- Beautiful, peaceful people that enjoy riding bicycles;
- Nyhavn area and breakfast outside;
- Rosenborg Castle;
- Danish cookies and warm chocolate in Mormors;
- View of the city from the Round Tower;
- The special cafes with bookshops;
- The change of guards at Amalienborg Palace;
- Danish beer;
- Danish restaurants with candles and an opened kitchen area;
- The Marble Church (Frederik’s Church).
Tips & Tricks for visiting Copenhagen. Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below:
- we visited Copenhagen at the beginning of February and believe us it’s not that cold and the day was not that short; we say this is a city to visit irrespective of the season;
- Nyhavn (the port area) it’s really a good place for enjoying breakfast or brunch; they also have fixed prices;
- Rosenborg Castle is worth visiting; the interiors are well decorated and the treasury hold an impressive collection of royal jewellery, royal crowns and even the crown of King Christian IV;
- don’t bother with the Hop-on – Hop-off buses, cruises, metro cards, bus cards, Copenhagen city card; the city is a walking city and you can easily get to the landmarks just by walking; better find accommodation near the port area and just walk the city;
- the Little Mermaid is not that impressive and it can get crowded around the small bronze statue with all the tourist crazy for touching the statue and clicking pictures; it is the kind of landmark to scratch off the to do list and not more;
- Christiania it’s not that much of a town but more like an area with a surface of less than 1 km (0.34 km2 to be precise); it is definitely not for everyone but it’s worth seeing as an experience; if you don’t like the hippie look, barracks, the feeling of a deserted place, graffiti work and stalls for selling hash and weed just skip it;
- if you do decide to see Christiania don’t forget their main rules: “Have fun, Don’t run, No photos”;
- for a great view of the city don’t miss going on top of the Round Tower.
“You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win”. This is what Ho Chi Minh was saying to the French in the late 1940s.
It was our first day in Ho Chi Minh City (better known to us as Saigon) and we were off to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were located some 65 km away from Ho Chi Minh City and their construction started somewhere in the late 1940s during the war against the French. The tunnels were dug by hand or with rudimentary tools and were gradually expanded by the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong troops (supporters of the communists in South Vietnam) in the early 1960s as the United States increased their presence in Vietnam. It is said that the tunnels had around 250 km running from the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City to the Cambodian border.
The tunnels were divided in 3 levels going up to 12 meters in the underground. Some complexes had even four different levels with secret trapdoors separating them. The different levels held headquarters, kitchens, storage areas, living areas, hospitals, meeting rooms, rooms for making weapons or traps.
Hospitals were actually small spaces (the size of half a room in a flat) were wounds were treated superficially due to the lack of medicines and proper operating areas. In the sleeping areas people were usually sleeping in hammocks to avoid the humid and warm soil and the vibrations from the continuous bombing. In the kitchens meat and vegetables were cooked; most often, due to the lack of food, people in the tunnels were eating tapioca (sweet potato) which was nourishing and easy to cook. The air in the kitchen was taken out through special air tunnels meters away from the actual kitchen in order to lead the enemy away from the actual tunnel entrances.
An old Vietnamese adage says: “When the enemy is at the gate, the woman goes out fighting”. We learn from our guide that women were of crucial importance to the war. In the tunnels women were mainly in charge with cooking, preparing the maps of the tunnels and guiding the fighters. Outside the tunnels they were fighting alongside men. During the war women learned to fire weapons, lay traps, serve as village patrol guards and intelligence agents, recruit people or keep the supply lines flowing.
While visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels we got to go through the small entrance doors of the tunnels (spider wholes), squeezed through 20 meters of dark, humid and warm tunnel, visited hospital rooms, meetings rooms, eating areas, were presented with all kinds of traps and fired guns with live ammunition in the firing area; all this with a sound of automatic guns and bombs around.
The tunnels that are part of the visit were enlarged to fit the tourist; the initially tunnels and entrance doors were smaller since the Vietnamese people could easily fit whilst the enemy could get stuck. Tunnels were so small that they only went one way; once you were in the tunnel you couldn’t go back just straight up to the next door or level.
The Cu Chi tunnels did not go unnoticed by the United States. Several major campaigns were launched to search out and destroy the tunnel system of the Viet Cong including dropping bombs, flushing the entrance of the tunnels with gas, water or hot tar, tossing grenades down the holes to crimp the opening, training the so called Tunnel Rats to enter the tunnels and fight inside. Towards the end of the war the tunnels were so heavily bombed that became hard to use. But by that time they have served their purpose – that of protecting the North Vietnamese units and allowing them more time to fight, prolonging the war and increasing the American costs and casualties until their withdrawal towards 1975. It is said that around 45,000 people died defending the tunnels.
