A Travellerspoint blog

A Day of Surprises

The Castle District and Marionette Theatre

semi-overcast 13 °C

I felt very fresh and alert upon waking up today. I start to do a tentative planning of destinations after Prague. (I had always go with the flow and normally just go where I feel like going)
I head back to the castle district to check out the remaining sites and was "surprised" by a sudden ticket inspection. I forgot to validate my ticket and was promptly fined 700Kc; lesson learned, never ride the public transport in Prague without a validated ticket, they'd make sure you pay. Well, it's my own fault anyway, so no complaints here.
I explored the remaining grounds, which includes the old palace, basilicas, some galleries and the golden lane. There's a band playing good music inside the castle as well, this time it was a pleasant surprise.
Some snapshots of the area
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I was drawn to the portraits of war and the weapons collections in this area.
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Toured the Lobkowicz Palace for more historical insights and while I was there, I had the opportunity to sit in a Mozart's concert. Before this little tour, I haven't have much exposure to his music, it turns out that I actually like his music. The little concert was in a pretty little room.
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Btw, more info about the House of Lobkowicz can be found on this link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobkowitz
I made another funny mistake by ordering too much food for lunch, it has somehow slipped my mind that European Portion is way larger than the ones I used to have at home. Ended up stuffing myself so much that would be probably fill my famished self until tomorrow :)
Met a solo lady traveller after lunch. She came to Prague on impulse which surprised her as normally she wouldn't travel alone. We became quick friends due to our rather similar characters and it felt nice to be able to converse in Mandarin (She's from Shanghai but is working in Paris). Spent the afternoon going around the castle district together and when the times come for us to part, she offered another possible destination for my travels, Paris. And now it seems like I have more options on my my plate.
I walked back to town, crossing the Charles Bridge (This bridge points to the road of salvation and is another architectural beauty) and stopping along the way just to observe how people interact plus the very lively atmosphere around me.
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Bumped into an Israeli couple and we talked about the Middle East and they were astonished that in Malaysia, normal citizens will not be allowed to step foot in their country, the discussion became funny when they actually start to come out with actual doable plans for me to leave my Malaysian citizenship (To quote them:" That nation is not suitable for your future") I turned them down because I have decided that I will stay a Malaysian unless circumstances outside my jurisdiction pushes me out of the country.
Went to my first Marionette Theatre and it was a real treat :) The Opera was Don Giovanni. The Marionettes did funny stunts and the occasional pranks on the audience made this a memorable experience. The entire opera was in Italian and I do not understand a single word. But music crosses all languages barriers and I understood the content when the singing starts, and the message was throughly conveyed. Music, is indeed a wonderful creation.
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To wrap up the nice surprises, there's fireworks over Charles Bridge at night. What a day :)
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Posted by canglingy 21:00 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged bridges sightseeing performing_arts Comments (0)

