When going back to meet my family, there are no direct flights from Perth to Mumbai, and I have to suffice with flight options with at least one layover. And so, planning a trip to India always involves planning a really good connection. As a globetrotter, this always presents me with the exciting possibility of exploring a country other than India itself. Having taken the Singapore route countless number of times, I have explored every nook and cranny of Changi airport to death. This time I decided to venture out to the city itself to spend my 7 hour layover. Hopefully, you will be able to draw some inspiration from this itinerary and it will help you create your own special stopover! 😊
In a snapshot
Airport:Changi International Airport
Places of interest covered: Singapore Chinatown (Chinatown point shopping centre, Segar restaurant, Buddha Tooth Relic temple and some wall murals by Yip Yew Chong)
Immigration information:Australian citizens qualify for 96- hour free transit visa. We just need to go to the immigration, fill out the necessary forms, present our filled immigration forms, passport and next flight ticket to the immigration officer, who will then stamp our passport with a transit visa. If you are not from Australia, clickhere to get more information.
Luggage storage:It’s a smart option to consider storing your carry-on if it is on the heavier side. Remember that you will be walking around quite a bit. Get more informationhere.
Transport used:Singapore metro, also known as MRT, offers the best value for money option. It costs between $2-$3 and takes about 45 minutes one-way to Chinatown. Taxi costs $30 and upwards and roughly the same time to get to Chinatown.
Changi Airport’s metro station, CG2, is located in the basement of Terminal 2 and 3.
Take the metro from the airport to Expo station (next stop). From here, jump onto the Downtown (DT) blue line going to the city centre and get off at Chinatown station (16 stops away).
There are plenty of information centres spread throughout Changi airport and metro stations, so if you’re confused- just ask someone.
It is no secret that I have a huge sweet tooth. When planning my Portuguese sojourn, one of the items I wanted to tick off my bucket list was to try the famous Portuguese custard tarts, or ‘Pastel de Nata’ (lit: cake of cream). I had come across them in a Portuguese bakery in Perth, where the taste lingered long after they had melted in my mouth. The crunchy pastry was filled with creamy, delicious, not-too-sweet, gooey custard that oozed into my mouth as soon as I had popped them in. The downside was that they were very small in size and too darn expensive ($2 to $3 per tart as far as I remember). Unfortunately, when your desires don’t match your wallet size, you have no option but to rein in your cravings.
So obviously when I decided to explore the land that invented this perfection, I knew I had to devour as many as possible. After I arrived in Porto, probably one of the first questions I asked the hostel reception was about the whereabouts of this divine deliciousness. I was surprised to find that the ‘real’ Pastel de Nata actually came from Belém, a suburb in Lisboa (Portugal’s capital). Whilst it is easy to find a delicious and cheap Pastel de Nata all over Portugal, you have not tasted the real deal until you have visited the most famous bakery in Bélem that bakes literally hundreds and thousands of them on a regular basis.
History bears witness that originally, the nuns of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (monastery of Jerome) came up with the recipe of Pastel de Nata and would make it in bulk. However, later in 1837, the recipe was passed onto someone outside of the convent and they founded the famous bakery ‘Pastéis de Belém’ (lit: cakes of Belém). This, confusingly, is also the name given to the actual tarts produced from this bakery to allow them to be differentiated from those produced in other places. Pastéis de Belém is literally a 2 minute walk from Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, making it an ideal place to get your sugar fix after you have spent a good amount of time being mesmerised by the monastery’s rich architecture.
And of course, since you are here in Belém, and by extension in Lisboa, why not take the time to appreciate the rest of the place?
Até já Lisboa. We will meet soon.
Cover photo: Somewhere in Praça Dom Pedro (Lisboa).
Picture this: Lush green land. Rain. Beautiful coast dropping abruptly as it meets the sea, while waves crash with abandon against steep cliffs. Somewhere far away you hear bagpipes. What comes to the mind? You would be forgiven to think that you are somewhere in the Scottish highlands. But you need to shift your focus about 2,500kilometres south to Spain’s north-western autonomous community: Galicia.