As we are driving away from Cu Chi tunnels I can’t stop thinking of those times of war that we had a glimpse of and the strength a person has to have to fight a war, to protect his/her family, to survive while leaving underground for weeks or months at a time of non-stop bombing and countless deaths of close ones. Maybe it all comes down to what you believe you can do and how long you can keep the hope alive. Ho Chi Minh warned that if the Americans “want to make war for twenty years then we shall make war for twenty years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to afternoon tea”. Incidentally, the Vietnam War lasted for 19 years, 5 months, 4 weeks and 1 day.
You can read more technicalities about the Cu Chi Tunnels here http://web.mst.edu/~rogersda/umrcourses/ge342/Cu%20Chi%20Tunnels-revised.pdf
You can find here our Tips & Tricks.
When visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels keep in mind some tips from our own experiences. As always, feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below:
- wear clothes and shoes that are appropriate for walking on soil and knelling through the tunnels;
- before going inside the spider wholes estimate whether you can actually fit and be prepared to use some strength to push yourself up when is time to go out;
- if you have difficulties with closed or dark places skip the spider wholes and the tunnel walk; tunnels are dark, narrow, not that high and warm;
- choose carefully the length you want to visit in the tunnels; we went inside the tunnels for about 20 meters and exited (there are exits along the tunnel); the part we did was narrow but you only had to kneel to be able to walk through the tunnel; other parts of the tunnel require you to actually crawl in order to be able to advance and there is no turning back once you entered the tunnel;
- although we couldn’t say we would try this again, consider trying the firing area for the experience; it was our first time firing a gun and we tried the M-16; the firing area is noisy (even with the protective earphones), no explanations are provided just a man putting it’s hand behind your shoulder and screaming “fire”; it’s all done in less than 30 seconds but the experience it’s sure to stick with you forever;
- try the tapioca (sweet potato); we loved it.
Fact: the largest kite ever flown is 25,475 m long and 40 m wide. Curiosity: there is at least one Kite Festival every weekend of the year in some part of the world.
First day in Jaipur at the end of 2014 started with my first experience of flying kites.
Up we were on the rooftop of my friends’ home which happened to be also the tallest house in the neighborhood. There is no age or gender for flying kites; everyone can do it. And on that particular sunny Sunday of the last week of December the entire neighborhood was out on the rooftops; parents, grandparents, children relaxing in the sun, watching the kites or indulging in the game of flying kites.
It was a good time to practice for the biggest Kite Festival in Jaipur happening on 14 January. On the Festival of Mankar Sankranti the Pink City turns all colorful with beautiful kites in the sky and people pray to the sun god to bless them with good health, wealth and good crops. Before the Kite Festival the market place of Jaipur is filled with kite makers and sellers. The kites are available and named according to different colors and size some of the common names being aadi, guddi, tukkal, addha, pauna, panni, etc.
Kites of all colors and shapes were flying all around (even kites with Bollywood actors J) while everyone was trying to catch the kites around his/her kite. My friends tell me that the point of the game is too fly your kite and cut the kites of the others around and catch them. Whoever cuts the kite of another has the right to take the cut kite. But see, here is another trick, you have to be able to reach the kite that you cut. You can see kids running around the houses picking-up the fallen kites or even people on rooftops with eagle eyes spotting the thread of the cut kite and just catching the kite either by hand or by using a wooden pole.
Hmmm…now I wanted to get into this game and learn how to play right? The kites we were flying were the size of 2 A4 papers. The thread holding the kite is rolled on a wooden spool with handles on both sides. What you have to do? Pull the thread to one side or the other, roll it on the wooden spool or unroll it and just direct your kite up in the sky. All of this while paying attention to the other kites around you not to cut your kite and trying (of course J) to cut the kites of the others.
I have to admit I am still very much of a beginner at flying kites but damn it was so fun. And watching a colorful sky makes a perfect day of any day.
More kites facts:
- the traditions of kite flying in Jaipur seem to date back to the times of Maharaja Ram Singh II (1835 – 1880), who was an ardent lover of flying kites;
- the thread used for flying kites is known as “Manja” which is rolled into a wooden spool with handles on both sides called “Charkhi”; the thread is made of fine cotton which is then sharpened using very fine grinned glass powder coating, colors and chemicals;
- the thread of the kites is actually very dangerous as it can easily slit even the neck of a person; birds are injured and sometimes even people if not enough attention is paid while flying kites;
- there is a variety of kites or all colors, shapes and sizes; we’ve seen small kites in Jaipur and huge kites in Bali; just google Kite Festival if you are curious to see some designs; we promise you will be amazed by the imagination used to make kites;
- more adults in the world fly kites than children;
- large kites were banned in East Germany because of the possibility of man lifting over the Berlin Wall;
- the world record for the longest ‘kite fly’ is 180 hours;
- some Japanese kites weigh over 2 tons.
