Fiji times

A dream destination, hidden in the Pacific, away from everything, lie the beautiful Fiji Islands. Fijians are considered one of the friendliest people on Earth and with good reason. They smile, sing and dance and do all that in Fiji time, which means relaxed, chilled out, no rush mode.

My flight from Singapore landed in Nadi at 5 am and even at that early hour of the day there were two Fijians playing the guitar and singing their cheerful welcoming song followed by a big “Bula” , which means hello, welcome.

Nadi

Most international flights would land in Nadi, hence a stopover there usually occurs. My stopover lasted for two days, which is a rather long time in Nadi, but I decided traveling Fiji time.

As welcoming view I watched a sunrise like this.

And the very same day, a sunset like this.

But if you spend some time in Nadi the town must be checked out too. Taking the local bus is already an adventure in itself , don’t even bother stressing about the fact that it doesn’t come according to the schedule.

Nadi Town is small and quite compact, filled with many shops and some restaurants and cafes.

There are some markets and many handcraft items are sold at every step, all the sellers trying to give you a more and more convincing line, just to get you to buy something. It’s very common that they will start telling you their whole life stories and fill you in with way more information that you’d need to know. All this while having enormous smiles on their faces and being warm and friendly, as they know very well how to be so.

Nadi may not be the safest town, but I never felt unsafe either. There is a fair number of tourists and you can easily spot them because we do stand out between all the Fijians.

Bounty Island

Nadi is the starting point of the island hopping, ferries departing from Port Denarau and cruising up to the Mamanucas and further up north to the Yasawas.

Bounty Island is the second stop on the Yasawa Flyer and in 30 min cruising it already lies in front of our eyes. It’s a small island, in 20 min I walked it all around, but it’s pretty, cosy and filled with friendly Fijians at the only resort on the island, called Bounty Island Resort.

As at the airport, also here they sing to you when you arrive and they certainly not forget to sing you when you depart either.

The typical activities that happen are snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding , sunbathing and swimming and also the famous Kava ceremony.

Kava is for Fijians the most significant drink, they offer it with important occasions and so they do without any specific occasion too. They make it from the kava plant and it basically looks like dirty water. The taste is not very appealing either, but it’s not unpleasant. It’s nonalcoholic, but it does make you so relaxed after a few cups, that some people were literally falling asleep while sitting.

Bounty island is quiet and relaxing, the views are beautiful on sunny days.

Mantaray Island

It’s name represents the mantarays that can be seen in the season. It’s a bigger island, with a more vibrant atmosphere than Bounty and with another group of super friendly Fijian staff at the resort.

Besides the usual kava ceremony they do typical local dances for the public, where you are invited to join in and great fun is guaranteed.

From Mantaray a few hours trip is a must do and includes hiking and snorkeling.

Stunning views, fun and entertaining guides and most likely an adventurous half day is part of the deal.

Suva

Switching back to the mainland, 3 hours away from Nadi is Suva, the nations capitol. Not an impressive city, rather a bit dodgy town, Suva is less touristy than Nadi and feels a bit less safe too.

The Beachhouse

My favorite place in Fiji, the Beachhouse is on the beautiful coral coast and it’s one of those places where you go and you get stuck.

A decent beach, hammocks to relax, great people and in general a wonderful vibe.

A few hours I spent doing a bush walk with some fellow travelers and our only 18 years old Fijian guide. In our way we passed a friendly fijian families home and stopped for a chat.

These friendly, relaxed and positive people live in poor conditions, yet they are so much at ease with life that it gives us an example.

The Beachhouse was supposed to be my home only for 3 nights, but I enjoyed it so much that after several extensions it turns out that I spent 7 nights there and it felt that I could do even longer.

Every type of traveler will find an activity that suits them, whether the swing, the table soccer, stand up paddle boarding or the sunset watching.

What’s set for sure is that the day starts with yoga , of course it’s optional though, and ends with beer, that’s optional too, but there are always plenty of volunteers.

Whether you choose one or the other, do it in Fiji time.

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Tips for Hong Kong

1 – Hike up to The Peak for the sunset.

The Peak is possible to reach in several ways. The famous and overcrowded peak tram is the most popular option, which the less fit people choose. Similar to that is the bus, which offers less spectacular views but you still don’t have to do anything else than sit. On the other hand, outdoors lovers will most likely opt for hiking. The route that I took starts from the Hong Kong University metro station and its called Morning Trail. It took me aprox 75 min to reach the top in a regular rhythm, not too fast, not too slow. From the metro stop you first need to make your way up through some stairs until you actually reach the beginning of the trail itself. It’s an easy hike and along the way you’ll meet many Asians being involved in all kind of sporty activities.

