 hours (with a 45 min additional delay due to road works) with RegioJet
  • Vienna to Bratislava – 2 hours with Flix Bus
  • Bratislava to Budapest – 3 hours with RegioJet
  • Budapest to Zagreb – 5.5 hours (with border control) with Bus Croatia
  • London to Bath – 3 hours with National Express
  • Barcelona to Andorra – 3 hours with AndBus
  • Andorra to Toulouse – 3 hours with AndBus

RegioJet

I think they provide the best service out of all so far. Buses include toilet, free coffee/tea, entertainment (yes!), free headphones for your entertainment, power sockets (important)

Flix bus

Least favorite so far but can be annoying at times. When I tried to look for the bus from Vienna to Bratislava, guy at the counter said I booked the wrong bus (well, how am I suppose to know its for people from Germany! duh) and was refunded some amount of money and issued a ticket for a bus that leaves in 3 mins. That was a saviour but not great. After than, ride was smooth and I don’t have much to complain other that I the driver didn’t really say if it was the central bus station of somewhere else so I actually got off early but closer to my accommodation.

Bus Croatia (aka Crnja Tours)

So far so good. No english spoken by the driver, no toilets on board (we did have a toilet break and another when crossing the border). Was dropped off at the right station and no issues. Great!

AndBus

Small company which runs services between Andorra, France and Spain. Unlike other bus operators, their buses are smaller shuttles which I think is great. Service is great and leaves right on time. I did miss my bus from Barcelona but they do allow your ticket to be used for later buses too without the hassle. What a saviour! Both rides were without issues.

Notes: Post will be updates as and when new rides are completed.

National Express

A larger bus operator within the UK and has more connections to almost everywhere you can go. Easy to book a ticket but the main bus station can be a bit tricky if you are first time user. Please ask at the counters to make sure the gate. Gates can be pretty hectic as there’s no clear separation between them. Service is good, runs on time. Wifi and toilets onboard.

 

Bratislava: 1, 2 or 3 days?

I happen to be in Bratislava recently and I must admit, its a nice city. A small city, but nice. When I started looking into how many days I should give myself to explore, I kept googling ‘how many days in bratislava?’. Funny enough, almost all posts or articles say you only need 1 day. Just one!

Having plotted all interesting places, I decided I can’t do everything in one day so I gave myself a couple of days (that’s 2) plus an additional so I pace myself and take the time to see the city. See and experience the city, not see the city as a tourist! (Yes, there is a difference!)

Along the way, I’ve met people whom either have visited the city or are visiting the city. Ironically everyone said you just need a day! I am surprised how one could cram to see everything in just one day, but I guess a ‘tourist’ can always do it in 4 hours as the people from tour boats sailing around Danube does it.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Generally  I start my first days by joining a free walking tour. I think they are excellent value for money as they operate on a tips basis which you tip at the end of the tour based on your estimated value of their time and info provided. They show you the most important places and/or monuments of the city and range from around 2-3 hours. Once done with the tour, I always go back to see the places that I am more interested in and take some nice photos as souvenirs.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Fort the sake of keeping to the point of this article, places I had mapped were:

  • Bratislava castle
  • Status of Pavol Hviezdoslav
  • Old town hall
  • Blue church
  • Michael’s gate
  • Synagogue
  • Presidential palace and gardens *
  • Slavin war memorial *
  • St Martins cathedral
  • Primatial palace
  • Devin castle *

By walking around the city, I get to take in a lot more than just taking a tour bus. You see different aspects of the city which are normally hidden or tucked away such as the coronation path – a path marked with crowns along the way from the castle to the coronation church.

Taking the walking tour, I managed to cover all above except that are marked in asterisks. Bratislava castle in general can be visited for free as you can get to the main court yard which includes the well and the baroque gardens which are lovely! Almost all of the castle is new and not the old castle anymore and you can only get to a few rooms through the museums, and its not like visiting the state rooms of castles around Europe. I was a bit disappointed, but I got to see up close.

If this is my morning view…

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Old town hall building is located in a nicer square and the Primatial palace is also next to it. If you have the time, go up the tower of old town hall (costs only 2.5 euro) and the Prima palace to see their private chapel and the mirror hall (costs only 3 euro!). You can be sneaky enough here and get very close to the furnishings but I advice be considerate.