“Everybody stand up!!!!” Horace is screaming with a happy face while our boat is running down the Ayung River in Bali, Indonesia. Stones and water and an inflatable boat jumping here and there. This would be the right time to feel kind of scared. But we don’t; the adrenaline is rushing through our veins and we stand up with our paddles in the air screaming and laughing. We are wet to our bones, the hot sun is up in the sky, we have no idea where the boat will take us but we don’t care we just go with the flow.
One of the attractions of Bali is water sports and one of the water sports we decided to try for the first time while in Bali was water rafting. Packed in a car we are driven to the meeting point somewhere in a village near Ubud. Hidden by all these vegetation there’s a small reception where we pay for the ride, we get equipped with lifejackets, helmets and paddles and we are ready.
The water rafting experience starts with a series of stairs going down to the shore of Ayung River. Our guide/boat leader is named Horace. A bit shorter than us, with one of those smiles where one shows all his/her teeth, talkative and in a joking mood we know from the start this will be a fun ride.
The training takes less than 5 minutes during which Horace explains the forward and backward paddling, “bum bum” and how to take a person out of the water and back in the boat (if need arises, of course). Now I am sure you guys want to know what’s a “bum bum” right? As Horace said when we hear the words we should stop paddling, keep our paddles vertical and lean in front. Easy right? Now, if one of us is to fall over the others should pull the poor bastard back in the boat not by taking the person by the hand, hair, neck or [you feel in the blanks :p] but by the lifejacket.
Once the training is done we push the boat in the water, jump in and off we go. The ride is smooth at the beginning and starts to get bumpier on some sectors with the boat twisting and turning and hitting rocks on the way. On both sides there’s an impressive view with trees, rocks, vegetation, luxurious hotels.
Horace is making jokes, laughing and in the same time directing us. We can hear a combination of backward, forward, backward, backward, bum-bum, forward, bum-bum, everybody stand up and we paddle and stand up and paddle and paddle and stand up. At some point we even teach Horace how to say forward in Romanian “înainte” so the screaming gains a new word familiar to us “înainte”.
As we move forward on the river we are getting better and better at paddling and the boat slides through the rocks. When we get stuck Horace instructs us to slide on our seats but Phillipe (the Belgian guy with us on the boat) jumps instead of sliding and brings more laughter in the boat.
Midway into the boat ride we stop on a small shore together with other boats for beer and for the most courageous jumping from a cliff. Of course my courageous Gabi is jumping into the water while I enjoy my beer and click pictures.
The ride starts again and we paddle as we sing a Romanian song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WhrWZ1jeD8) and Phillipe sings a Belgium song. Once we reach a waterfall we are meeting up with another boat with some other tourists. We all jump in the water and enjoy a bath under the waterfall with lifejackets and helmets and clothes on.
And we are back in the boat and we paddle and gossip and paddle and laugh and paddle some more. After about 1:30 – 2 hours we reach the end point of our boat ride. We feel like we want more. As we walk up and more up on the stairs we are surrounded by impressive views and we can still feel the rush of adrenaline in our veins and the words of Horace “Everybody stand up!”.
For Tips & Tricks on water rafting in Bali click here Tips&Tricks water rafting Bali.
Below are some tips from our own experience water rafting on Ayung River. Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below :p:
- we paid around 35 USD per person for the ride (possible to find even lower prices); this price included a person picking us up from the hotel and back, the boat ride and something to eat after the boat ride; beer is available for buying during the boat ride at a stop on the way and at the end of the boat ride;
- you can take a shower at the end of the boat ride; they give you a towel or you can bring your own;
- wear a bathing suit and some comfortable clothes like short pants and a t-shirt; you will get wet, very wet;
- flip flops are a good choice; in the boat you will be barefoot and your shoes (or flip flops :p) will go into the bag of the boat leader;
- phones, cameras, money – take as less as possible; whatever you carry will go into the waterproof bag of the boat leader; you can’t keep it with you in the boat since you will get wet – yeah we said that before :);
- we took pictures and filmed with a GoPro camera;
- listen carefully to the instructions of the boat leader/guide and do as he says during your trip if you want to have a safe ride;
- go with the flow, be carried away, enjoy the ride!
“Do you remember me?” I’m looking at the man in front of me, Hindu, shorter than me and with a moustache. It is not the first time I hear this question in India but always the person saying that doesn’t really know me he just wants to find a way to start a conversation. This time it feels different. The man continues “I have driven you before miss”. I search in my mind for his face and I instantly remember that he is right. I must have taken the same auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) at least 4 times during my previous travels in Jaipur while leaving from my friend’s hotel. His name is Bacchu Bhayia and his been sitting in front of my friends hotel driving tourists, businessmen, officers for over 30 years. A lifetime…I tell him I need to reach Hawa Mahal, I jump in the small rickshaw and our ride begins.
