Saturday, 25 August 2018

3 Tips for Climbing the Old Bridge (Stari Most) in Mostar



The main attraction in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina is definitely the Old Bridge, also known as Stari Most.



Built in 1566 by the Ottomons, the bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the Bosnian War. However through efforts by UNESCO, the bridge was rebuilt and reopened on 23 July 2004 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you're visiting Mostar, read these 3 tips to have the best experience of climbing Stari Most.

Tip #1: Wear a good pair of walking shoes

Two factors make the bridge one of the most difficult to climb:

a) Its incredibly smooth and slippery steps; and
b) Its sharp arch.

Here, take a look at how steep the bridge is from a bottom angle:

Photo was taken when the sun was setting, thus the golden colours on the right side of the photo.


I made the mistake of walking on Stari Most in my flip flops and regretted it tremendously, thus this blog entry to ensure you don't make the same mistake as I did.

Another reason to wear a good pair of walking shoes is because the area surrounding the Old Bridge are builit on cobbled stones like this:




Therefore having a good pair of walking shoes is important to ensure you don't slip and fall. I personally prefer sneakers.


Tip #2: Use the ledges as footholds and hold onto the hand rails

There's a high possibility many would have slipped while walking on the bridge, so they built ledges on the bridge and installed hand rails on both sides of it.

Use the ledges as footholds and to break your fall. Also hold onto the hand rails and slowly make your way up and down the bridge.



At peak times when there're many people holding the hand rails and going up and down the bridge in both directions, I had to let go of the hand rails to allow others to pass. I had to be extra careful that I don't slip and fall when I let go, which leads to the third tip:


Top #3: Go early in the morning before the crowd arrives

Being the top attraction in Mostar, you can exprect many tourist on the bridge. 

To avoid the crowds, go early in the morning and there's a high possibility you'll have the whole bridge to yourself. Definitely worth sacrificing your beauty sleep for if you want to take photos without anyone photo bombing it.


Monday, 30 July 2018

5 Reasons Why You Must Visit Mostar


I used to hear alot about Bosnia & Herzegovina in the news when I was a teenager growing up in the 90s, but I was too young at that time to understand about the Bosnian War.

When I visited the Balkans last year, I decided to make a stop at Mostar, a city in Bosnia & Herzegovina because of my memories of the 90s and mainly because I wanted to visit Medjugorje which you can read about here.

I did not have any expectations before visiting Mostar but the city certainly left me charmed.

Here are the reasons why you must visit Mostar.

Reason #1: The Old Bridge a.k.a. Stari Most is gorgeous

The gem of Mostar is definitely The Old Bridge or Stari Most as the locals call it.

Built in 1566 by the Ottomons, the bridge stood for 427 years until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the Bosnian War. However through efforts by UNESCO, the bridge was rebuilt and opened on 23 July 2004 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I love this paragraph from the UNESCO World Heritage Site website that describes the Old Bridge area so beautifully:

The Old Bridge Area, with its pre-Ottomon, Eastern Ottomon, Mediterranean and Western European archtectural features, is an outstanding example of multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar are symbols of reconciliation, international cooperation and the coexistence of diverse, cultural, ethnic and religious communities.

I snapped this photo with my mobile phone and sent it to a friend. She asked me which website did I take it from. Initially I was annoyed but in the end I considered it as a compliment on my photography skills :-)


Reason #2: The seige of Mostar and the Bosnian War

The modern history of Bosnia & Herzegovina is a sad one because of the seige of Mostar that was fought during the Bosnian War that took place between 1992 and 1995.

If you look carefully, some of the buildings in the Old Bridge Area have bullet holes in its walls. Sorry I didn't take any photos of the bullet riddled buildings, but I did take this photo of a Muslim graveyard that I stumbled upon while walking from the bus station to Hostel Nina:

From the year of death written on the graves, I gather that they must have died in the Bosnian War that took place from 1992 till 1995.
I converted the photo to black & white because I thought it's appropriate for the sombre mood.


The Bosnian War lead to the breakup of Yugoslavia into 6 republics, i.e. Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. 

In the Old Bridge area there are tour agencies which organises tours on the breakup of Yugoslavia:

Too bad I didn't have enough time, otherwise I would have signed up for the tour.


If you like history, especially war history, Mostar would be a place right up your alley.

The capital city of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sarajevo is another city to visit if you like war history. I missed it this round and regretted it after a group of Italian travellers whom I met in Mostar told me that I should not have missed Sarajevo.


Reason #3: Beautiful Neretva River

The Old City in Mostar and the Stari Most is situated along the Neretva River. The charming river is like an artery that runs through Mostar, pumping life into it.

A charming river should be complemented with equally charming houses along its banks and the houses in Mostar certainly lived up to this expectation. Here, take a look at the houses along the Neretva River:

So peaceful.


I love the turquoise coloured waters of the Neretva River:



Reason #4: Prices in Mostar are relatively cheaper 

If you're coming into Mostar from other parts of the Balkans, you would notice that the price of things are relatively cheaper in Mostar. Shops and eateries accept the Euro or Bosnian Mark (BAM).

To give you an idea of prices in Mostar, here are the prices of food that I had in that lovely little town:

 Grilled chicken, salad, fries and one glass house wine (not in photo). Price: 15.00 BAM


Sis cevapi with salad and fries. Price: 8.00 BAM


Let's move on to fridge magnets and prices that I had bought from shops in the Old Bridge area.

Typical fridge magnet of the infamous Stari Most:

 Price: 1 Euro

Flag and map of Bosnia & Herzegovina:

Price: Flag (EURO 1.00), Map (2.00 EURO)

Are you convinced now that prices in Mostar are relatively cheaper compared to other parts of the Balkans?

