Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sewing On Flag Badges

I finally have all the flag badge of all the countries I have travelled to with my backpack. Today, me and nadiah went down to tottenham court and I found the country I needed that I forgot the first time I went shopping for badges: Germany. After, we walked all the way to queensway and had all you can eat pizza and pasta for lunch and then returned home.


But today wasn't entirely stress-free, there was actually a bit of drama between my host and another couchsurfer staying in the room. Long story short, the guest was a bit inconsiderate and had to be kicked out. She was nice I suppose, but at times the way she behaved towards the owners of the house was just a bit too rude considering her role as a guest. To me, it was less of a host/guest relationship and more of a boss/underling relationship. In any case, I just tried to stay out of it to avoid making it seem like we were picking on her and just let my host deal with it.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Last few days in London, Britain, United Kingdom,

Today I arrived back in London, ending an absolutely amazing week in dublin. I met so many new friends in ireland but most importantly I was able to spend time with someone important to me.

On Thursday I travel back to the united states. The airport I am traveling out of however is having a strike so I am worried that my flight might get delayed.


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Monday, November 28, 2011

Lost My Phone



Today I lost my phone haha. I think I left it at the betting house. But it's not that big of a deal because I had no credits left on it anyways and I deleted all my messages in preperation to give it to Abdullah.

One thing I picked up here in Ireland was greyhound betting. I first tried horse betting but the races took too long to finish. Each race typical lasts only 30 seconds. I haven't seen any other lengths televised, but the one I usually bet on are the 450m races. They have two kinds of betting: actual horses/greyhound racing and virtual races. You would think that people would not be interested in virtual racing but they are popular as well. Using the stats from previous races and a little bit of luck, I enjoyed betting on the greyhounds quite a lot. I lost the first time I tried greyhound betting but after using the reported stats from previous races for individual dogs, I actually won all my following bets. I did not win that much however because I only played for 25cents to 1 euro bets.
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Return to Dublin and a trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

The outskirts of Dublin is truly a nice place to visit. Some of the things that I have done in my return to Dublin include another bus tour to the Wicklow mountains, a trip to Howth, as well as another trip back to Glendalough. I was planning on visiting all the must-sees in Ireland like the Giant's Causeway, or the Cliffs of Mohr, or even the Blarney Stone but I got turned off with how long I would have had to stay on the train to get to those cities. And although the busses are faster, they are also more expensive with the trips to the west side (Dublin being the east side) costing around 50-100 euro.

So the only train ride that I took since my return to Dublin has been the one to Belfast, which is a city located in Northern Ireland. The city was...alright. Lucky for me, when I went they had set up a little fair in front of city hall. Had it not been for the fair, I think I would have been pretty bored in Belfast.



When I got there, I tried to catch a bus to one of the local tourist sites but the tourist office told me that I had come too late. So I took the bus to see Belfast castle instead. The best part of Belfast castle was probably the hike up if that's any hint to how amazing the castle was.



Something for you guys back in the states; I guess Ireland is actually broken up into two part, the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. I don't recall the details but essentially, Ireland was under British rule for some while and eventually, they gained their independence with the caveat that the Brits were allowed to keep a part of Ireland.


Tomorrow I return to London and then the day after, I return to the US. 

If I could I sum up my experience back in Ireland so far with only a few words, they would have to be: my poor liver. My poor, poor, unfortunate liver.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lost My Camera

I almost made it home problem free but the other day I discovered that I lost my camera. I hope whoever has it now enjoys my pictures haha. I am pretty sure I lost it in Ireland during my day trip. I remember putting it in the compartment above and then falling asleep for the rest of the ride home.


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Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, and the Flea Market London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.4

These final few days in London have been quite enjoyable. They have been filled with flea market shopping, bike rides through Hyde park, and most importantly, delicious meals in various ethnic restaurants.

