Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Trip to Guam, 17-20 January 2019

Avoiding cold Japan, I escaped to the nearest tropical country, Guam. From Tokyo, it took about 3 hours.
Many visitors from Japan (many student trip or company trip), more from Korea and less from China.
Interestingly, I could see the difference between Japanese and Korean here.
While Japanese is more stick to safer and comfortable activities such as marine activities, shopping and dinner show, Korean is more adventurous like renting a car or joining free local trekking tour.
I was more like Korean, instead of enjoying the beach, I trekked a lot, like during my 3 days and 3 nights stay, I went to 3 hikings, one with expensive Japanese tour agency, and twice with almost free local community.

My favorites:
-  Caving at Piggy Pool with Bonnie Stompers. Might be dangerous but interesting experience.
- Driving to the south. The route was scenic and less car. Stopping at Inarajan Pool, didn't snorkel but climbed the rock to see incredible rock formation (like terraced field).
- Hiking to Mount Lamlam (the highest) and Mount Jumullong Manglo (the second highest).
- Dining the local food at Terry's.

I wish I could:
- Snorkeling in the eastern coast, on the way to Inarajan Pool. Inarajan Pool itself,  not so inviting to snorkel since the water was quite polluted and not clear anymore.
- Hiking to Pagat cave.
- Join other trekking from Bonnie Stompers.
- Watching dinner show Taotao Tasi.
- Driving to the north.
- Night Market Wednesdays at Chamorro Village.

Review and Tips

Tour
- I used JTB hotel and air ticket package with the cheapest price, around JPY 50,000 and in actual got the cheapest air ticket, T'way, a Korean LCC and the cheapest hotel in Guam, Grand Plaza Hotel. Wish I chose better package with better hotel.

Flight
- T'way, I think it was a chartered flight. Korean LCC but departing from Narita Japan. Though there was no Korean on the plane, their first language in the announcement was Korean. The seat is narrow and no monitor. They provided snack.

Accommodation
- Grand Plaza Hotel.
Interior, decoration, the room and everything looks cheap in the hotel and it is obvious that the owner is a Chinese looking at the decoration and the background music. Wish I could stay in better hotel like a real resort like Outrigger or Nikko Hotel.
The good part is the location is not that bad. There is ABC Store just next to the hotel. Many restaurants around, including my favourites, Terry's Local Comfort Food.

Food
- Terry's Local Food Comfort
Recommended by my trekking guide, it was truly awesome and the price was not expensive. Located a bit outside hotel road.
Ordered
- Fish & Bull
Located in Merizo in the south. Owned by Korean. Recommended in Japanese guide book Chikyu no Arukikata. Ordered Coconut Crab meal, it costed USD 50, expensive, and the crab was not fresh.
- Dinner Show Fish Eye
http://www.fisheyeguam.com/index.html.en
USD 77 (discounted USD 10 for early bird 3 days in advance) for dinner buffet and show package. Booked directly at their website.
The Observatory deck was quite interesting too.

Travel Agent
- US Explorer & Study
http://usesguam.com/
Owned by a Japanese. Joined the hard course to Mt. Lamlam, costed USD 130, quite expensive. The tour started about 9:30 and ended 14:00. Only Japanese joins, I think.
- Bonnie Stompers
https://www.facebook.com/GuamBoonieStompersInc
A local trekking community, led by some old men (in their 60's and 70's) and younger men. They make trekking tour every Saturday, posted in their Facebook page.
On 19 January 2019, they had two tours, one in the morning to river cave at Piggy Pool near Mount Santa Rosa, and at night to Atillong Acho.
The river cave trekking was quite interesting. We started the trekking by entering a jungle near Piggy Pool then wet entry to the cave. The cave with river and waterfall and narrow entry, sometime we had to squeeze or crawl in the water. Since it was in a private land, they only do the route once a year.
The night trekking was quite stressful. There was no view and the path was quite slippery. We needed to climb up and down two steep hills.