Galicia is supposed to be one of the lesser known Celtic nations of the world, the more famous ones being Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Isle of Man. It is not a high priority for many foreign tourists visiting Spain- certainly not if they are visiting for the first time. Somehow, the absence of bulls, flamenco, searing heat or beach resorts with English speaking staff do not really entice your typical tourist into visiting this area. But if you do decide to venture off the usual tourist path, you will most definitely not be disappointed.
I based myself in Ribadeo and Santiago de Compostela, and from there I took day trips to the rest of the places.
In Santiago de Compostela, you can find a number of day tour operators who can take you on a guided tour along Rías Baixas. You can either enquire about them in Santiago’s Tourism Office, or often you can also see them giving out pamphlets in front of the cathedral in Praza do Obradoiro.
Recommended trip length and when to go
Around 1 to 1.5 weeks would be my recommendation, but that is easily modifiable depending on your circumstances. Summer months (June, July, August) guarantee the sunniest weather and the coast is the best place to be. July and August are also peak months, so expect to splurge. Spring (April, May) and autumn (September) are shoulder seasons, and you could explore the interior of Galicia, whilst still enjoying a good walk along the coast. Avoid winter. The weather will be gloomy and so will you.
How to get to Galicia
By air: The cities of Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and A Coruña have international airports and serve as excellent bases to start your Galician adventure. They’re not the biggest airports in Spain, so you’ll need to double check if there’s a direct connection from your place of origin or not.
By land: Spain has an extensive public transport system, and you can get to Galicia using trains or buses from practically any part of Spain.
For trains, I use RENFE, but there’s also the option of FEVE trains that connect the northern coast.
For buses, I almost always rely on ALSA, when undertaking an inter-regional journey.
Another option is going to the bus or train station to check out the timetables and buying your ticket there. Depending on the day, you might even be able to reserve a seat for the same day.
How to move around in Galicia
The easiest way to access the best of the coast would be by using a car. Buses form another excellent alternative option. ALSA covers most routes, although there are a number of private bus companies that are especially good at connecting different villages to cities. Using Omio, Rome2Rio or Busbud should provide you with plenty of sufficient options. As mentioned before, an alternative option to buy tickets is to go physically to a bus station.
Where to stay
The top 3 websites that I use to book any accommodation anywhere are: Booking, AirBnB and Hostelworld. Keep in mind that smaller villages will not have AirBnb and hostels available, but you should be able to find hotels at very reasonable prices.
For my stay in Santiago de Compostela, I was able to book an AirBnb for 16 Euros per day, very close to the city centre.
For my stay in Ribadeo, I booked Hotel Santa Cruz through Booking.com. It’s a no-frills, basic hotel but quite clean and comfortable nevertheless. The breakfast is massive, the owner/ receptionist speaks excellent English and the staff is very helpful and always smiling! What else do you need?
It is a city that holds the glory of being the culture and fashion capital of Australia. It is acity has the honour of being the biggest Greek city outside of Greece. It is a city where Australia’s colonial heritage does more than just a tiny ‘peek-a-boo’ from behind lofty skyscrapers, modern architecture and leafy green avenues. It is a city where I witnessed the greatest number of youth sporting bright blue hair. A city that takes something ordinary and attempts to create something unique out of it. The hipster cool of Australia. The scene of Australia’s best coffee. The land of grungy street art. The place that made hanging out in seedy alleyways cool. Honestly, if there is a place to live in Australia and enjoy urban life to its greatest extent, it is Melbourne and there is no ambiguity about it. You love the beach? Brighton beach with its iconic bathing boxes is right there! Or make it a day trip by going down to the Great Ocean Road! You love the river? Yarra and its beautiful riverside with fancy restaurants and oh-so-stunning views are at your doorstep. You love wine? Yarra valley, Australia’s premier wine region is an hour and a half’s drive away from the city. And not just wine, the countryside is replete with beautiful forests, natural parks, mountains and stunning views. This post has been a long time coming. However, I’ve finally managed to be organised enough to present to you my small tribute to the city of Melbourne, hoping that these select photos will inspire you to pack your bags as well. Enjoy!
THE URBAN SNAPSHOTS
Warratina Lavender Farm, nestled at the foothills of Dandenong Mountain Range.