If you’re more lucky than I’ve been, you’ll arrange to go on a clear sunny day and watch the sunset and I recommend you to stay a bit longer until it gets dark so that you can admire the lit up skyscrapers of the city.

In this case you’ll catch the panorama at daytime, sunset and night view as well.

There’s plenty to do up there, you won’t even feel how time flies. From shopping to eating or just hanging out, it’s all possible.

If you’re not a night hike fan you can take the bus down and go all the way Central. You’ll see the same skyscrapers but from a different angle.

2 – Check out Lan Kwai Fong 

Hong Kong never sleeps. It’s like New York of Asia, at every hour of day and night you find something to do. Lan Kwai Fong district is the place to be for fun and entertainment at any day of the week. As a taster I went just for a walk there to get an idea of the place. Loved the street art and instantly fell in love with the vibe. I knew I’d return the next evening to make the most of it.

3 –  Take the boat to Lamma Island for a daytrip

The boats depart from the central pier aprox every half an hour. The ride takes more or less 40 min and although I went on a Saturday the island was peaceful and relaxing. Some organized groups would pop up here and there, but in general it was a quiet place, the kind of spot you’d like to go for a getaway from the busy rest of Hong Kong.

It’s beautiful nature will attract mostly the outdoors lovers as some easy bush walks are possible to do there and the view is stunning.

The beach is clean, so it’s the water. It wasn’t the warmest day but I still took a dip and the water was really nice .

The atmosphere on the island is authentic and a great location to try out the local Hong Kong food selection.

The market is full of food and spices that I don’t even recognize neither after the color or smell. Fish can be found in every form

and size, after all the islanders are experts in fishing.

They are also skilled in driving the tiny vehicles adapted to the roads of Lamma Island, making me smile when I spotted the firefighters truck.

It’s easy to spend a few hours on the island before heading back to the main island.

4 – Ride the Star ferry to Victoria Harbour

Another must see location in Hong Kong is its beautiful Victoria Harbour. You can head there by the world famous Star Ferry, which is in itself an attraction. Victoria Harbour is beautiful both at day and night, offering stunning views of the city and several attractions nearby, such as Hong Kong Museum of Art, Kowloon Park or Tsim Sha Tsui district. The latest is the perfect place for shopping whether you’re after famous brands or random boutiques. I felt that in Hong Kong you can find absolutely anything you’d desire, you just need to search well for it. It’s a very vibrant city and in particular Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui are always on the move, being filled with dozens of locals and tourists.

5 – Go on a different kind of bus tour 

For experiencing the city in a different way you might look into some special events such as a double decker bus tour with free drinks. Two hours of fun and tour of the city from the top of the bus might turn out greater than you’d think. If the warm up did it’s job it’s always a good idea to move the party to Lan Kwai Fong, where it’s located the best rated shot bar in Hong Kong, called Geronimo. Plenty of other bars and clubs all around and the night is long, usually lasting until early morning hours.

6 – You haven’t been in Hong Kong if you haven’t tried Dim Sum

Hong Kong is a fabulous place to eat food from every corner of the world, but nothing compared to Dim Sum, which happens to be local. It does worth taking a stroll along some side streets to find good Dim Sum restaurants.

7 – Sip on a glass of wine at a rooftop bar

Plenty of skyscrapers with rooftop bars and spectacular views. The hard choice is which is the best? All of them are amazing, this city looks great from every angle.

8 – Visit Man Mo temple

Hong Kong has many other temples which may be more impressive, but Man Mo is nice and easy to reach. Located in Soho, between the busy streets of the city, it’s a place to go to get yourself together for some minutes and just enjoy the silence.

9- Walk and shop at Fashion Walk

The famous Fashion Walk, at Causeway

Bay station is busy and for sure a big

attraction for shopping addicts. All the big names can be found just one after the other.

10 – Do some sport in Victoria Park

Centrally located, Victoria Park is a great place where to let the steam out and jog or join a sport activity class together with the locals.

With all these options don’t forget to dance to the beat of your own drum . of

Thai adventures

It’s hard to find a non touristy place in Thailand and although most people travel to this country for the beaches and islands, the real Thai culture and a whole different world is up north.

Chiang Mai is already quite well known, also easy to reach either by train, bus or plane. The flight from Bangkok takes around 2 hours and from the airport to the city another 15 min drive.