Saturday was the first time I used London's bike system. To rent a bike, it charges a 1£ access fee and then 1£ per hour that you use it. If you return the bike however in under 30 minutes to a bike docking station, the rental is actually free minus the access fee. That very same day, me, Nadia, and Sonia visited Winter Wonderland in Hyde park. As it sounds, Winter Wonderland is a christmas themed carnival set up in the park. But don't imagine those cheap carnivals in the parking lots of high schools, this one in London was actually quite impressive. It was at the carnival where I tried Kangaroo burger. I originally wanted Ostrich but they ran out.


The next day, we all met up again and visited some more flea markets. And by we, I mean: me, Sonia, Nadia, and Joan. This time, we visited the Petticoat Lane market where Joan, the Singaporean, made the bold claim that she was going to buy something for only 1£. It was quite a surprise us all when she not only accomplished this but at an even lower price than she claimed, 50p.


After shopping, Sonia then took us to this apparently famous indian restaurant for lunch where she told us that on some nights, not only do you have to reserve in advance, but the place is so popular that the line goes out the doors. Regardless of whether or not this is actually true, the food was still quite tasty.



Later that night, we went back to my host's house where she cooked kurma for us. If you don't know what kurma is, I would describe it as chicken in japanese curry over white rice because it tastes exactly like it. After dinner, Joan and Nadia went out to go Salsa dancing while I opted to meet some Aileen and her italian friends for a drink instead. In the end, they said it wasn't even a salsa event, but rather just a normal social gathering with club music playing in the background and free dinner. 




The next day, me and Nadia just took it easy and we just lounged around the house. At some point, I went to the library to plan for my trip back to Ireland. At this point, I am still not 100% sure if my Eurail pass will allow for me to travel to Belfort and back because Belfort is in northern Ireland and the north is not actually part of the EU but rather the UK.

As a brief aside; I feel as if these past few days I have been among the most strong and outspoken women during my trip. They say what is on their mind, they know what they want, and do what they want. To me, they really embody the independent spirit.

P.P.S. To get to the airport tonight, I will have to wake up at 2am, take the bus and get there by 4am, get on the plane by 6am, land in Dublin at 730am, and then take the bus into the city center arriving around 830am. That does not include the walk to my Ireland host's house haha.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flag Badges

During my travels I saw someone who had stitched the flags of various countries onto his backpack. It inspired me today to do the same thing. Sewing them on by hand is definitly the worst part. Hurts my back and neck.


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London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.3


For the remainder of the weekend, I will be staying in Leytonstone, a small town that's still part of London but at the same time not. To get back into the city where everything is: parliament, big ben, the thames, it takes about 30 minutes by tube.

The reason I am staying in Leytonstone is because I managed to find a host on CS. Originally, I only asked to be hosted for Friday and saturday but my host invited me to stay until I had to leave which would be Monday.

The first day we met, my host Nadia took me to go eat some Malaysian food as well as showed me one of london's bigger malls, Westfield. The next day, we went with some other people from CS to the local flea market where one of the girls got this really nice peacoat for only 2£. At the flea market, I spent all my money on food rather than clothes. I bought some tomatoes, a custard filled donut, and a pastrami bagette.

After, we visited the Camden market. At first, I had no idea where or what the camden market was but as soon as i saw it I recognized it as one of the places I visited when I first came to London with kurt and evan. If you ever visit this place, take the time to visit the techno/electro shop, its pretty cool. The description may sound vague, but once you see the store you will know what I'm talking about. Its one of a kind.

Later that night, we watched Moneyball starring Brad Pitt.

By the way, did i mentiom how traveling in london is so expensive? One ride anywhere, whether it be bus or tube, is roughly about 2£, one way. I'm glad I'm getting out of this place in a few days, because my american dollars are getting eaten up by the transportation system.
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

The British Museum and a city tour, London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.2

There really is not much to say about what I have been doing since being back in London. Most of it has been spent in the library reading comic books.

The other day, I met up with Aileen, the Korean girl that I met in Seville, Spain and we went to the British Museum. I went to the museum when I first arrived in London back in October but it was only for 20 minutes.