Sevilla (Seville) presents itself as a beautiful flamenco dancer, gracefully twirling to the rhythm of a guitar- the ruffles of her skirt flowing elegantly with each move. Sevilla lingers in one’s memory as a refreshing cirtus scent of orange blossom that permeates through the lanes of its old city. Sevilla is a fine Andalusian horse trotting its carriage along, against a backdrop of cheerful coloured buildings and lush palm trees. Sevilla is the modern Andalusian capital, whilst still retaining its glorious Moorish past. It is a city that is so richly endowed with beauty, poise and flamboyane all at once, that even with many legitimate contenders within Spain, Sevilla manages to rise to the occasion time and again and does it so effortlessly that it almost seems unfair.
A walk through the historical centre of Sevilla
The historical centre of Sevilla, also known as ‘Casco Antiguo’, is home to everything you ever imagined Sevilla, or indeed Spain, to be. It worth taking a slow walk through here, forgetting about your bucket-list for a while. You will be rewarded with stunning architecture, beautiful hidden lanes, spontaneous flamenco, a spirited ambience and some amazing views to devour the best of Andalusian cuisine.
A glimpse into Plaza de España
Plaza de España was built for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929 in order to showcase Spain’s industrial and technological strengths to different participating countries. These days it houses various government offices. Nevertheless, it is a very impressive building that serves as one of the finest examples of Neo Mudéjar architecture. This style incorporates Moorish design elements (geometric patterns, extensive tilework, calligraphy, horseshoe arches) into more traditional European forms of architecture like the Gothic or the Renaissance style. Tiny alcoves representing different provinces of Spain line the Plaza’s semi circular body, while its most distinguising feature is a circular moat that carries small boats filled with tourists around the Plaza.
Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla (The Bullring of Seville)
Completed in 1881, the Maestranza de Sevilla is one of the most iconic structures of the city. A synchronised life and death dance between a handsome, feisty Andalusian bull and a ruthlessly fierce torero (bullfighter) comes out on full display for a total of 14,000 avid spectators to see. Inside, there is a bullfighter’s chapel (Virgen de la Caridad) as well as an infirmary, for obvious reasons. The entire complex also houses a museum detailing Spain’s passionate love affair with this sport. Although now quite controversial due to its stance on animal rights, the sport nevertheless still enjoys popularity in many parts of Spain.
Catedral De Sevilla (The Cathedral of Seville)
Built on the site of Muslim (Moorish) Sevilla’s grand mosque in 1528, the Catedral de Sevilla is the largest cathedral as well as the largest Gothic church in the world. It is a major UNESCO heritage site, and is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus (a claim contested by the Dominican Republic). Some structures of the old mosque still remain incorporated into the cathedral’s architecture, such as: the famous Giralda (former minaret) and Patio de los Naranjos (former sahn, or big mosque courtyard with ablution facilities).
Real Alcázar de Sevilla (The Alcázar of Seville)
The Alcázar de Sevilla was built in 913 AD by the ruling Moors as a residential palace for the royalty. In fact, the upper levels of this breathtaking UNESCO heritage monument still serve as residences for the current royal family of Spain, thereby making it one of the oldest functioning palaces. Interesting fact: the word ‘Alcázar’ derives from the Arabic word ‘al-qasr’, which means a castle, a palace, a fort.
Since its inauguration as a royal residence, the Alcázar has undergone several renovations under both Moorish and Christian kings to achieve its present day form. As a result, this palace is a beautiful amalgamation of Moorish, Mudejár as well as purely European architecture.
So, what do you think? Has this post made you wanderlust enough to go get lost in Sevilla’s alluring streets? If so, then don’t forget to like this post, subscribe to my blog and also, follow me on my Instagram.
When Jules Renard uttered this famous quote, he could not have been more correct. There are very few places in the world that are able to justify the hype surrounding them. Paris not only justifies that hype but threatens to challenge it, mock it, as if describing its beauty and sophistication is beyond the realm of human intellect.
I found myself in Paris in April 2012- an unexpected and impromptu trip. This was a time when photography and the creative arts barely interested me. It was also a time of great, many personal tragedies and I credit Paris for coaxing me out of my shell, for making me believe at the time that beauty still existed in the world.
