Monday, March 23, 2009

Barcelona : Day 6 : 20 Oct 2008

Our Barcelona travel league started with a visit to the Temple Expiatori De La Sagrada Familia. This, to me is the BEST of Gaudi-designed building. Again, this was my 2nd visit, but it did not differ much compared to year 2002. The construction was still on going, and the scaffoldings were everywhere; inside and outside. This building was featured in a Taiwanese drama, Meteor Garden 2, and I believe not many people knew that this building existed. More so, in this less-explored-but-famous Catalunya city.

To those who wants to know, it is a church and is still the most visited, people-accessible construction site in the world. Construction started in 1883, and in 2008, it was only 60% completed. There's another 18 years to go before we can see it completed. That is our target, to visit Sagrada Familia again in 2026.

> Sagrada Familia's History

> Sagrada in 1900s (23 years old)

> Sagrada in 1930s (58 years old)

> Sagrada in 2008 (125 years old)

To get here, we took the metro purple line from Passeig de Gracia and stopped at Sagrada Familia station. Entrance fee was E10/pax, and the main entrance was at Passion Facade. The opposite side of this squarish building is known as Nativity Facade. Highly recommended to check out this website to know it inside out:

> Passion Facade: Main Entrance

> Nativity Facade

Inside Sagrada Familia, it gave a feeling of being in a concrete forest. We were only allowed to walk on the perimeter, as the centre court was under construction. Gaudi got the inspiration from the forest, and the idea was explained in the 3rd picture.

We went up to one of the towers at Nativity Facade side, and the elevator to the top cost E2.50/pax. It was up by elevator, and down via spiral stairs on foot. The position we were at could easily be 20 stories high. This tower overlooked to the east side of Barcelona, and we saw the bullet-like Torre Agba Tower.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Barcelona : Day 5 : 19 Oct 2008

Skipping the balance days in Paris, I jump straight to introduce my next destination; Barcelona, Spain. This was my 2nd time to Barcelona, the first time was in 2002. Not many people knew this city, and to those who know, they can be categorized into 2 groups; the football fan and the architect. Football fans surely know FC Barca and Nou Camp, and the architects know because of Antoni Gaudi. I knew and explored out of curiosity.

We took the easyJet from Paris Orly airport and landed at Barcelona El Prat airport. Our first surprise; no immigration checkpoint after exiting the plane and moving into airport. This was because travelling within EU nations is seamless nowadays. Going to city centre, we took the commuter train, Renfe which was located outside the airport. One good thing was the location of this airport that is within the city centre zone. So we only need to buy a T-10 ticket that was valid for 10 rides within city centre. From Aeroport station, we changed to metro green line at Passeig de Gracia and then stopped at Liceu. We stayed at Hostel Mendoza, at the centre of La Ramblas, just in front of the station exit. It was a double room that comes with an internal shower for E50/room. Very very convenient...and within budget.. Our first time seeing such room.

La Ramblas is famous boulevard for a few things; mannequin street performers that worked from day till night, souvenir stalls, and the bad one; pickpockets. We were lucky not to meet them. While walking along this street with hundreds of people in the same direction, you'll also meet another hundreds walking opposite of your direction. There were many souvenir shops along both sides of this street, and all of them were owned and manned by South Asian people. Main items were football jerseys and Barcelona souvenir.

Since day 5 was half spent, the remaining half of the days were used to preview the city scene. We walked north-bound to Rambla de Catalunya and further on to Passeig de Gracia. Target to find the tapas or paella restaurants listed in my guide book. But we surrended after half an hour and turned back from Casa Battlo to Catalunya to look for a nearer restaurant.

It was 6.30pm, and we were worried dinner time was not up because Spaniard is famous for their late beer time, 6pm and dinner, 9pm. Anyway, we followed our own rules, dinner at 7pm. We chose what we must have; seafood paella (rice dishes) and sangria (fruity red wine). Conclusion: Satisfied and happy!!

At the south end of LR is the sea and port area, Barceloneta. You can find the Mirador De Colom (Columbus column) and 3D Imax theatre.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hong Kong 2006

This is a short one on my trip to HK in 2006, just for the benefit of some friends who plans to visit HK. Basically, to introduce what I found to be the interesting and not to be missed stuff. It may cover the usual things that you can find in the internet, but I hope these info provide some alternatives.

