A weekend in Singapore

A clean and green city in the Far East. Remarkable buildings and modern facilities. As soon as you step into Changi Airport (one of the top airport in the world), you’ll know that you are in an adventure. Come and stay at the Marina Bay Hotel and spend a day soaking at the infinity pool atop the tower. Its an experience you wouldnt want to miss.

Siena, Italy

When in Tuscany, plan on visiting Siena. This medieval town is rich in architectural marvels. The fan shaped central square, Piazza del Campo, is the site of Palazzo Pubblico, the Gothic Town Hall and Torre del Mangia. Armed with an action camera – I took a motion time-lapse to record my visit at the Piazza del Campo, where the famous Palio (horse race) is held twice a year.

Have Uber – Will Travel

When travelling to distant places, specially here in the US, normally, we will arrange a car rental in order for us to drive ourselves to our hotel or wherever destination we set. Nowadays, thanks to Uber, we can forget about the costly car rental – just download the app and type in an address, and there you go, within minutes, Uber will drive you to your hotel and to other major destinations that they serve.

We hear of people who travelled in Europe and used Uber to wander around several towns. A local Uber driver, dealing with a newcomer, gladly toured them and became their impromptu tourist guide. Most major cities have  Uber cabs – it is nice to know that there are rideshare services when you need them. Now, we don’t need to worry about parking fees, pesky road regulations that you might not even understand or the worries that someone might vandalized your rental. Uber or any other ridesharing companies in particular are a relief to tourists who just wants to roam around freely.

Ridesharing has gone a long way. In fact, it revolutionized how people travel. It opened up gateways to places where only vehicle owners trek. Perhaps its about time – with too much focus on major touristy places, why not grab an Uber and enjoy the ride.

Next time you plan to travel – have Uber and enjoy your travels.

When In Cancun – XEL-HA

Xel-ha (pronounced “shell-haa”) is a wonderful ecological theme park about an hour away from downtown Cancun. We were treated to an array of water activities like snorkeling, cliff jumping, lazy river among many others. There were several bars and restaurants in the area where you just have to hop in and relax after a few activities. The site is well maintained, lockers are abound and staff are very friendly.

If you are in Cancun, spend a day at Xel-ha – swim at the clear river and zipbike your way around the vast ecological compound.

One more thing – be prepared to walk a lot. It’s good exercise.

Day Trip To Chichen Itza

If your plans brings you to Cancun, this will not be complete without a trip to Chichen Itza – a 2.5 hour drive south of the Yucatan Peninsula. There you would marvel at the ruins of ancient Mayan civilization. We are still enjoying our mini vacation in Cancun as of this writing. But here it is sharing. couple of still shots from the trip.

Half A Day In Niagara Falls

We left Virginia one Thursday in October.  The seven plus hour trip brought us to some of the most scenic country back roads – passing through winding forests with fall leaves colors almost at its peak.

Upon entering Canada via Peace Bridge, not so many people are coming – its mid week and expectedly, the traffic was really light. A really wonderful day to enjoy the sights and scenery that your eye can capture by just driving leisurely along Canada’s QBE.

At the top of Niagara Falls in all its spledor – nothing else compares to the magnificent sight of nature. We can spend endless hours just watching the water falls and capture the moments as they enfold.

Maybe twenty years down the road, when all the leaves have dried, water will still be cascading from the wonder of the world called Niagara Falls.

SIM Card in Europe

Before we left for our trip to England, I was searching for a smartphone SIM card that will work while we travel, and that will not cost us an arm and a leg. I heard a lot how some SIM cards will work for a short period or the data allowance is too small or the signal is weak ir the there are hidden fees. And then I read about this company – Three. I thought I read it wrong, but it has good review and the cost is pretty reasonable – 300 mins, 3000text and 12G data for 30 days, just for £20! It also has the feature of Feel at Home – where you can use the data in selected EU countries – in our case – we are traveling to France and Italy, so it was a big plus. But of course, in order for it to work, you must have an unlocked smartphone. 

So, before our trip, I bought the Three Pay As You Go sim card through Amazon and just crossing my fingers that it will work on my Iphone6. The card has 3 sizes, so you just need to snap the size that you need – for mine, it is a nano size. 

In the airplane, I turned off my phone, removed my home carrier sim and replaced it with the new sim card. I did not turn on my phone until after we have landed in London. As soon as I turned it on, there was a message from Three and immediately I was able to use it. I use maps and navigation a lot through out our 1 week trip, checked my emails, use social media and travelled to France and Italy – and it really worked and it really saved us a lot of hassle. 

My niece who is also traveling with us and who will be coming from another country whom we will be meeting at the airport, also bought this SIM card, and as soon as she got her SIM installed, she texted me and we were able to communicate. 

There might be other SIM cards out there that works, but for a first time traveller and tech savvy – I was glad that I did not have a problem with the SIM card by Three. I will be glad to answer any related questions regarding our trip.

Eiffel Tower in the Summer

Took the Eurostar train from London – its about 2 hours to get to Gare du Nord station and another 30 minutes or by RER to get to Eiffel Tower. It’s a fun walk, just follow the signs and the tower and it will lead you right at the foot of Eiffel.

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A lot had been said about this iconic place and I was pretty excited to finally see in actual reality the piece that people around the whole wishes to come and visit. Get closer or farther away, took a snapshot and spend a few minutes staring at it and then move on.

You have just ticked another list in your bucket in a snap.

 

A Land Called Palawan

Back in the days, this island is known to be the place for people who are stricken with a certain illness. When I was young, folks just kept on saying that it is not a safe place to be. Until that affliction was eradicated, this sprawling land of virgin forests and white sand beaches layed untouched and isolated. Now, after decades of developments and thanks to social media – focus has shifted to this once forsaken place and it is now ranked as one of the best places to visit in the world.