Transportation
- Bus
I saw there were two competing companies, the Red Bus and Lealea.
The JTB package included 4 days use of the Red Bus.
- Car Rental
I booked at Economy Booking with Alamo/National, got a Toyota Yaris at about USD 31 per day including full protection. The trick is don't add full protection at the booking site, since it is already included in the original price. Driving in Guam was easy. Japanese driving license can be used.

SIM Card
- There are 4 companies. They have stores in Micronesia Mall and Guam Premium Outlet. I bought a prepaid SIM Card from I&ET, USD 20 for four days unlimited use plus local/international call worth USD 10. 

Shopping
- Dededo Morning Market every Saturdays and Sundays
Many tourists go there for meal, like BBQ and other local food.
It sells various things, including a puppy.
- Micronesia Mall
A shopping mall with food court and cinema.
- Guam Premier Outlet
A big complex with cinema.

Mount Jumullong Manglo (the second highest)


 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Journey to Balkan Countries, 9-26 September 2016

http://balkan2016.blogspot.qa/ --> full blog and pictures

This time, my traveling was rather intense, visiting 7 countries in Balkan regions in 18 days, started in Slovenia, where I spent the longest duration (5 days) with a friend, then solo travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria. I skipped Croatia, Serbia and Romania since I had visited them before.

In Slovenia, with my Taiwanese friend, Adrian, who lived in Austria, we rented a car and drove from Ljubljana, the lovely capital, to Kamnik, to see a local festival, then to the gem of Slovania, Lake Bled, hiking Triglav National Park and visiting the solemn Lake Bohinj, driving zig zag the Vrsic Pass to the emerald green Soca Valley. We visited 2 famous caves in the Karst Region, UNESCO World Heritage Skocjan cave and the more touristic Postojna cave. After separating with Adrian, I continued to Piran, to see the pretty city on the coast.

I flied to Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, an interesting and complex country. After the war, still they seemed struggling with development due to ethnic/religious division and tension between Serb, Bosniak and Croat, all were Slav people, only historically divided by their religion. Serb is Orthodox, Bosniak is Moslem, and Croat is Catholic. More and more tourists are coming to Sarajevo, due to its cultural and historical charm. Mostar, was much more relaxing, with extremely beautiful bridge, where dare people jump diving into the river 20 meters down there. Stayed in a hostel with extremely passionate owner, Stefan.

Took 8 hours bus to the walled city of Kotor in Montenegro. The fortress on the mountain above the city provided magnificent view of the bay of Kotor and the fjord. I joined a tour to the North, visiting places including Durmitor National Park, Tara Valley and the famous Ostrog Monastry. Due to forgot my passport incident, I visited also Ulcinj, a city near the border with Albania, a nice resort city.

Albania was the North Korea of Europe, before. Now they were completely open, but still the heritage from the communist era was the tourist attracting points, like Bunk'Art. There were a lot of new construction in the capital, Tirana. Would like to visit again in the future to check the new things in Tirana and to trek the Accursed Mountain near Skoder.

Kosovo, the newest country in Europe, was pretty Albanian (with the red eagle flags everywhere in the country). The country was torn by war during its movement towards independence between Serb and Albanian. With involvement of NATO and US, it seemed the Albanian won the war, now we could see the abandoned Serb Orthodox churches in Prizren and Prishtina. I loved the relaxing pretty city of Prizren. The people were friendly and the view of the city and the river from the fortress on the mountain was amazing.

One word to describe my first impression of Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, which the formal name was Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, was a "fake." This country seemed struggling finding its identity. The government wanted it so bad to be linked with the ancient Macedonia and Alexandre the Great, that they built a big statue of the Great in its main square. And the Skopje 2014 project, they spent millions of euros to build abundant landmarks around the city. They built new structures and statues that represented the old times. Many people called it Las Vegas of Europe. Nevertheless, the Turkish area was quite nice, with a stretch full of nice bars. Ohrid, the main tourist city of Macedonia, with the beautiful lake near the border with Albania, was pretty and relaxing.

Bulgaria was beyond my expectation. Sofia was a pretty city, one word to describe my impression on the city was "huge". A lot of huge buildings and structures and the main road was huge too. I liked Plovdiv, the old part of the city was nice with some Roman remains. The communist monument of Buzludzha was impressive, unfortunately we couldn't enter inside anymore. Visit to Rila Monastery, Bulgarian most famous tourist attraction, was a nice day trip from Sofia, though it was a so so experience.