The ride is always bumpy and noisy but in the same time impressive. First time in an auto rickshaw you feel like holding yourself to something so that you don’t fall somehow or lose your bags. In time you start ignoring the bumpy road and the noise becomes familiar or you just don’t actually care anymore.
If you look closely on the road and the sidewalks you can see shoppers, buyers, people driving their cars, motorcycles, bicycles, Indian ladies dressed in colorful sari walking around shopping or just sitting on the road and talking, beggars, street sellers pushing carts with fruits or vegetable for sale, youngster buying books from street libraries mentioning on their walls that they have books for all types of high studies in India, families all together on a motorcycle or scooter topped up with some packages or bags, tourists looking around, monkeys, elephants, camels, cows, all walking together on the same land.
There are all kind of rickshaws nowadays in India, auto rickshaws of different sizes, cycle rickshaws and the newly introduced electric rickshaw which is cheaper and more eco-friendly (running on batteries). Irrespective of the type of rickshaw you take I promise that the ride will be a worthy experience. Just make sure you negotiate the fare before you jump in.
- the story of the rickshaw seems to date back to 1887 and it was initially a two or three-wheeled passenger cart puled by one man with one passenger;
- the origins of the rickshaw seems to be Japanese, and of Tokyo specifically;
- the word rickshaw seems to originate from the Japanese word jinrikisha (jin = human, riki = power, sha = vehicle) which literally means “human-powered vehicle”;
- you can fit many people in rickshaw just like you can fit many people on a scooter or motorcycle; you can see from one person to more than 8;
- modern rickshaws can be seen on the streets of Europe; we’ve seen this in Amsterdam and Prague.
More about auto rickshaws in Jaipur here http://www.jaipur-travel-guide.com/Jaipur-travel/Jaipur-rickshaw-guide.php.
If 2014 would have a nickname than that would be rollercoaster. This was the year when we lost old friends and gained new friends, lost lovers and gained opportunities for new beginnings, lost family members and gained family members, travelled a lot, worked a lot, learned a lot, smiled, cried, laughed as crazy, dreamed, learned to let go what we can’t change and fight for what we can change…
Started the year with Spanish Sangria and churros in Valencia…
had an amazing spring drinking beer in Munich traditional beer gardens…
meeting up friends in India…
breathing in the Italian “dolce far niente” in Milan and gazing at amazing views in Lake Como…
enjoyed a summer of Cyprus beaches with girlfriends…
street wandering with soulmates on the streets of Prague and Amsterdam…
chilling in Budapest…
going with the flow with no plans in Gokceada, Turkey…
had an autumn with Super Trees lighting up in Gardens by the Bay in Singapore
Ending 2014 with an Indian New Year in Jaipur amongst friends and feeling incredibly blessed. 2014 has indeed been a year of constant change and surprises. And maybe there is no good or bad change there is only change…and if change is the core of evolution we say why not embrace it. And maybe sometimes you have to let go any plans and expectations and just let yourself be carried away by life and go with the flow.
As the days are getting fewer and fewer and we step into 2015 we wish you all to have an amazing 2015. Wishing for simple and pure happiness, more family time, more friends’ time, more traveling, more smiles, more exploration and adventure. May we all have the courage to challenge ourselves, push our limits, dream more, feel more, be open minded, let go of other people’s expectations and focus on our priorities, be safe, evolve.
Trekking in Bali is a must try experience. Below are some tips from our own experience trekking Mount Batur. Feel free to jump in and add any advice to the below :p:
- wear appropriate shoes; the last part of the trek (towards the top of the volcano) has a path made only from volcanic sand so you need good shoes (Gabi trekked up to the top in New Balance while I had some slippery Tommy Hilfiger shoes so not good for trekking);
- have a cap or something to cover your head and a long sleeved blouse; the wind is blowing stronger on the mountain and the morning is pretty cold taking into account also the fact that the trek will make you sweat;
- the trek has medium difficulty if you have experience with trekking mountains; for the first timers (like I was) it’s pretty much difficult;
- trekking sticks are not that useful since the path is sandy and with volcanic stones and it’s hard to find a place for support;
- pay attention to the stealing monkeys;
- on top of the mountain eggs boiled in the volcano and friend banana sandwiches are served included in the price of the trek; you can also get hot tea or coffee for small price;
- you can spend time inside the refugee of the guides if it’s too cold outside and you want to take a rest;
- buy trekking tours (as other tours around Bali) from the agencies in the city; in Ubud we found the trekking tour for 25 USD per person while or travel agency was selling the same trek for 87 USD and our guide for 65 USD.