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With miles after miles of white sand beaches, lagoons, eco-system and virgin forests, anyone will marvel at how the people were able to put commercialization aside. With thousands of tourists flocking the island, the booming tourism industry that placed the island in the world map did nothing to decrease the environmental awareness of those who calls that island paradise their home.

It’s really more fun in Palawan.

First European Travel – 4 Countries in 5 Days

EUROPE IN 1 WEEK

“No you can’t do that – it’s a waste of time”. “Spend time and immerse yourself to appreciate the culture” – Those were the advise I have read when we were planning to visit London, Paris, Venice, Rome and the Vatican in just 5 days. I only have 8 days left on my vacation days out of the 17 days allotted by my employer. A major holiday is coming up – a long weekend – I have to devise an itinerary that will have us visit major sites and attractions in Europe for a very short timeframe. And 3 days of it will be spent visiting relatives who lives about 2 hours south of London.

Right timing and careful planning is essential – it is the middle of March and the target date of travel is late May and take advantage of Memorial Day weekend. The dates of travel will be to leave on a Saturday and come back the following Sunday for a total of 9 days. I have to book the airline tickets, reserve a hotel room, find train tickets, shop online for tour packages, map out and route the path and read all pertinent reviews on where to go, what to eat, what to wear, and so on.

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Route Planning

First, the airline ticket – I searched a lot of websites – http://cheapoair.com, and http://expedia.com to see if there are travel bargains. I am also looking for direct flights so as not to waste time changing planes or waiting at the airport. I found out that if you do a little research, the price given by these online brokers are just a few bucks more than if you go to the carriers website. Plus, they will either have you change planes or make you have a long connection. Finally, I booked directly at the United Airlines site for a non-stop flight from Washington, DC to London Heathrow. The price difference? – just $3 each higher and we get to fly non-stop in the morning and be there late in the evening.

Next step will be to book the train travel to France and Italy – I booked a train going to Paris using http://Eurostar.com. and another train going to Italy, this time an overnight train going to Venice with train connection the following day going to Rome.

Third will be to book the hotels – keeping in mind the distance and possible travel time from the hotel to the train station or airport.

Our Itinerary

Day 1 – Saturday – Direct Flight to London

Flying out of Washington, DC at 8AM and arriving London, Heathrow at 9PM. I was able to get the best deal for http://HeathrowExpress train going to Central London. Cost of the trip for 2 is $22. The trip is only 15 minutes as compared to about 55 minutes travel on the regular train. Before the trip, I booked a hotel room close to St Pancras International train station, about 5 minutes walk away, where we are going to take the Eurostar train to Paris on Monday.

Day 2 – Sunday – Touring London

Booked the city bus tour that includes the Thames River cruise. Got to see Elizabeth Tower or the famous Big Ben, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, as well as got to ride the London Underground (or subway) and back to our hotel for a Sunday dinner. Tip of the day: use the underground, its cheaper than taxi.

Day 3 – Monday – Lovely Day In Paris

Left St Pancras International Train Station at 8:15am via Eurostar and arrived at 10:50AM at Gare du Nord train station in Paris, France. We then took the Metro Train to transfer to Gare de Lyon train station, where we will take the Thello Overnight train to Venice at 7:00PM. We rented a luggage locker at the station and then headed to 3 famous sites – The Louvre Museum, Arc De Triomphe and Eiffel Tower . We head back to the train station around 4PM with plenty of time to spare – chill out in the Train Bleu restaurant and waited for the train that will take us to Venice, Italy.

Day 4 – Tuesday – Gazing at the Canals in Venice

The train is scheduled to arrive in Venice around 9am, but due to track maintenance delays, we reached Venizia Santa Lucia around 12 Noon. Luckily, our hotel is just across the train station and we just walk and cross the Scalzi Bridge and off we go to sightsee. We did a lot of walking and enjoyed every minute of it. Along the way, we take photographs of ancient houses, canals, places of worship and most importantly the 2 famous place the Venice is known for – Rialto Bridge and St Marks Square . We also experience the Gondola Ride and then have a wonderful dinner overlooking the Grand Canal. It was really worth the trip.

Day 5 – Wednesday – When In Rome

The train station was just across our hotel, in fact, that was intentionaly planned ahead so that we can catch the first train that leaves for Rome. The travel time is about 2.5 hours and you got to ride on a highspeed, very efficient FrecciaRosa Train. We arrive at Roma Termini and the first thing that I noticed is, it is a bit crowded but what can you expect, this is a major city. We booked our hotel close to the Metro and some major sights. As soon as we were able to check in – off we go. Our first stop is the Trevi Fountaion, then The Pantheon, and a few blocks away is the Piazza De Venizia. Our final stop was The Colloseum– an ancient wonder of the world. We wrap up our day dining in a quaint little restaurant that caters to the locals – very authentic and reasonably priced.

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Day 6 – Thursday – Wandering in Vatican City

The last of our Italian itinerary brought us to The Vatican Museum. This is another place that people around the world flock to. We booked our tour via Aviator and got the Early Morning VIP pass. We were the first in line and were allowed in before the museum opens to the public. We were escorted to the hallways of the up to the entrance of Sistine Chapel.  From there, we wander around the area until we reached St Peter’s Basilica.  We spent a whole 2-3 hours in awe at the magnificence of the architecture.

And Finally – A Word of Caution –

Wherever you go, there are places that you need to be careful handling your belongings. Majority of the places we visited was really very safe. However, do not put your guards down – there are certain elements in our society that are still lurking and pounce on you if you are not careful. Pickpockets are and con artist are taking advantage of foreigners and since you most of them are  not caught – just mind what you have and where you’re going. It is still however a trip worth taking.

 

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Sharing Our Travel Adventures

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