Though it was quite tiring, packing my everyday with full of sightseeing plans, I quite enjoyed it. I met some interesting people too during the trip, this was what I liked traveling solo, got new friends.

My best five of this trip, it was quite difficult to choose five since all experiences were unique:
1. Felt and understood the ethnic and religion issues that caused many wars in this region (Orthodox, Catholic and Moslem), and learned the history of this area.
2. Trekked Triglav National Park (Slovenia).
3. Short trip to Prizren and encountered its friendly people (Kosovo).
4. Relaxing in Ohrid (Macedonia).
5. Driving to magnificent communist monument of Buzludzha (Bulgaria).

My best accommodation during this trip:
1. Guest House Old Plovdiv (Bulgaria), stay in a historical mansion.
2. Trip'N Hostel (Tirana, Albania), nice bar and staff.
3. Hostel Mostel (Sofia, Bulgaria), nice lounge area, historical mansion.
4. Golden Bridge Hostel (Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina), passionate Stephan, the owner.
5. Tresor Hostel (Ljubljana, Slovenia), right in the old town.

My best dining during this trip:
1. Destan (Skopje, Macedonia), the best kebab I ate.
2. Tiffany (Prishtina, Kosovo), this establishment was hidden, no name board, no menu.
3. Kaneo Letna Bavcha (Ohrid, Macedonia), you could jump directly into the lake from your dining table.
4. Soup House (Sofia, Bulgaria), very cheap, yummy and open 24 hours.
5. Dzenita (Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina), though the service was not good, the melted burger meet was great and the soup warmed my stomach in the cold morning.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Four Days in Serbia

For detail see http://joelserbia.blogspot.qa/


Got 4 days holiday for the Eid, decided to go to Belgrade 6-9 July 2016 due to following reason:
- Found the music festival event, EXIT, on Fest 300 page, during the period
- Found that with US visa, for Indonesian passport I can enter without applying visa
- Relatively close to Qatar, though not that close, about 4-5 hours flight, with direct flight from Qatar Airways

Arrived in Belgrade just before noon time, after getting local cash from the ATM in the airport, the transfer to my hostel using public bus was quite smooth.
Since the check in was only allowed after 2pm, I went for lunch to a restaurant named "?", recommended by the hostel staff, read about this restaurant before and was willing to try.
My first Serbian meal was not that OK, due to my chose I guessed, followed the waiter recommendation to order bean soup and Serbian salad.
While the soup might be acceptable, I couldn't accept the chopped raw onion in the salad.
Should have ordered the mainstream meat meal.

After a quick shower, joined the free walking tour, like many others in European cities.
The tour was quite enjoyable.
The pretty young guide was quite interesting, teaching us dancing and giving us rakija (Serbian most famous liquor) and souvenir of paper money, the money used during Yugoslavia economically worst period.
I became a friend with one Spanish participant lady and we had a dinner at Restaurant Šešir moj on lovely Skadarska Street.

Early morning, the next day, after eating my "birthday cake" as a breakfast, I headed to the train station to Novi Sad. It was quite funny how difficult to find information from which platform the train to Novi Sad would depart since the lady in the Info booth didn't speak English.
The train was cheap and new, but crowded many people headed to Novi Sad for EXIT.

Arriving in Novi Sad still in the morning, I decided to go to Subotica, a pretty town in the Hungarian border, famous for its pretty buildings.
I missed the guided tour for the town hall arriving 15 minutes late, so I just wandered around the town.
Found a nice decorated restaurant called Boss Cafe.
Decided to go back to Novi Sad by train since I had Couchsurfing gathering for the EXIT at 6pm.

Thanks to Couchsurfing (CS), I got friends to go to the music fest together.
We gathered in front of the Cathedral and met new friends.
Before heading to the festival, we had a picnic in the Danube Park, sitting on the grass, chatting with our new friends.
The group, many local Serbian, and many Turkish, also there were girls and boys from neighboring Slovenia, to the further South Africa and furthest Antigua & Barbuda.
After drinking rakija and stuff, finally we decided to go to the festival to see Bastille, a group famous for its song, Pompeei, I knew this song from the cover in Glee.