Blue church is a must see if you are in town. Do not miss it! (It is free)

Blue on blue

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

As I love old things, visiting Devin castle was a highlight for me. If you are coming from Vienna you see this place. It is a mere 20 min bus ride from the city and a wold away from the city life. Located next to Danube, Austria is across the water and also involves tragic history of communism (hint: Iron curtain). Views from the top of the castle is amazing and on a clear day photos are worth a million bucks. Entrance is only 8 euro. If you are feeling adventurous (or romantic) and have the time, why not take the boat back to city (costs 8 euro one way).

Notes: Boat from the city to Devin castle takes 1.5 hours up stream while back to city is only 30 mins downstream. Closed on Mondays.

Considering you do cover most of the sights within the city in the morning (meaning you see them, but not go in the castle, old town hall, primatial palace) and also try and visit Devin castle in the afternoon, it is possible to see all of the above in one day. However, this only involves as I mentioned earlier ‘looking’, and does not involve experiencing what each has to offer in full. For example, you can spend 2 hours at the castle, walking around the precinct and enjoying the expansive views down to the city as well as their new baroque gardens. You can also spend 1-1.5 hours at Devin castle admiring the views and learning about its history, But if you only have 1 day you can visit these places in 15 mins looking at them from outside and clicking away.

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

Also, do not miss the opportunity to have some local food which are awesome! My favourite was the Bryndzove pirohy…

Quite a mouthful to pronounce this, Bryndzove pirohy

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

As of now I have all the time in the world so I decided to spend 3 days here taking it very slow and see all the places and take in all what this small city has to offer. Be a traveller, not a tourist. Choice is yours.

Oslo for the budget conscious

How to save when in Oslo

Norway, a country blessed with so much natural beauty doesn’t come free. It spans a wider region in up to north pole and covers a variety of vegetation. It isn’t cheap to do stuff in Norway by general standards but coming from Australia I have noticed some prices in Noway are comparable to Australian pricing. Below is a general guide of how you can save money when visiting Oslo in particular.

Doing the touristy things

Hey, if you are visiting anywhere I always do the touristy things. After all, its how you get to know a city and the country. Oslo in particular has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and museums.

Following is a list of places I visited in Oslo free of charge:

  • Akershus fortress
  • Viking ship museum
  • Holmenkollen
  • Fram museum
  • City hall
  • Munch museum
  • Interculture museum

Akershus fortress and Military museum

This is the first of my list partly because I love visiting historic places especially castles and fortifications. It tells one so much about the history of the city, its struggles and how it survived.

Entrance to the military museum is free and has a variety of exhibits ranging from viking age to current military involvements. I specially liked learning about the viking era and the battles that took place. Exhibit information is also available in english which made it much more user friendly.

Fortress is located in one end of the town and I can see why its built there. Its an amazing piece of architecture and loved walking up and down the cobblestone walkways. Once you are at the highest points (there are 2 sides) and you have lovely views of the city and water. Unfortunately during my visit one can only admire the beauty of the fortress from outside as it was still in winter schedule. It is however free to walk outside but would cost to get in if the inside is open. 

Viking ship museum

Wow, I felt like a kid again! I was truly impressed with the 3 ships thats housed inside this smaller museum. The video documentary is truly awesome and I felt I was part of it. If you have to skip something, let this not be the one. A visit here is a must.

Entrance is NOK 100. Read below to see how you can visit for free.

Fram museum

Having visited Vasa museum in Stockholm I find this to be very similar to it. Fram is a specially built ship for arctic exploration. After much deliberation and drama, they have somehow got the ship together. You can read about its history and how it came about at the museum.

Unlike Vasa, what’s great about Fram is that you can actually get onboard the ship and touch and feel it. I loved the experience so much that I wanted to stay here for longer. 

If you are around Bigdoy area, please visit Fram as its an amazing ship!

Entrance is NOK 100. Read below to see how you can visit for free.

National Gallery

I love art and always take timeout to see the local art culture specially an art museum. Modern or old, both fascinates me and can probably spend a day there of course with multiple breaks. 

As I was on a day pass, I had to rush this a bit but I have covered almost all rooms within 1.5 hours. Its not very big but there’s a lot of art so if you’d like to take it slow and absorb all in, please do so. I know I would if I had the time.

