Monday, 27 November 2017

Fridge Magnets from Bosnia & Herzegovina

It's time for a post on the fridge magnets that I had bought from Bosnia Herzegovina, specifically from Mostar because that's the only city in the country that I visited.

For information sake I've included the price of each magnet at the bottom of each photo. Prices are cheaper compared to most other parts of Europe and even in Malaysia (gosh!).

All the magnets were bought from shops in the Old Bridge (Stari Most) area of Mostar.

The customary flag and map of each country that I visit:

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

Here's a magnet of the Stari Most:

Price: EURO 1.00

Monday, 20 November 2017

St Blaise, the Superstar of Dubrovnik

If you visit the old town of Dubrovnik in Croatia, watch out for its superstar. His name is St Blaise, the protector of Dubrovnik who was a 4th Century bishop and martyr.

Story has it that in the year 971, St Blaise appeared to a priest, Stojko to warn that the Venetians were going to attack Ragusa (Dubrovnik's old name) because its position as a commercial powerhouse was a threat to Venice.

Stojko immediately alerted the city council and they fortified the city's defences. Seeing this, the Venetians decided not to attack Ragusa and the city was saved. Since that day St Blaise has become the protector of Dubrovnik and his feast day is celebrated on 3 February every year.

You can read more about St Blaise here.

Since St Blaise is the protector of Dubrovnik he's always looking over the city. That's why you can find him at the major entrances to the old town of Dubrovnik, like at the Pier Gate ...

... on other entrances entering the old town ...

... and on walls that look out to the sea ...

St Blaise is found on buildings ...

... and inside buildings ...

All of St Blaise's statue has him holding the city of Dubrovnik in the palm of his hand and close to his heart.

All superstars need to have buildings named in their honour and St Blaise has his own building too, i.e. the St Blaise Church (of course!):  

St Blaise's Church is right smack in the middle of the old town. Yes, that's him on the top of the church.

Since Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th Century to the time it developed into a prosperous maritime centre and now as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Balkans, St Blaise has certainly done a great job in protecting this beautiful city.

So now you know the superstar of Dubrovnik and his name is St Blaise.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Historic City of Trogir - A Lovely Day Trip from Split

When I was researching about Croatia I was delighted to discover that Trogir is only a short bus ride from Split. So I decided to visit the lovely town on a day trip from Split.

Buses run throughout the day from the bus station in Split to Trogir. The journey was approximately 45 minutes and costs HRK 15.00 (HRK = Croatian Kuna):

Two tickets because it was a return trip.

The bus conductor on the trip from Split to Trogir was a lady who looked like a supermodel. Dressed in white shirt and skin tight jeans, she had heavy make up on and perfectly manicured nails. She must have been like 6ft tall because I had to gaze up at her when I asked for the bus timings back to Split. She was the sexiest bus conductor I've ever seen and it was a pity I didn't take a photo with her.

This is the bus station in Trogir:

The bus station is located opposite the old town. So if you're making a day trip from Split, it's easy to navigate your way back to the station to take the bus back. Make sure you get the time for the last bus and don't miss it.

I got off the bus and crossed the bridge heading to the old town which is what most travellers come to Trogir for.

'Grad' means 'city' in the local Croatian language.

It was already time for lunch by the time I got to Trogir, so I decided to lunch first before entering the old town.

I found this spot to enjoy my packed lunch of a sandwich and peach (bought from the local open air market the day before):

Serene scenery

After lunch I walked into the old town.

Structure to inform visitors that the Historic City of Trogir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

Another UNESCO World Heritage site to add to my list!
I wonder why UNESCO refers to Trogir as a 'city' when it's actually a small town.

The old town is located on a small island connected to the mainland and Ciovo Island by bridges.

The buildings in Trogir are a mix of Baroque, Renaissance and Romanesque architecture:

View of the old town from Ciovski Most which is the bridge connecting the old town to Ciovo Island.

The Kamerlengo Fortress is one of the main structures in the old town:

Entrance fee to Kamerlengo Fortress:

I overheard a guy saying that with that kind of entrance fee, there'd better be a drawbridge in the fortress, hahaha.

I too didn't want to pay so much because I was already going to pay an arm and a leg to climb the mother of walls in Dubrovnik, and we all know that all walls will eventually look the same.

I peeked into the Kamerlengo Fotress and nothing much to shout about:

Just read the description outside will do:

Look at how clear the water is:

The land in the background is Ciovo Island. Too bad I didn't have enough time to explore the island. Can't do everything on a day trip.