The British museum is nice and when you enter the main chamber, visually impressive. It can easily take up a day and offers a choice of Egyptian artifacts, Asian, and also some themed rooms like life and death. In my opinion, these museums are a lot more interesting than museums that focus on paintings (see Louvre). Afterwards, we had lunch and said our goodbyes.



The day before that was a chilly, gloomy day, in which I participated in another one of Sandeman's tours. Like the other tours in other countries, the tour was funny and informative and at the end ended in a pub where I had sausage and mash. Later that night (it was either the same day as the tour or another day), I met up with another girl from CS, Kelly Su, where she took me to a private art gallery viewing. Fancy huh?




As a brief aside; it may seem as if most of the people I meet on CS are women but its not my fault. Although the site promotes meeting new people, everyone is only interested in meeting members of the opposite sex. This is a site the does wonders for female travelers and male hosts. And in my defense, I've tried meeting male CS members but 95% of them either never respond or reply back with a generic bullshit response. So more often than not, most of the people I meet on CS are women.

Anyways, back to topic. The focus of the gallery was on a man named Edgar Deva who specialized in art in motion. Particularly, ballerinas. He did a combination of sketches, paintings, and models all on ballerinas. To be frank, his art did not impress me much. For what he was recognized for, a lot of his work seemed amateurish and plain. But art is funny that way, sometimes the ones who become famous are not necessarily the most talented in the technical sense. Then again, I have no art background to back my claims. I was more impressed and interested in the work of his contemporaries which were also on show at the gallery.

But besides these few instances of activity, I really have not been doing much. I've seen most of the touristy stuff there is to see in the great city and traveling outside of Britain is expensive. It would be nice to travel to Scotland, but I'm getting low on money and can't really splurge too much anymore. Especially in a country where the British pound is worth 1.6 the u.s. dollar.

Oh, there is also a girl dressed like a vampire in our hostel (search Gothic). I am not sure if they have nothing to do and are actually residents or if they are just bumming around.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Return to London, Britain, United Kingdom, p.1

For the remainder of my stay overseas, I will be staying in London. The reason for this is a combination of traveler's fatigue and bad planning. Not only have i become increasingly tired of moving from hostel to hostel and traveling on trains, but because I planned my journeys on the fly, I was never sure when I would return to London. As a result, I now have two weeks to burn in the united kingdom which would not be entirely terrible if it weren't for the costs of everything. London is just too darn expensive. But with an eye on my bank accounts, it is definitely possibly for me to survive til the end of my trip.


For those of you wondering, by the time I head back to California, I will have spent 5000-6000 USD on traveling which does not include the eurorail pass and plane ticket. I will be sure to provide a more accurate number once I get back.
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Touring the City, Glendilock, and Killkenny, Dublin, Ireland

For three days, me and Abdullah stayed in Dublin, Ireland at the Generator Hostel. Getting there Thursday morning however wasn't entirely painless as we had to get to the airport at 6am, meaning we had to leave London around 4am. All was going well until our train, or the train ahead of our train, hit someone. So we had to take a taxi the rest of the way. Then we missed our gate by a few minutes because nobody had to check in bags so the flight was extremely on time. So then we had to buy a new ticket to Dublin for around 100 euros.

But besides that one mishap, I would have to say Dublin was incredibly fun. During the first day we did another one of Sandeman's free walking tours. They've been so good in the other countries I've been to that it was a no-brainer to do the one in Dublin.





After the tour, we then went to a nearby bar and had ourselves a typical Irish meal, meat simmered in Guinness with various dressings on the side.

That night, we did the pub crawl.

The next day, it rained, adding to the Irish atmosphere. We visited a local museum near the old post office where the Irish had their revolt in 1916 as well as witnessed bits of the commotion surrounded Ireland's new president getting inaugurated.

That night, I tried another typical Irish dish: bacon and cabbage.