Entrance is NOK 100. Read below to see how you can visit for free.

Holmenkollen

What a beauty this is. Curves are amazing and I see why this has become such a hot spot. 

Blessed with blue skies to enjoy the curves

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

You can get glimpses of Holmenkollen from the city but it is when you are there that you truly get to admire the fantastic steel structure. I love beautiful architecture and this is something that I will never forget.

Entrance includes the visit to the top of the tower and the museum. Loved going up the angular lift and is a first  for me. Once you are at the top, you have 360 degree views of Oslo. On one side is the city and the other side is where the agricultural farms are and what a contrast it is!

Entrance is NOK 130. Visited with 24 hour Oslo pass.

Parliament of Norway

I can imagine how centrally located this is. Very close to Stortiget station, it not only beautiful but is very accessible. You can get up close to the main entrant and the whole building.

Unfortunately due to a mixup I couldn’t visit this lovely building but on Saturdays they offer free guided tours which should not be missed (in winter its on saturdays, but in summer its on all weekdays). Please check in advance if you’d like to visit

Entrance is free!

Oslo City Museum

Located very close to Vigeland sculpture park, this small but intimate museum offers historical views of Oslo. Details are fascinating which includes items from the past. Loved the old pieces on display.

As I mentioned, its a small museum so you don’t need much time. If you are in the area, I’d recommend a visit specially since its free. They have wifi and a cafe which is great 🙂

Entrance is free!

Interculture museum

Another small and intimate museum which offers exhibitions ranging from small artists to themes around immigration and civil rights. When I visited, they had 2 amazing exhibitions which opened my eyes and learn that some refugees lived in refugee camps for more than 50 years which is sad.

Entrance is free.

Munch museum

Munch museum is supposed to be extraordinary place which is dedicated to Edvard Munch and his lifes’ work. This is one place I had high hopes for but when I visited, they were busy preparing for a new exhibition. Therefore most of his work has been taken away and only less that 20 paintings were on show. Entrance was free due to this fact which is quite disappointing specially since I have purchased an Oslo card to cover the entry fee.

They are re-opening a new exhibition as of 6th May.

Visiting the museums for free?

Well, it is possible. When I visited the tourist information centre on a Sunday, they had a special day pass which was free. Most of the Oslo attractions are included in this pass and best of all transport is included. So if you plan on doing some sightseeing, please plan ahead. And if you are here on a Sunday, please check at the tourist information centre and ask if they have a free pass for the day. They open late on Sunday and so are the museums 🙂

I visited Viking ship museum, Fram museum and National gallery on a Sunday with my free pass.

I will cover the next set of items in my next post. 

This City, That City

This is a list of cities I’ve visited. Stay tuned, there’s more coming 🙂

Australia:
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Canberra, Wollongong

Sri Lanka:
Colombo, Kandy, Galle, Hikkaduwa, Ella, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Matale, Gampola, Nuwara Eliya

Nepal:
Kathmandu, Pokhara, Sarangkot, Tansen, Bandipur, Patan, Bhaktapur, Lumbini

New Zealand:
Auckland, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Akaroa

Japan:
Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara, Nikko

Vanuatu:
Port Vila, Santo, Nguna

Hong Kong

Macau

Maldives

UAE:
Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Hatta

Thailand:
Bangkok

Singapore

Malaysia:
Kuala Lampur, Genting Highlands

Indonesia:
Bali, Nusa Lembongan

I heart Hartley

Hartley is a historical village in the Central Tablelands region of New South Wales, Australia. It belongs to the City of Lithgow local government area and located about 127 km west of Sydney city. It is in between Lithgow and Mount Victoria on the great western highway. Once a major administrative centre, it has declined its status and is now a lovely historical village.

I doubt that many people stop on their way to visit the historical buildings which are preserved very well. And I am glad I did!

Main building in the village is the Hartley Court House which is an immaculately preserved sandstone building, which you can hire for special occasions should you wish to do so. Then there’s the St Bernards Church (which you can also hire) is another sandstone building which was completed in 1846 and its looking great for its age! St Bernards Presbytery next to the church is another attractive building which was also completed in late 1850’s and was the home to the priest who held masses as the church.