Gaining some insights on Praha

A journey through history

semi-overcast 13 °C

I woke up very early, and wandered off randomly and do some people-watching. Everything is at all leisurely pace except the occasional busy looking person hurrying to some location. I a lot of time to spare before the free walking tour, I did some more extra exploring and found a little museum that honors soldiers that came into Czech and stood with the resistance during the second world war. The accounts of the warriors were described vividly and there's also a crypt at the back of the museum. As I read their story, I was pained by the suffering they go through, the sacrifices they have to made ultimately leading to their deaths; yet, I was inspired by their courage and an intense admiration for some of these nameless people that willingly lay down their life, fighting to the end for what they believe is right, holding on to a hope of a better tomorrow. This little side journey is a also a stern reminder that a world scale war must never happen again.
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I hurried back to my hostel for the walking tour. This particular organization is voluntary, working strictly on a tip only basis. If you are a cheapskate, you can even consider not paying. They hope to help visitors to Prague get insights on the city and learn to grow to appreciate it :)
I got a great guide for this tour. He is Karel and since he has never heard about Malaysia, I had to explain to him that this is not a fictional country and I really am not from Korea ;) Karel is a drama graduate, hence he has a flair for the dramatic. The whole were kept entertained throughout the entire three hours. Karel talked about the myth and legends of Prague, on how this city is supposedly founded (The Laterna Magika last night help me to put the pieces together easier), he then went on about kings and the glorious ages, tales of the grandeur of Charles the Fourth and the House of Habsburg and ending it with the history of Modern Czech, stories about the Jews, the World War and the Velvet Revolution. On a side note, my nation is supposed to have a rally for a free-er election next week, so I was secretly hoping that it might become something like the Velvet Revolution. (Alas, the changes is not as drastic but you can feel the stable tension in Malaysia now after the event)
Anyway, besides the history lessons that I loved, I managed to learn some very basic Czech phrase that will come in handy. This tour was good in helping to gain more understanding rather than just reading it because I find it easier to visualize and reenact the scenes in my head as I am standing in the areas where the major events happened.
Here's some snapshots of the sights as we walk around the town.
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And there's a Franz Kafka Statue too :)
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I also found myself falling in love with these detailed sculpting.
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It was getting chilly around noon, so had to get back to change. Didn't realize the weather can be so deceiving as it was really sunny in the morning. Perhaps next time I might even need to bring a raincoat around. I went on the trams and just go to the outskirts of Prague just to have a look at life outside the city, and I discovered that there's also gems in the outskirts too.
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Went straight back to Prague Castle and bought a two-days admission ticket to all the sights in the area. When I came out of the walkway, the majestic St.Vitus Cathedral greeted me. I was literally stunned for a while by the architecture, I think mere photography will not do this building justice as it is the presence that overwhelms me. The inner halls were just as stunning. (Now I am really looking forward to Haghia Sopia in Istanbul) I realized that the piety of the early ages prompted the construction of such building and I wonder whether we'd have something to show in our age, something that will reflect our heritage and spirituality?
Anyway, here's some angles of the cathedral.
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I walked around the castle district and came to a well kept garden.
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and then one of the best panoramic view of the city as I glanced out of the walls of the caste. Prague's in all its beauty can be seen there and I tried to etch this picture in my memory.
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And I try to take a picture with the entire castle as well. (Turns out quite ok)
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I came to Wensceslas Square and was pleasantly surprised by the festival going on. It was the 800th Bohemian Anniversary. The Prague Philharmonic performed followed by a speech from the archbishop of Prague (I can only understand 3 words ;) ) and then different jazz bands will take turns to perform on the stage, it is one beautiful evening indeed. I love the atmosphere and the warmth of the locals.
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And in terms of food display, Praha is like the Chinese too to a certain extent :)
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I decided to go have a look at the local beer culture at night. This nation has the highest beer consumption rate in the world, even their infants drink a lot, beer is actually quite an integral part in their culture. I joined the locals in some local bars, drank an astonishing amount of beer, vodka and absinthe and made some friends. Oh, there's finally a local that know of Malaysia, his response was rather amusing, to quote him, "Malaysia? Is the one with f***** jungles in the north right?"
I was actually rendered rather speechless and found no witty comeback to this statement. Had a good night, managed to not get drunk too :)

Posted by canglingy 05:22 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged churches sightseeing Comments (0)