> Breakfast: Coffee, Polo Bao, XiMut Tea, Condensed Milk Toast

> Dinner: Pork Rice, Curry Fish Ball, Porridge, Shark Fin Soup

> Dessert: Mango Pudding at Hui Lau San

> Avenue of Stars to look for your fav stars hand print. Prepare a jacket as the place is quite windy and chilly.

> Night show at 8pm opposite of Avenue of Stars. Don't expect to see fireworks, and don't need to take video. Just enjoy with naked eyes.

> This place is near Mongkok. Remember this place (marked in the map) if you are looking for Chao Tau Fu (Pungent Taufu). Just bypass the 1st stall you see because the 'good' smell actually comes from the stall furtherdown.

> Madame Tussuad museum at Victoria's Peak. Remember to approach the line on the left to buy a combo ticket (tram & museum), then proceed to queue on the right. After Madame Tussuad, take the escalator to the top for HK night view, looking towards Tsim Sha Tsui. It will be difficult to get a good spot for photo taking because the best spot was taken by those professionals. Better to start learning to snap pictures at night to not waste the chance to capture the beautiful night view.

> HK Disneyland fireworks every night. First timer should visit Disneyland to know how a Disneyland looks and feels like.

> Try the world's longest escalator, located at Central (Chung Wan) area. While enjoying the upward movement experience, drop out near Wellington Street and look for Lyndhust Terrace Street. HK last Governor, Chris Patten's fav egg tart shop.

> Out of HK, try Lantau Island (Tai Yu Shan) for the Giant Buddha. From HK, you can take the metro. Then, going to the hilltop the quickest was by cable car. But queueing for the ticket may be a turned off. So, be prepared to go for plan B; using bus. The ticket to Giant Buddha included a vegetarian lunch at the nearby temple.

> Going to Macau, you have 2 options; going from Tsim Sha Tsui or Central. Better to opt for Central as we found the boat to be more stable while docking, and price was cheaper. Once in Macau, you can use the bus to move around. Just enjoy the scenery while waiting for your destination to be announced by the driver. The first place to land should be Senado Square (San Ma Lo). This is the starting point to look for pork bun (chee yuk bao), steam egg (dan daan), double layer milk (xiong pei nai, only available from 3pm), and portugese tart.

Things I missed:
> Getting onto a tram
> Going to shopping centres in Causeway Bay (Tung Lo Wan)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Paris : Day 2 , Part 2

Near Centre of Pompidou, we found a place to have a filling all-you-can-stuff lunch. The place was called "Flunch", and our lunch cost below E7/set. Consisting of rice/pasta, vege, meat and drinks. Highly recommended for those who has a tummy big enough to fill but wallet not big enough to enjoy fine French cuisine.

Our next destination was Galleries Lafayette. It is a shopping centre located 3km away. We were determined to walk there, hoping to see things on the journey, but it rained. Ended up using 2 hours to reach Galleries. We only spent half an hour there with the main priority to use the toilet, with no intention of buying anything. We were surprised that a short umbrella in Paris cost E12, luckily only E3 in Malaysia.

We then moved on to Champs Elysees by taking metro from Chaussee d'Antin La Fayette station on line 8 to Concorde. Exiting Concorde station, we came up to a very big square with a glimpse of Tour Eiffel. This is the Place de la Concorde.

This is the starting point of another walkathon; to Arc de Triomphe via Champs Elysees. The avenue looks like KL Bintang Walk, but at a grander scale and higher volume of people. To complete this avenue may be too much for some because the length is approximately 1.5~2km. But with the Arc as the ending point for this walkathon, you will want to walk till the end and save the metro ticket.

Arc de Triomphe is located on a roundabout with 12 roads converging to it. The main roads are Avenue des Champs Elysees, coming from the Louvre and Avenue de la Grande Armes, coming from La Defense. For us, the Arc was one of the 2 main highlights of Paris. Going up was a sure thing, and it cost E9/pax. There was a fire place below the Arc, meant to commemorate the fallen soldiers. On that evening, we saw some old soldiers gathering there and it seem like such gathering happens every week.

> Champs Elysees

> Tour Eiffel from Arc de Triomphe

Spiral stairs led up to the first level that house the information and souvenir centre. This level was also a place to shield and warm ourselves from the cold autumn wind at the top level. The top level gave a very good bird eye view of the city. You can see the nearer Tour Eiffel, or as far as Sacre Coeur and La Defense. You will notice that both avenues; Champs and Grande have higher traffic volumes and some avenues were deserted.
We recommend the good time to visit the Arc is evening 5~6pm. In the 3 hours we were at the top, Tour Eiffel appeared before us in both day and night versions.