There were ships along the promenade in the old town:

Cathedral of St Lawrence:

Another tourist group!

This is the opening hours for the Cathedral of St Lawrence:

Narrow alleys are common in the old town:

I sneaked into one of the buildings and was amused to see that the locals had strung out their clothes to dry:

The insides of the old buildings is contrast to the outside where everything is almost perfect.

Soon it was time to head back to the bus station to take the bus back to Split.

I bought this black coloured ice cream at one of the shops near the bus station:

I thought it was squid ink ice cream but the lady said it's dark chocolate. Must have been really dark and rich to get that kind of colour.
Price: HRK 8.00

Getting to Trogir was a breeze, the old town was gorgeous, the weather was awesome (blue skies!) and the ice cream was a nice end to the day trip.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

My First Trip of 2018

I've planned my first trip of 2018 and it's to the island of Boracay in the Philippines! It will be my first time to the country and I'm so excited!

I've put off Boracay many times before because of how inconvenient it is to get there.

For those travelling from Kuala Lumpur like me, flying into Kalibo International Airport is the best option. After arriving at Kalibo, travellers need to travel around 2 hours by bus or taxi in order to reach the jetty where ferries to Boracay depart. But since two of my colleagues had only praises for the island, I thought, "Why not? Just enjoy the journey, even if it takes 2 hours to get to the jetty."

So here I am with tickets bought, accommodation booked and heart all excited.

I'll be going to Boracay in January, so only 2 more months of waiting.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

3 Tips to Ensure You Have Sufficient Cash in Japan

A friend is going to Japan this month for about 9 days. She wants to see Japan's golden colours of autumn. 

The other day I asked her how much Japanese Yen (JPY) is she planning to bring. She said she had already bought JPY3,000. I commented that JPY3,000 is definitely not going to last her 9 days and that she needs to buy more JPY.

Just to give you an idea, I spent approximately JPY96,000 when I was in Japan for 9 days in June. JPY96,000 is for ground transport (including the Shinkansen bullet train which was the most expensive train ride in my life), meals, entrance fees, souvenirs, etc. Flight and accommodation were already paid in advance before the trip.

Japan is not like most other countries where you can bring universally accepted currencies like the US Dollar and EURO to buy the local currency at the money changer or bureau de change.

Reason is because there are NO money changers in Japan. My Japanese colleagues had confirmed this before I went to Japan.

There are no money changers in Japan, not even in tourist spots like Dotonbori in Osaka.

In Japan the only place to get JPY is at the bank. Since most of the locals do not speak English, it may be difficult to express what you want. Even the ATMs are all in Japanese.

In Japan the only place to get JPY is at the bank.
Pic: A row of ATMs at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation's (SMBC) headquarters in Osaka. 

Here are three tips to ensure you have sufficient cash when travelling in Japan:

Tip 1: Buy before travelling
Whenever possible, purchase your transport tickets, theme park tickets, accommodation, etc. in advance before arriving in Japan. By doing this, you won't find yourself caught in a situation where all your cash has been used up unexpectedly.

Purchasing tickets in advance means you don't have to think too much about what ticket to buy, where to buy it, and the how much does it cost when you arrive in Japan. This would give yourself peace of mind and more free time for sightseeing and exploring.

Before I went to Japan, I had bought the following before leaving home: 2-Day Amazing Osaka Pass, 72-Hour Tokyo Subway Ticket and Airbnb accommodation in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

In case you're wondering how I purchased the tickets beforehand, you may contact H.I.S. Malaysia. They sell a host of tickets in Japan like the JR Pass, theme park tickets (Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan, etc.), flight tickets, etc.

Tip 2: Draw out a budget
Draw out a budget, add another 20% for contingency and buy enough JPY from your home country.

Tip 3: Use credit card
My favourite option is to use credit card, especially for big ticket items. This will leave you enough cash for the smaller stuff like meals and souvenirs.

Some of you may argue that credit card exchange rates are higher compared to paying in cash. Despite this I still prefer using credit card. Imagine buying too much JPY just because you're not sure how much to bring. Compared to losing from the credit card exchange rate, you'll lose much more if you convert the balance JPY back to your home currency.

However if you become a Japanophile and decide to make many trips to Japan, then perhaps it's a good idea to buy more JPY, especially if the exchange rate is attractive.

Happy travels!

Just a random shot in Kyoto.

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