To Praha

From Dubai to Prague, Czech Republic

semi-overcast 14 °C

Went to the airport rather early and wanted to confirm my return ticket with Malaysia Airlines' office, and it turns out that the office will not be opened until 3pm!! Sigh, should have check with the office before going directly :(
Found out the Dubai's airport is quite green
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Sat next to a Czech lady whose work is Swarovski Stones production, learnt more about the stones than in readings. We swapped stories and experiences and the flight to Prague turns out to be a pleasant one. Hunted for a SIM card that works throughout the region and I settled for the World SIM Card. It is rather pricey but it saves the hassle of having to get another SIM upon arrival to another country.
Had a good first impression of the country when traveling from the airport to the city. The greenery and the buildings are rather impressive.
Picture shows Prague airport and scenery on the way to town.
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I stayed in the Mosaic House while I was in Prague. It was a great place and the directions to get there was excellent. I had no problem to orientate myself quickly upon arrival as the city only have 3 metro lines. Okay, back to Mosaic House, it is actually the first hotel in the Czech Republic to use 100% electricity from renewable sources, 100% biogas, and greywater recycling system with heat recuperation technology. You can read more in their website here, http://www.mosaichouse.com/ It certainly contribute to responsible traveling and the staffs are amazing as well, they would go the extra mile to address your need.
Here's some of the snapshots of the streets and buildings near Mosaic House.
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When in Prague, gotta have a beer ;) and not only the beer is good, it is really cheaper than water.
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I took a quiet stroll along the river, enjoying the breeze (quite chilly for summer but I liked it)
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Enjoyed a multimedia theater at night, it is the Laterna Magika (Legends of Magic Prague) and being multimedia, it is a synthetic theatre of music and dance which is dominated by accompanying video-projections that make use of new digital technologies. The performances had my attention from the start till the end and the portrayals of different lores are fascinating. This sure gives a new perception on theater performances.
More info can be read from their website. http://www.laterna.cz/en/
Looked forward to my first full day tomorrow.

Posted by canglingy 09:11 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged travelling performing_arts Comments (0)

A Day in Dubai

Trying to see everything of significance in an entire day

sunny 46 °C

It is day 3, I know I am leaving for Prague tomorrow. So the plan is catch most of the sights but I do not fancy getting grilled by the sun either so my sister gave a brilliant suggestion of taking the Big Bus Tour. It is basically like sightseeing with audio commentaries when you pass certain point of interest, with options to get off at some stops as well.
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And it has languages options
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And traffic of course being in Dubai wasn't that fantastic
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I opt to skip the old towns (saving it for winter if I managed to come back, it is not really a comfy walking tour in this season) Despite my desire of not getting scorched by the sun, I got it anyway when I got off at one of the stops to take photos if the Burj al Arab and that stop doesn't have a proper shelter except perhaps some trees scattered here and there that doesn't help.
Here's some of the results :)
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And the beach is actually beautiful and good for surfing
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Police patrol on the beach too
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A glimpse of local houses by the beach
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Touring in Dubai also means that a fair share of the sights are actually huge shopping malls with elaborate inner decor, some of them are rather beautiful and you'd get impressions of great wealth as you step into these buildings
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Almost every single mall have luxury cars to be won by shoppers when they spend a small amount like 200AED (This amount is nothing in Dubai)
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Had a stopover in Atlantis to visit the aquarium with Mesopotamia themes, thought that the combinations of ruins and fishes were good. It gives the feelings and experience that you are actually walking through an ancient pathway/or at least glancing through it. So basically, instead of just another underwater world thingy, they go one step further and deliver the experience.
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The jellyfishes are creation of beauty right?
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Here's Atlantis extravagance in toilets ;)
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My next stop is the Mall of the Emirates, the Arabs have managed to build an entire artificial snow experience in that desert that they may enjoy snow all year long. Sounds like what the ancient emperors will do eh? They have a really long slope for skiing as well.
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Heading back to the main part of the city, you'd see signs of heavy development and modern architecture
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The wealth of this city is further exhibited in Dubai Mall, where they have a Souk (marketplace in Arabic) that focuses on gold trading
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And ATMs that vends gold
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In the evening, there's a musical fountain show at the mall that became quite the crowd pleaser. I managed to get a photo with the Burj Khalifa (I think it is currently the tallest building in the world)
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Oh btw, the apartments at this side is quite nicely built too
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I went into another aquarium, this time it is tunnel like and is supposedly the largest aquarium of this size in the world. There's also zoo of sort for exotic animals that is included with the admission price, so I am happy :)
Took a picture with my shark friends
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And did you see the stingray smiling ;)
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Their effort in interior design even in zoos can be seen with the penguins
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As a finale for my sightseeing in Dubai, I went up the Burj Khalifa for the night view of Dubai and the documentaries. I must admit I might never understand the complexity of engineering but all the efforts put into this building is astounding for me. The night view, is beautiful as well.
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On a side note , the latest mission impossible is shot here. Tom Cruise jumped down from the building I think.
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Encounter a slight problem when I attempt to get back to my sister's place. The taxi pretend to know the destination when in fact he doesn't. I was forced reconstruct my memory and try to figure out my location, finally got home after going around in circles for some time. I wasn't happy and I had to fork out more money. In the end I was too tired to argue and left him be.