Our last day in Ireland, we spent it touring outside the city. We took a bus to Glendilock and then finished in a smaller town, Killkenny. Killkenny wasnt too interesting to be honest, but Glendilock was more than worth it with its beautiful lakes, valleys, churches, and hiking paths. The entire journey really gave you a better sense of Ireland that the city just couldn't with all its modern buildings.







The morning that we had to leave was hard because I had met some interesting people. But that's traveling for ya.
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No Facebook Account

You would be surprised by how many people I've met who don't believe me when I tell them I don't have a Facebook. I suppose that's one of the downsides of closing my account.


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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

London, Britain, United Kingdom,

This morning I flew out of Berlin and landed back in London an hour later. At the border, they gave me a bit of trouble because I had no proof I was flying out of London, I had no proof of income, and no address of where I was staying. Eventually they let me pass but they put a warning on my visa upon entering.

Tonight I will stay with Abdullah and then tomorrow morning (Wednesday, November 10th), we will fly out to Dublin, Ireland where we will stay for four days.

I have to say, I feel great being reunited with my smart phone and free internet.


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Berlin, Germany part 2

My last days in Berlin were pretty relaxing. I just hung out with Aaron and Mike exploring the city by day and enjoying bars at night.

Some places that we visited that I did not mention in my first post on Berlin were the abandoned art building Tachalles, the Potsdam palace garden, and the Sony center at Potsdam Platz. Of the three, I would have to say the Sony center was the most impressive visually, but it could be because I've been in Europe for so long that castles and palaces no longer surprise me. In total, I stayed in Berlin for 4 days.




I also managed to meet up again with two locals from Berlin through CS. The first one was a china-Chinese, European management major, who treated me to some home cooked pasta at her apartment. She was definitely very opinionated and at times, a lot of her comments seemed aggressive, but I think if you can hold your own against those kind of people, it makes for a more interesting conversation. The second local I met was another European management major, also Chinese. Although we didn't hang out too long, it was still enjoyable, easily more enjoyable than the first meeting I would say.

Somewhere along my stay in Berlin, my toe had swollen up and was giving me a lot of pain whenever I walked. So I did less walking and rested at the hostel.This morning, my toe was completely normal again.

One of the more interesting meals that I had in Berlin was the pork knuckle. That is not the official name for it, but because I do not remember the German name, I am calling it what Aaron called it, which is, pork knuckle. Essentially, its a huge plate with sauerkraut, dumplings (German, not Chinese), and a leg of grilled pork. I did not take a picture so you will never see what it looks like, but perhaps, if you guys ever visit Berlin, keep an eye out for a dish that offers these three on one plate.
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Sunday, November 06, 2011

City Tour of Berlin, Germany

Today marks my second day in Berlin, Germany. The train ride there was a little different because instead of the usual two seat per row, the train had instead little rooms with 6 seats, three on each side.


The hostel I am staying at, Meininger, is incredibly nice. The quality is easily comparable to a hotel and the only difference I would say, would be the presence of the bunk beds.

The first night, I went out with my roommate, Mike from LA, to grab dinner, a drink, and then the pub crawl. The pub crawl was pretty fun; for 10 euros (typical price for hostel pub crawls), we were taken to five bars, got free shots with our initial purchases, and then ended the night at a multi-room club that lasted til 5am at night. On the crawl, we began the night by meeting one guy from Canada and two really nice girls from Seattle. One of the girls lived in San Jose for awhile for college while the Canadian, Grant, lived in Ontario. Later on, our group eventually ballooned up at the bars when a bunch of Irish girls joined us. Let me just say, out of all the professions that were shared that night, scientist was the least impressive haha.

That aside, my roommate is a pretty cool guy. He currently works as a graphics designer for a watch company that had promising beginnings but is now, as he puts it, 'a sinking ship.'

The next day (Today), we went on the free walking tour. The tour was really good. The company was called Sandemans New Berlin. It's a tour guide group that was started by an American that offers tourist free tours but asks for tips at the end. They guide took us to many historical spots around eastern Berlin which included the visually impressive Jewish memorial, as well as gave a very thorough recap of Berlin's famous history. I think tomorrow, as well as the other remaining days I have in Berlin, I will try the other tours the company offers.




