Tallinn

I absolutely loved Tallinn. And I am sure so will you if you like a bit of medieval flavour coupled with an architectural culture clash of Nordic and Russian influences at affordable prices.

Tallinn skylineDuring the August long weekend, my coworker Melissa and I went to Helsinki for three days and decided to take a day trip to Tallinn, which actually ended up being the highlight of our holiday.

We got off the ferry and headed straight for World Heritage-listed Tallinn Old Town. The cobblestoned streets and the bright buildings feel a bit like a romantic film set. It’s your quintessential medieval town, but better than most that I have seen. Literally every corner we turned was stunningly picturesque, so we were shamelessly trigger happy as we set to explore the city.

TallinnTallinn Continue reading

Helsinki

I am on a mission to visit all the Nordic countries.

Considering I lived in Denmark and visited neighbouring Sweden and Norway two years ago, there were just a couple left to check off my list. So when I found out that my coworker Melissa was jetting off to Finland for the August long weekend, I invited myself along.

Helsinki is interesting. I don’t think it’s as charming as Stockholm or as creative as Copenhagen, but it’s definitely got a unique character that neither of those do. It’s the only European capital without a medieval past – and even after visiting nearly 20 European countries, I’ll have to admit I am a sucker for old town squares, cobblestone streets and towering churches. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Helsinki’s architectural beauty, but it surely has attractive features that make it perfect destination for a weekend trip.

After all, put me in any city with a harbour and I’ll be happy and snappy!

Helsinki Helsinki

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Lisbon and Sintra

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I did not spend enough time in Lisbon.

To be more precise, I didn’t spend enough time exploring Lisbon. My first afternoon was spent watching Germany beat Portugal – and then celebrating afterwards. And half of my second day was spent exploring the Unesco World Heritage Site of Sintra.

From the little that I did see of Lisbon, here’s the verdict: it’s buzzing, it’s beautiful and it’s half as frustrating as some of the other European capitals. What I mean by that is Lisbon is relatively raw and not as commercialised as other historic, big cities. But that doesn’t mean it’s not as cool as them: it has the beach right around the corner, a historic castle with a killer view, colourful quarters and legendary pastel de nata.

Lisbon, Portugal Lisbon Continue reading

Porto

Even though I have travelled a fair bit this year, I keep going back to familiar places. India, for example. And I travelled again to Spain in March and went to Amsterdam twice in May alone. It’s been a great first half of 2014, but my geeky country count has been at a standstill.

In the hopes of checking off at least one new country, I decided to go to Portugal. I flew to Porto and met up with my old friend Sheila, who currently lives in Barcelona. We are both active travellers so we checked out almost all of Porto in 40 short but action-packed hours.

Porto PortugalSet gracefully at the bank of Rio Douro, Porto rises steeply upwards with orange-hued roofs chaotically spread among the narrow streets of the old town. It is a romantic little cities with a lot of medieval flavour. We walked through the narrow and steep streets checking out old relics, towering churches, abandoned monasteries and vibrant river-side of Ribeira. Continue reading

Palma de Mallorca

Palma de Mallorca

My Erasmus girlfriends and I have a bit of a tradition: we like going on trips for our birthdays.

For my last birthday we all met up in Amsterdam and the year before we went to Krakow. And now that we don’t live under the same roof anymore, it’s even more crucial to plan holidays where we can catch up, overdose on coffee and check off another place on our bucket lists.

Somehow it came up that we go to Palma de Mallorca for Nina‘s birthday. Palma was never on my must-visit list, but it should have been.

By going in the spring, we avoided the hoards of rowdy summer crowds and were able to admire the beauty of this Balearic island at leisure. Inspiring architecture, buzzing squares, delicious food, sea breeze and the company of my two darling friends: how was I not supposed to fall in love with Mallorca?

Palma de Mallorca streets
Before we get ahead of ourselves, the first order of business in Palma was celebrating Nina’s birthday.  Continue reading

Amer Fort, Jaipur

The last time I was in India, my brothers and I went on a road trip across Rajasthan with my Dad. We hit up Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur. Visiting Jaipur was on the itinerary, but we got quite annoyed with each other and decided to skip Rajasthan’s capital and headed home after a week.

Luckily, I got a chance to visit Jaipur this time around when Cat and I were doing our classic Golden Triangle tour (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur).

Let’s just say I really like Jaipur. It’s historic, relatively well-maintained and blessed with good weather in winter. My favourite part of Jaipur was not something that’s in the Pink City, but a place just on the outskirts: The Amer Fort (often written and pronounced as Amber Fort). Since this was also the home of the Rajput Maharajas, it’s also sometimes known as the Amer Palace.

Built by Jaipur’s Raja Man Singh I, it showcases many aspects of the traditional Rajput architecture of the time.

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Amer Amber Fort Jaipur Rajasthan
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Wah Taj!

My first memories of the Taj Mahal were TV commercials with Ustad Zakir Hussain playing the tabla in front of the monument, then sipping on tea and saying, “Wah Taj!”

Directly translated it means Wow Taj and after visiting it a few days ago, I don’t know how else to describe the Taj Mahal. So, I am shamelessly stealing the iconic phrase.

Located in Agra, the Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is unsurprisingly one of the most visited in India. Here are some of the highlights from when my friend, Cat, and I visited.

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The Delhi Dash

My friend Cat arrived in New Delhi yesterday. And I am so excited to play host/tour guide/translator/navigator/travel buddy for the next 10 days.

I have been inviting my friends to India for years but no one has visited me yet because 1) Well… I haven’t been back in 5 years, and  2) Schedules and holidays are hard to match up. Naturally, I was stoked when Cat decided that she was going to come visit me and tour India for a few days. She couldn’t get too much time off work, so when she arrived, we got down to business.

We only had one day in Delhi, which is a challenge because there is so much to see in the capital and traffic makes is impossible to cover everything in one day. So, I devised an orientation itinerary, which I thought had a bit of everything: history, culture, colours and flavours.

India Gate, New Delhi
Nothing says “Welcome to India” better than India Gate. Naturally, that was our first stop. And along the way, we spotted the Dandi March memorial monument. The “You Britishers” jokes started from there.

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Eat Pray Love: Bangalore

No, I haven’t pulled an Elizabeth Gilbert. But I have eaten a lot, prayed a little and loved every minute of my time in Bangalore.

I arrived here at the start of the week with a jam-packed schedule. Unfortunately, sight seeing was a very small bullet point on my agenda. I was researching my Masters thesis and reporting for a London-based publication. So, I was rushing from interview to meeting to event.

But, obviously, I found some time to get my tourist on.

Roop Gill
Bangalore – or Bengalaru – is the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka. It’s the third largest city in the country and an international IT hub. It has managed to acquire a couple of nicknames: Silicon Valley of India, Pub City of India, and Garden City of India. What it lacks in picturesque tourist sights, it makes up with its happening vibe, (relatively) progressive locals and an overwhelming number of dining, drinking and shopping options. Continue reading

It’s Straya Day, Mate!

Happy Australia Day to all my Aussie (and Aussie convert) friends around the world!

Australian flagNow, I realize that Straya Day is really just an excuse for rowdy, loud Aussies to have a barbie, crush some pints, listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 and get rowdier and louder. Since I am clearly not in Australia (FYI: I am stuck in cold, grey England writing essays), I am just going to use today as an excuse to blog some more about Australia because the Internet bears witness to fact that I haven’t done enough of that already. So, in honour of today being Australia Day, sharing some photos from Down Under that didn’t make it any of the blogposts last year. Continue reading