So many people, mostly young, and mostly white people joined the festival.
There were many stages, we went to the Main Stages, to see Bastille and Ellie Goulding.
Since I only knew one song from Bastille, Pompeii, covered in Glee, I didn't enjoy their performance.
I enjoyed Ellie Goulding performance since I knew many of her songs, though I think her dress taste was awful. She was wearing training trousers and oversized jacket that she took off later, turned out to be just black tight shirt.
Same awful with the dance.
There were no dancers, only 3 back singers, but the band was good.
One of the band member played piano, sometime guitar, while the drummer was good looking.
Ellie sometime played guitar.
The performance ended and peaked with my favorite and her most popular song, Love Me Like Do from the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.
After the Ellie performance, we moved to the Dance Stage, which looked much more bigger than the Main Stage. So crowded that we could not proceed to be able to see the stage clearly.
There was aerial dancer and laser light play in the Dance Stage area.
Feeling cold and tired, I decided to go back earlier, about 3AM.

The next day, even though I slept about 4AM, I woke up about 8AM.
After having breakfast, I went to the famous beach on the Danube river, the Strand.
It was pretty cheap, only RSD 50 to enter, and it was cool, a lot of bars along the white sandy beach.
The water was a bit cold for me after a dip try.
There were many beautiful young people on the beach.

After a quick pizza lunch, I went back to Belgrade by bus.
Arriving Belgrade, I walked from the train station to Moskva Hotel, passing the buildings bombed by NATO.
I was looking forward to seeing and staying at this famous and historical Moskva Hotel.
Since the price was only EUR 77 with breakfast, I was wondering why so cheap.
But when I entered the hotel, I know that you got what you paid.
Though the exterior looked wow, the inside looked so so, and the room was small, like a business hotel in Japan. I went to the spa, which was OK, with jacuzzi pool, steam and dry saunas.

Having difficulty deciding where to get my last dinner in Serbia, finally I went back to Skadarska Street, to try Restaurant Dva Jelena, opposite of the restaurant I came before yesterday.
I joined the pub crawl tour that departed at 10pm, was looking forward to going to the floating clubs on Sava River.
I might have to believe what people said that Belgrade has the best nightlife in Europe.

My last day, before heading to the airport, using bus from my hotel, I went to a quick photo visit to the famous Saint Sava Temple and Saint Mark Church.

Here are my best 5 for this trip Serbia
1. The cost. Cheaper than most European countries and Japan. One glass draught beer (500cc) costed about USD 2, and had fine dining costed less than USD 10. Hostel bed in Belgrade costed EUR 10, and the intercity train and bus costed less than EUR 10. 1.5L water bottle costed about half Euro.
2. The Serbian people. They are friendly and humble, fun and crazy.
3. Dining in restaurants on lovely Skadarska Street. Lively with people and live music.
4. The Strand, the beach of Danube River in Novi Sad, with live DJ music and beautiful people.
5. Splavs, the floating river clubs in Belgrade. Lots of clubs with different music along the riverside.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review and Tips from Traveling Thailand (Bangkok, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan) April 2016

7 days traveling Bangkok, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, 16-22 April 2016.
Below are tips and review for future reference.


Places

Chaweng Beach (Koh Samui)
The most popular place in Koh Samui, with big shopping malls, a lot of convenient stores, pharmacies, bars, restaurants, massage parlors along its main street.
The beach itself is quite beautiful white sandy beach, with small wave.