I apologise in advance for the quality of photos, but I do hope they capture a sense of allure that Paris has to offer to any traveller lucky enough to visit. One day, I hope to go back again.
So, what do you think? Does Paris sound like a good idea to you?
Cover photo: View of Pont Alexandre III and River Siene, Paris.
Every country has a word that can be used to describe it. For example, Spain is passionate, India is colourful and Morocco…well, it’s unique. For a small country sitting on the western edge of Africa, Morocco offers plenty to keep your senses busy and happy. But it’s not just that. It’s the fact that anything that you will encounter in Morocco, you’ll be hard pressed to find it elsewhere in the world. Be it the type of architecture, the mouthwatering tajines and couscous, the cosy djelaba gown or the famed argan oil, Morocco just does things differently, and that is what makes it more alluring to its visitors. Oh, and did I mention the huge variety of stunning landscapes that are also on offer? If you’re asking me whether you should go to Morocco, well I’m asking you, why the hell haven’t you been yet?
Mosques, madressas (Islamic schools), mausoleums
Mosques, madressa and mausoleums play an integral role in Morocco’s religious life and it is no wonder that Moroccans have traditionally invested a lot of effort in designing these spaces. The mosques range from very old and historic to very new; very grand to very humble. Mosques usually stand on their own, although madressas and mausoleums can also feature a mosque within their compound.
Kasbah means either a fortified house or a village. Kasbahs are a reminder of Morocco’s rich history when different dynasties competed for power. The design of kasbahs placed more emphasis on practicality than aesthetics. Kasbahs provided protection against various adverse elements, such as an outside enemy, severe weather, and drought.
The inside of this kasbah stores a very nice surprise once you walk in. The old, stoic exterior gives way to refreshingly chic interior and is a great example of Moroccan culture infused with European influence. These photos do not do justice to how beautiful a walk down the meandering lanes of this kasbah really is.
The Royal Palace of Fes, or Dar-el Makhzem, is a 17th century palace that is still used as the residence of the royal family when they are in the city. As a consequence, the palace is off limits to public.
The word ‘bahia’ in Marrakech’s Bahia Palace means beautiful in Arabic. It was built by Morocco’s grand vizier Si Moussa in 1860s, although additional features were added by his slave (who later made himself the vizier) Abu Bou Ahmed.This final version of the palace was supposed to house Ahmed’s four wives and 24 concubines.
A funduq was another type of ancient building frequently found in Morocco. It was used as a commercial as well as a residential property by merchants visiting a city. The bottom floor functioned as a store whereas the upper floors were reserved as residential quarters.
Throughout Morocco, the most stunning and unique examples of buildings I came across were from the Marinid dynasty. The Marinids were a Berber dynasty that ruled from 12th to 14th century in Morocco. Their buildings are distinguished with elaborate carvings in plaster, zellij (tilework) and generous use of cedar wood. The amalgamation results in a resplendent form of architecture that is unlike anything I have ever witnessed.
The mainstay of Moroccan cuisine is couscous and tagine, and they come in a lot of variety. Do try their harissa (chilli sauce), harira (chickpea soup), pastilla (sweet-savoury pie), and camel meat. FYI if you are a vegetarian, you will not be let down by the local cuisine. Moroccans are not raging meat eaters, despite popular belief. This is mainly due to the cost of meat being high and the average family size still being large by many people’s standards (around 5 children!)
Try these drinks: mint tea, nous nous coffee (means half coffee, half milk), avocado-orange juice, Hawaii® tropical juice (commercial drink with soda), panache tropical juice (freshly made fruit juice in restaurants)
Medinah and souqs
Medinah refers to the old part of a city and souq is a market, which is commonly found inside a medinah. A stroll through the souq can be quite an experience, which will feel like a sensory explosion. A souq sells all sorts of things that are required in everyday Moroccan life- clothes, food, groceries, accessories, home items, you name it. However, each craft has its own section inside a souq, such as the brassware section, the leather section, the ceramic section etc. There are convoluted little maze-like lanes in which you can get blissfully lost (or frustratingly lost if you have less time on hands). You will get persistent shopkeepers calling you out in Arabic or French to look at their wares and if you decide to go in, there will be plenty of haggling involved.