Today was like a rushed sightseeing. I will slow down in Europe, hoping for more time to savor and to reflect upon what I had experienced and of course, to wander beyond the touristic area.

Posted by canglingy 22:13 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged sightseeing travelling Comments (0)

Onwards to the Middle East

From KLIA to Dubai

sunny 45 °C

I have some time to kill before the rendezvous with my sister so did some last minute currency exchange and just stroll around KLIA international departure area. Tempted to go into the Plaza Premium Lounge but didn't because it will not be worth it with the time I have on hand, Found out that the Bank Islam exchange booth in KLIA gave the best exchange rate in Europe by far. The rest are just ripping you off ;)
Noticed Famous food street replica here as well
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The "inner chamber" are really quiet after midnight, looks like not many Malaysian are headed overseas nowadays. The meet up with my sister Agnes Yee didn't happen until the time of boarding but I managed to make some new friends already, played poker to pass time.
A little commentary about Emirates flight here. They are actually better than Malaysian Airlines in terms of service and their in flight entertainment system (ICE), go google yourself if you want to find out more, haha. ICE actually have almost any genre one could ask for/expect in a flight entertainment system. The sticker thingy is really good too as it notifies the stewardess whether you want to be woken up for meals or be left alone. Was well fed on flight, seems like the food just keep coming and coming.
Touchdown in Dubai at dawn and noticed the long queue for passport control. This is a busy airport indeed. Here's some snapshots of the airport
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Finally got to my turn (it is times like this I wish I have a NATO pass or something) The passport control couldn't resist to take a swipe at Malaysia when she saw my passport," So Malaysian Passport? They give our system some problem, don't know what the government is doing there." Got through without problems but I would expect more questioning when I get to Europe.

My sister and I crashed at her place after our clearances after being driven to her place by a lady cab driver (a lady out showing her face, working in public, perhaps some parts in Middle East is not that conservative eh?)
We woke up around noon, and I wanted to get in sync with how local people get through their daily life, so I tag along with her as she finish her some task that she needs to. Got a little crash course about the culture here and is surprised by the MINIMUM wage of a degree holder here, it's 12,000 Dh. (For my Malaysian readers, this is almost RM 12,000) There's a definitely a huge gulf between us and them, quite sadly. You can read the article here
http://www.dubaivisarules.info/2011/01/ministry-of-labour-uae-announced.html
Yep, We have a long way to go.

I went to her training school and she gave me a tour. Here's pictures
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and a training simulation room too
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I was grateful for the privilege :)
Oh, the lower level workers here are predominantly Pakistani or Indian so they get pushed around a lot (Just some side info)

My sis and I had an authentic Dubai taxi experience, somehow two taxis noticed our waves and decide to have a shouting match to decide who has the right to the customer. One was an Arab and the other an Indian, another local came along (and you can guess who won and who left sulking and cursing)
About the food here, as I moved out of Malaysia, one thing that will be very evident is that the food will not be that heavily flavored. I found something that I like here which is the hummus, the wiki is here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummus) and it is nicely packed
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However, the food price is almost double compared to that of Malaysia but the bigger portion left greater eating satisfaction.
Walked around the mall and marveled at the huge aquarium before calling it a day
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Got my orientation of the city from my sister and I am all set to wander off by myself tomorrow.
(Dubai main city is mainly just two long streets, one for the financial area and another the beach road, it is really pretty easy)

Posted by canglingy 08:39 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged travelling Comments (0)

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