Angthong Marine National Park
Joined the tour by 100 Degree East at Koh Samui, including snorkeling, kayaking and visit to the Emerald Lake.
Paid THB 4950, which was quite expensive compared to other tour operators, but we got exclusive treatment, only 11 participants (4 were children) we got 4 staff with us.
We started at 9:00, which was later than other operator.
We rode on the private ferry for about 45 minutes, to reach our snorkeling point in the north part of the islands.
The snorkeling was quite disappointing, not many things could be seen, and the corals were dead and not colorful.
After snorkeling, he visited another island to have lunch in a pretty beach, than took a nap on a hammock on the beach. Some of us did he hiking to the top (30 minutes return).
Then, we moved to another island to start kayaking.
I didn't know why my kayak wasn't moving faster enough to catch up with others, maybe I rowed it wrongly.
Then we did the small climbing to see the Emerald Lake, which was a salt water lake, connected to the sea by underwater channel.

Haad Rin (Koh Phangan)
Famous for Full Moon Party.
Since it is located in a narrow strip in the island south, there are two beach, Haad Rin Nai (Sunset Beach) and Haad Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) where the Full Moon Party is located.
Both beaches were not clean and not fit for swimming, but good view for sunset and sunrise.
In the southern part of the Sunset Beach, there is a nice reggae bar, didn't get the name, on a wooden platform. The cocktail was THB 150.
On the same Sunset Beach, there is also like a bar on the tree.

Leela Beach (Koh Phangan)
Just located south of Haad Rin Nai, separated by a cliff.
Quieter beach with Coco Hut hotel dominated the area.
There was a long, about 200 meters, plastic pier, in the end of the pier, it was good spot for snorkeling, lots of fishes.
Further south, there was a wooden path, leading to Lighthouse Bungalows. In the middle of the wooden path, there was a rest area, which was good for a nap.

Than Sadet (Koh Phangan)
Though it was by coincidence I wrongly chose my accommodation in this area, Than Sadet was truly nature gift. The lagoon shape white sandy beach, and the bungalows on the rock.
There are several waterfalls, since I didn't have motorbike, I went to the nearest one, though the water fall itself was small, it was a nice place take a nap on the rock, or swimming in the natural pool.

Transportation

Bangkok

Don Muang Airport
There is possibility to use public transportation, like combination of buses or train, but it seems taking an effort and long time to get to the city, so I chose the easiest way, i.e. airport taxi.
It was completely by meter. To my hotel in Silom area, the taxi fare itself was about THB 300, then it is optional, but to take 2 highways, we need to add THB 70 + 50.
Don Muang Airport is the old Bangkok airport, once abandoned after the opening of the new Suvarnabhumi Airport, but then re-opened to serve mostly LCC cheap airlines.
There are lots of money exchange banks, and SIM card sellers too (mainly dtac).

Suvarnabhumi Airport
Bangkok main international airport now.
Can be accessed by SRT train, with the link to Metro Petchaburi Station at Makkasan station (10 minutes walk between the stations) and to BTS at Phaya Thai Station.

Metro and BTS
Metro is underground train and BTS is aboveground train.
Didn't use any pass or card, just bought the token and ticket at the office or machines

Bus
The cheapest option, less than THB 20. Google Map worked.

Taxi and Bike Taxi
Taxi is by meter and Bike Taxi is by negotiation.
Bike Taxi is the best way during traffic hour.


Samui and Phangan Islands

Ferries between Islands
Online ticket sale: http://www.ferrysamui.com/
15% discount.
But can be bought at site too without difficulties.

Koh Samui Island Ferry Terminals
There are several ferry terminals from Samui to Phangan Island depend on the ferry company.
I used Lomprayah that departs from Maenam.
But the most convenient terminal due to closer distance to airport and Chaweng main town is Bangkrak (Big Budha) terminal.

Koh Phangan Island Ferry Terminals
Main terminal is in Thong Sala.
However, there is also terminal in Haad Rin, convenient for Full Moon Party.
Ferry from Haad Rin to Samui Island Bangkrak (Big Budha) terminal cost THB 200 and took about 45 minutes.

Koh Samui Inland Transportation
I didn't rent a bike, but it is cheap, about THB 250 per day.
Many warning in the internet about the contract, that make people pay huge amount of money if they scratch the bike.
There is Songthaew minibus around the island.
Taxi is expensive.
Private taxi from airport to Chaweng is THB 300 (I ordered by my hotel).
I hired taxi from Chaweng to Maenam Pier for THB 350 after negotiation, normally it is THB 400-500.