On the tour, I met another cool guy who we'll be hanging out with later tonight. His name is Aaron and he's just another one of many other Australians that I have met on this trip. He works as a photographer for a small newspaper in his hometown.

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Rick Steves' Travel Guide Re-evaluation

After reading some other guide books around, it seems to me that Rick Steves guidebook is actually not as bad as I originally thought. But I do still stand by what I said about how it was geared more towards middle aged couples. Although his entertainment tips, maps, restaurants, and hotel/hostel advice have been almost completely useless to me, Rick Steve does do a great job on sights to see and his descriptions of them.


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Czech, Prague

I stayed in Prague for about three days. The hostel I stayed at was really intimate and the quality of the rooms and the bathrooms were way beyond anything I have stayed in so far.

I met a nice couple who were also from the bay area. The woman was a registered nurse while the man was a aerospace engineer.

While I was at the hostel, I read the book Where the Wild Things Are by Dave Eggers. It was written after the film adaptation was made of the children's picture book. It was pretty good. A nice break from this other book I've been reading called Third World America by Arianna Huffington.



In Prague, the first two days I did the tourist thing; I visited the old and new city, I saw the astrological clock, I toured Prague Castle, browsed Palladium shopping center, and found the Lennon wall as well. To be honest, at this point in my trip, castles, cathedrals, and churches just don't interest me as much anymore. I would have to say that I'm a little burnt out on them which is the main reason why I did not visit Karlstejn castle just south of Prague (rumored to be the oldest standing castle in Europe).


I also managed to meet up with two locals from Couchsurfing. Because they were both busy on the weekdays, I could only meet one at night and the other Friday morning.

The first girl, Arianna, was a Singaporean who moved to the Czech republic for work. She took me to some nice restaurants allowing me the opportunity to try some more local cuisines. Now that I think of it, I did not take any pictures of the Czech food that I had.

The second girl, Linda, was a Vietnamese girl whose family immigrated to the country when she was really young. That morning, because she had class later that day, we only met for lunch.


At the end of my stay in Prague, I really got tired of sausages. Although delicious, I simply had eaten too many traveling through Germany and Austria.

On Saturday, I left for Berlin, Germany, the last city in central Europe I was going to travel to.
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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Using a Smartphone Around Europe

One thing I really regret doing was leaving my smartphone in London with Abdullah. I don't even know what I was thinking when I left it. I think at the time I thought it would be better to make my backpack lighter and leave some things behind, so I left my phone and a t-shirt. If I had a smartphone, I wouldn't have to pay for stupid internet all the time. I miss my HTC Eris.


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Vienna, Austria

Today marks my last day in Vienna, Austria. The city is pretty nice, not as expensive as the other countries that I visited and has its fair share of sights to see. Today I visited the Schönbrunn Palace and it was pretty nice. I took the audio tour and learned a bit about the Austrian family that resided in the castle. In Vienna, there are actually two palaces so I chose to only visit one of them. At night, I tried to get tickets to the famous Opera house but they quickly sold out. Luckily, they broadcast the performance on a large screen right outside the house for people to watch. I couldnt really follow the story so I eventually left after an hour.






The day before, I explored the shopping street Mariastrausse and visited St. Stephen's Cathedral as well as explored most of the plaza that the Gothic cathedral was located in.

Sometimes I think it's a good thing that I do not spend a lot of money on the museums or tours because I spend a lot on local food and beer. I would have to say that trying all the different foods is one of the better parts to travelling. Some things to try in Vienna would be their Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal) sausages and Tafelspitz (another meat dish).


I also ran into a pretty cool street performer whose sole act was simply floating in mid air. It was pretty cool. I took a video as well as some pictures.


Tomorrow I head off to Prague, Czech. Republic. Itś another 5 hour long train ride. Great.
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