 

Passing the church is a lovely little souvenir shop which unfortunately wasn’t opened by the time I got there. Couple of other buildings away is the Old Shamrock Inn which is not used now but presents a great photo opportunity. The water tank on its left side is huge.

Top of the hill behind the inn provides a nice view of the region and can be a good picnic spot on a lovely day. If you have never visited Hartley, I highly recommend it even for 5 minutes if you are driving towards greater central tablelands (or the other way).

 

Hartley Court House
Hartley Court House
Old Shamrock Inn
Old Shamrock Inn

IMG_6123

Local shop
Local shop

Game of (Post)cards

Since taking a turn to travel more, I have taken the habit of sending postcards to my mother who lives in Sri Lanka. In my opinion, receiving a postcard from someone overseas gives the excitement the traveller is going through, and as a result I think my mother get to experience my experiences. She loves to travel but she is now retired and although has more time, she is somewhat tied up with homely stuff. Anyway, getting back to the top, as I personally like to received postcards from anyone, I have not just send postcards to my mother, but have also included my sister and friends.

Time it takes for a postcard to reach another part of the world vary so much that it would be a month before someone can actually receive it. And of course by that time, you would be home and they would have all heard about the adventures. Still, having that card in your mailbox gives a chance for them to have something physically attached to the places I’ve been to. Hence more tangible and a lasting memory.

I know that my sister keeps her’s attached to her fridge with little momentos such as a fridge magnet and so do I. I have only been sending postcards until recently that I realised maybe I would like to receive a postcard for myself from some place (not all because you’ve been there done that) just as a small reminder of a great adventure I’ve had and wanting to re-live it. Hence the subject of this post. Surely, you would have done the same at least once because you either liked the postcard yourself or wanting a piece of it.

So far, everyone have received all postcards I’ve posted until I had a hick-up and tried to post a few from Bali. It was a bit hectic in Bali and I was always rushing here and there to see as much as possible (as I usually do!) and forgot that I had to post a few which I’ve bought previously. Anyway, I decided to write them and post from the airport just to realise there is no postbox within the airport which was a bummer. I have asked a few security personnel at the airport and they would direct me to different areas but no luck. Which is when I decided to ask for help from a lady security personnel to put them in the postbox which is outside of the security gates (I was already within the secured are after check-in). Months later, I’ve only heard from one friend in Australia thanking me for the postcard. And then I realised, well they have finally made it as she had actually posted them. Which was a relief. Well, no so lucky yet. Sad thing is most didn’t reach their destination as I know my sister or mother did not get them to whom I always write to. And this has been the only missing postcard scene I’ve had, but an important one.

Do you #play #game of #travel #postcards ? #loveit #global #friends #friendship #thetravellerslist

A post shared by Kris Rodrigo (@krisrodrigo) on

While also in Bali we got offered a bundle of postcards at a temple which was selling for 7000 rupiah (about AU $0.70). We wouldn’t know the design of all of them as they were all different, but decided to but 1 pack and share among myself and my travel companion. Got back to our hotel and opened the pack to realise we didn’t like them so much that we could post most of it. Having returned home with the leftovers, I used them as bookmarks which was another purpose for them. At least I don’t burn the money I spent on them.

Do you have interesting stories about postcards to share? I am keen to hear.

Waiting for my next postcard…

Yey, here we go

Oh god, contemplating for so long about writing my first post about my travels and places I want to travel, I finally decided to make it happen. So much has happened over the past years and I’ve visited many places that I really enjoyed and can vouch for, hopefully this  will be a good start to share my experiences with everyone.

I’ve always wanted to go everywhere but I’m only a newbie when it comes to travel.  I hail from the pearl of the Indian Ocean (Ahem, that’s Sri Lanka) and now reside in Downunder (Yes, that’s Australia for you). I still remember the very first time I travelled. Although it was a short trip to Thailand, it was a joyous trip (non-stop)!

So far, I’ve been to Thailand, Singapore (Oh, I love this jewel), Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Nepal, Vanuatu, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macau, UAE, Sri Lanka (where I grew up and travel often) and Australia where I currently live.

Join me in exploring all the places I’ve been to where I plan to share my experiences with you and welcome you to share yours with me.

My travel map (so far):

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.48.03 AM