Koh Phangan Inland Transportation
I saw some songthaew but didn't actually use it.

Accommodation

Koh Phangan (Than Sadet): Mae Pen Rai
Located in the remote beach of Than Sadet.
Booked the bungalow on the rock by Airbnb, didn't realize that the place is remote and far from the Full Moon Party in Haad Rin. When I came to know that the place was in remote area, from the instruction how to go from Airbnb, I decided to try to stay only one night, then move to Haad Rin for the Full Moon Party.
As per the instruction, from Thong Sala Pier, I looked for the once a day taxi that departs on 13:00, I had to look for Mr. Wat at Teets Than Sadet, to get onto the shared taxi for THB 200, if I missed this, I had to pay THB 800 for a private taxi.
I had a hard time to find the shared taxi (actually it was a Songthaew), had to ask more than 10 people, finally found it, fortunately the car had not departed.
Even though there was no other passengers except me, the driver didn't let me sit on the seat next to the driver in the front, so I had to sit on the back seat, and the road to the Than Sadet was windy mountain road, so I sit on the floor not to get car sick.
After about 45 minutes uncomfortable drive, finally I arrived in Than Sadet, the secluded beach.
My jaw dropped when I saw the natural lagoon beach in front of me.
Had to walk to the right end to the reception of my bungalow, Mai Pen Rai.
Since the receptionist couldn't find my booking (later on Airbnb host RoomFilla informed me there was some issue that my booking was not transferred properly), the boss, Mrs. Fiona gave me the key of a bungalow on the rock.
She asked me to follow the staff, who helped to bring one of my backpack.
We had to cross the white sandy beach to the other side, then climbed the rock.
Then we had to walk on the rock, passing a low pass that we had to bow lower to pass under the big stone.
When I arrive in my bungalow, my jaw dropped again.
The whole bungalow was for me!
One double bed and one single bed, the balcony with the sea view, that night I slept with the natural wave sound.
There are some waterfalls on the map, since I didn't have a motorbike, I hiked to the nearest one, there was a sign on the main road, went to the stairs down into the jungle from the main road and found the stream with many rocks. The waterfall was small, there was a pool, and some people were taking a nap on the rocks.
With the price of only USD 23 per night, this was a real treat!

Koh Phangan (Haad Rin): Star Hostel
Booked the hostel with highest rating in Booking.com.
Not cheap, 12 bed dorm for THB 1000.
Above expectation, the bed and the room were comfortable.
And as the review said, the owner, Mr. Van from USA, whose married a local Thai lady was very friendly and helpful. He informed me about Sea Breeze Resort and Coco Hut (Leela Beach) and even took me there by his motorbike. He even lent me swimming pants (though too big) and snorkel.

Koh Samui (Chaweng): B2@Samui Resort
Booked the cheapest room in the cheapest resort with access to the beach in Booking.com.
Didn't have much expectation due to cheap, and when arrived in my room, just thought "you got what you paid". The room is very small in the ground floor and outside the door was the main access to the beach.
There were small pool and restaurant just near the beach.
The beach was nice.

Bangkok: Mirth Sathorn
Located between Silom and Sathorn Road, behind BNH hospital in a quiet area, which is good.
Small hotel, small room, single bed.
Booked for THB 1650 per night for 2 nights, without breakfast during Songkran.


Food

MK Restaurants (everywhere)
Big chain restaurant of Thaisuki hotpot.
They are everywhere, had dinner at Silom Complex.
Don't like the hotpot taste and the chilly sauce.
The roasted duck was good though.
I like the ordering system by e-pad.

Issaya Siamese Club (Bangkok)
A high class restaurant. Renovated old house.
Nice decoration.
Nice food, but quite expensive.
Location is hard to find, especially if walking from train station.
Spent THB 3,554.54 for 2 persons, but we ordered too much.

Mango Tree Bistro (Central World, Bangkok)
Spent THB 960 for 2 persons.
Nice food.
The only restaurant that let us in after 22:00 in Central World shopping mall.