(Note: All prices are correct as of September 2017)


Reason #5: Less tourist in Mostar 

If you're travelling into Mostar from tourist hotspots in Croatia like Split and Dubrovnik, Mostar is a breathe of relief as the number of tourist here does not rival the neverending number of tourist in other parts of the Balkans.

To give you an idea of how quiet Mostar is, here's a photo of the main street on a Monday morning when I was walking from Hostel Nina to the bus station to take the bus to Dubrovnik.

No rush hour traffic like in bigger cities.


Although the Old Bridge area may get crowded at times, there'll be times when it's quiet and peaceful, and you'll find yourself having the whole place to yourself.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Review: Redang Beach Resort

After visiting Boracay in January, I needed to get another island fix and decided to return to Redang Island in the state of Terengganu in Malaysia in April. It was my third time on the island.

This time we stayed at Redang Beach Resort simply because the facilities are good and the rates were pretty reasonable. I paid RM693.24 for a 3 night / 4 day weekday snorkelling package. The cost includes the following:

- Return ferry from Shahbandar Jetty (in Kuala Terengganu) to Redang Island
- 3 nights in a Standard Room (twin sharing) at Redang Beach Resort
- 4 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, tea & dinner)
- Marine park fee
- 2 snorkelling trips a day




I thought since we went on a weekday, there would be less people and we would have the whole resort to ourselves. Unfortunately I was wrong and there were large groups of travellers (mainly Malaysians) whilst we were there.

CHECK-IN

When you arrive on the island, you will be ushered to the registration counter here:

All guests will be briefed by the staff too.


Guests may go to their rooms after check-in provided the rooms are ready. Otherwise, have to wait.

My bed had a broken wheel. I got the staff to repair it but it broked again when I sat on the bed. So I lived with the broken wheel throughout my 3 nights at the resort. It was not so bad after all.



LANDSCAPING

One of the features of Redang Beach Resort that I like is its landscaping.

There're manicured paths leading to the rooms:



This is the common area fronting the beach:



Another view of the common area fronting the beach:

Sorry this photo is dark. Either I need to improve my photography skills or editing skills.


FOOD & BEVERAGE

Now let's talk about the most important thing for most travellers - meals!

All meals are served in either Home Town:



... or New Town:



The menu is the same in both locations.

In respect for its Muslim staff, the resort does not allow guests to consume alcohol in Home Town or New Town. However guests may do so at Summer Point (more on this place later).

We were assigned to Home Town and this is the buffet counter there:



The soup, dessert and drinks counter:

The resort does not provide mineral water bottles in the room. Instead, guests may get an unlimited supply of drinking water from the huge silver container that you can see on the right of this photo. I must say that this is a proactive effort to minimise the usage of plastic bottles on the island.


The salad and dessert counter:



It was barbecue night on our first night there:

Unlike most hotels in KL where the kitchen staff will barbecue the food for guests, in Redang Island Resort you'll have to barbecue the food yourself. In the end I didn't eat anything from the barbecue counter because I ain't got no patience to stand near the burning charcoal.


Another plus point for Redang Beach Resort is its wide variety of delicious food. To give you an example, here's the barbecue menu on the Sunday when we were there:

- Asparagus soup
- Salad bar
- Spaghetti
- Fried rice
- Cheesy mussel
- Creme corn
- Chicken wings
- Pandan chicken
- Chocolate cake
- Peach tart
- Watermelon
- Oranges
- Cendol
- BBQ stuff - satay, sausages, fishball, etc.

I was impressed with the quality of food (especially for that price) that I went up to the chef and commended his cooking.

If you still need to stuff your face with food, you may proceed to the Kopitiam which sells Malaysian food and cafe food:



Here's the menu in Kopitiam:

Note that you'll need to pay for anything that you order at Kopitiam as its not part of the snorkelling or diving package. Kopitiam also sells birthday cakes to groups who come to the resort to celebrate birthdays. 


DAY TIME ACTIVITIES

Now let's move on to activities at the resort.

Snorkelling and diving are the most popular activities on Redang Island due to its rich marine life.

Redang Beach Resort offers diving or snorkelling packages which includes 2 snorkelling trips a day or 3 - 4 dives a day.

This is the Dive Centre where divers get ready for their dives:



If you just want to laze by the beach, there are beach chairs for you to lie on:



My favourite is the hammock:

Lying in the hammock with the cool sea breeze blowing is one of the best feelings in the world. I slept in the hammock for a couple of hours each day that I didn't go for a single snorkelling session :-)


Benches are also available if you need to do work or even chat with friends:



There are two small pools for guests who prefer to swim in chlorinated water:

The waters in the pools were cloudy due to the many idiotic guests who swam with their clothes on.


Redang Beach Resort also has a mini mart, souvenir shop and batik painting centre for guests who wish to express their creativity on a piece of batik:



If you've got nothing else better to do, then perhaps you may want to look for squirrels that run around freely on the island:

Photo credit to Celia.


NIGHT TIME ACTIVITIES

When the sun has gone down and you've had your dinner, you have the option to go to Summer Point for a couple of drinks as you enjoy the live music:

The live band was getting ready when I snapped this photo.
Summer Point is the only location in Redang Beach Resort where you can drink alcohol.


On alternate nights, the DJ comes on and he spins from this place which is located right on the beach:

See the benches in front of the stage? Guests sit there with their friends, drink as much as they want and dance their hearts out to the tunes played by the DJ.


After reading my review and seeing all the photos, what do you think of Redang Beach Resort?

As for me I had a peaceful time there and will certainly come back again.


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