Food Court in Chaweng Main Street
Many seafood stalls in this roofed open air food court, located in the southern part of the Chaweng Main Road. Difficult to choose which one is better than another. Took 7 king prawns for THB 300 then clams for THB 120.
One unique hand made ice cream stall, run by a cute French girl. One scoop THB 60, 2 scoops THB 100. She said her boyfriend made the ice cream. She has been living in Samui for 2 years, saying that it was difficult to find a job in France, but in Thailand it was easy to start a business.

Little Home (Haad Rin, Koh Phangan)
Popular with tourist, reasonable price, ordered Pad Thai, but not that yummy.

Samui Pier Resort (Bangkrak, Samui)
A resort nearby Bangkrak (Big Budha) Pier.
Had lunch here, spent THB 264 for Panang curry and a beer.

Bars

Chaweng Beach, Samui
A lot of bars in the Chaweng main street.
One of major bar is Ark Bar on the beach side. There is daily fire show, and dance on the beach.

Haad Rin Nai (Sunset Beach)
There is a nice but simple bar on a wooden platform at the south side of the beach, like a reggae bar.

SIM Card
http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/Thailand
Bought dtac 7 days prepaid package for THB 300 at the seller in Don Muang Airport.
Lots of seller greeted passengers coming out.
Was satisfied with the unlimited SIM.


ATM
Everywhere, mostly has charge fee of THB 200.

Traveler's Cheques
Surprised that it still exists here, can be exchanged at Money Exchange Banks in the airport.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Two Weeks Travelling Italy, Malta and Finland

Using 2 weeks periodic vacation this time to go to Italy (Rome, Venice) including Vatican City and San Marino, Malta and Finland.

My itinerary:
29 January - 1 February 2016: Rome including Vatican City, Venice, Rimini and San Marino
2-4 February 2016: Malta
5-12 February 2016: Finland

The itinerary was a bit strange, I know, but my company paid the flight tickets with a certain budget, so I could fly quite a lot.

My first main purpose was to see the Northern Light.
Since I went to other Scandinavian countries last summer, so I decided to visit Finland this time, after seeing the famous igloo glass hotel photo, Kakslauttanen.
Finally I didn't stay there, but in another igloo glass hotel in Luosto, after seeing review at the internet.
Unfortunately, Northern Light is still in my bucket list since the weather was not on my side.
However, my friend and I, enjoyed our trip much due to many first time experiences, such as husky sledge, reindeer safari, snow mobile safari, Ice Breaker, Snow Castle (including sleeping in Snow Hotel and dining in Snow Restaurant), and ice fishing.
We were fancied also by eating reindeer meat for the first time.

As an event big fan, I also adjusted my trip to see the Carnival of Venice.
This famous festival was a month long, but the main events were on weekends.
So I scheduled one weekend to be in Venice, and was able to see one event called Festival of the Maries, including the parade of 12 pretty girls and the flying of one girl.
However, the most interesting part was watching people on the street, coming from all over the world, wearing fancy baroque style costumes and masks.

Visited Rome too, to visit Vatican City, as the revenge as 17 years ago, I couldn't enter since I had no long pants with me.
San Marino, another micro state inside Italy, the country of three towers, the oldest republic in the world, was conveniently located between Venice and Rome, so I visited here too, was happy since it offered spectacular views from its two towers.

Flied to Malta too, since it was one hour flight from Rome.
Malta existence was exotic for me, partly due to some of Games of Thrones shooting locations.
A mix between Arabic and Italian cultures.

Below listed the links for 3 blogs on my trip this time:
1. Italy: Rome, Venice, Vatican City, and San Marino
http://joelitaly2016.blogspot.qa/
2. Malta
http://joelmalta2016.blogspot.qa/
3. Finland
http://joelfinland2016.blogspot.qa/

Carnival of Venice

The first tower of San Marino

Reindeer sledge, Lapland, Finland

The street of Valletta, Malta

St. Pieter Square, Vatican City
the old town of Tallinn, Estonia
My favorite five this trip:
1. Watching street costumes at the Carnival of Venice
2. Husky sledge in Finland
3. Views from the two towers of San Marino
4. Walking tour in Rome
5. Wandering around in Valletta