Chiang Mai in itself it’s a charming place, but at a certain time of the year is in particular a must to do. That’s when the light festival happens and the whole town is decorated with hanging lanterns, lots of events all around the town and of course a big number of people from all over the world.

It’s wise to book accommodation in advance because even though it’s Thailand we are talking about, with this particular occasion prices tend to rise up and hotels/ hostels get fully booked very quickly.

The few days I’ve spent in Chiang Mai were absolutely amazing and the ultimate highlight was the main event of the festival, when thousands of lanterns were released and flew up in the sky offering a breathtaking view.

Everybody could buy their on lantern, small or big , at the spot for aprox 50 baht. People say you must write on it your hidden desires and as you release it it’s going to fly toward the gods, who’ll hopefully make your wish come true. Whether that happens or not it’s up to you to decide to believe it or not, but the feeling you get when participating actively at this amazing event does worth it.

Even while riding back on the scooter the city you can still see all those beautiful lights far away in the sky, floating in a peaceful rhythm.

Every year the event might take place at different dates, but it will certainly be during full moon early November or end of October. Thai people take it pretty serious and organize even a massive parade, where they put on interesting costumes and sign happily, spreading smiles all over. During the festival Chiang Mai is busy, loud and a fun place to be.

However, Chiang Mai has way more to offer once the festival is over too. Easy access to Doi Suthep, the wonderful hill with the temple on top and with breathtaking views of the city .

You can easily spend a few hours there, wondering around and taking pictures with the kids dressed up in traditional Thai clothing. A village trip from Doi Suthep is just another 10 minutes drive, but unfortunately not as original as I’d expected. The village I got to check out was rather commercialized and you didn’t really get the chance of interacting with locals unless you let yourself talked into buying something from them. A bit of a disappointment but that’s sometimes part of the deal.

Since the village life near Doi Suthep didn’t offer me much I’ve decided to check out a different one later on during my trip. 3 hours away from Chiang Mai is located the town with a similar name, called Chiang Rai, famous for its white temple. Quiet, less touristy,Chiang Rai is a good place to calm down and enjoy the silence sort of day. Besides the white temple there’s a blue temple and several others, which I skipped.

Other than that, just some fine restaurants and a cat cafe, where you can relax with some unusual, furry company. The cats are friendly and very lazy, typical kitten style.

Northern Thailand is a great location for nature lovers and a jungle trekking trip is definitely a must do thing there. I was so excited to go and explore the jungle together with my travel buddy that I met some days before in Bangkok. Equipped with hiking shoes, insect repellent and our backpacks filled with necessities for two days, we got picked up in Chiang Rai, drove aprox 30 min to the White Buddha, where we spent around 30 min , time just enough to go up in the crown and have a look at the view.

Straight after we hit the road and arrived to the point where our jungle trekking was going to start. Most of the way was easy, not too many obstacles along the way, except some little rivers that we needed to cross, but it went all smoothly and I certainly enjoyed being in the nature.

Our guide spoke quite a broken English and had a rather fast trekking rhythm, but he had one amazing quality that I remember and probably will remember forever: he prepared us absolutely delicious meal in the middle of the nature and using as pot only bamboo that he cut himself . Our lunch table was a big rock at the waterfall and the table setting was a big leaf, cutlery some bamboo chopsticks. Nothing fancy, but certainly a lunch that I enjoyed very much.

We were set up for adventure and we got just that . And also a great view from Doi Bo, where I couldn’t resist to take a few shots with my swiss flag that I got as a present from my friends on my last days in Switzerland. As hiking and outdoors in general became an important aspect of my life during my stay in Switzerland, the jungle trekking, although a very different one from hiking in the Swiss Alps, it did bring back some beautiful memories and I must admit, I got a bit melancholic.

I recovered shortly as I fell asleep for 20 minutes under the blue sky and got up just when my travel buddy, Mariella called my name as it was time to continue our trekking.

We followed our guide for another hour or so, when we reached the hill tribe village, our overnight location. We were pumped to see our accommodation, which we knew it’s going to be very basic and a true adventure for both of us as none of us have ever spent a night in a bamboo house before.

As you’d expect, a bamboo house doesn’t offer you much privacy and you can forget about silence. You can hear everything and you can also see through the walls because the bamboo branches they use are not very thick and they have little gaps in between. Our dinner has been prepared by the locals, served on a little improvised table just in front of the house, where we sat in turkey seats on the floor and ate with a big appetite after the active day we had behind us.

There you could really see how a typical village life looks like, how people wash their kids, how they enjoy the little things in life and how content they are with what they have. A real life lesson that once in a while it’s good to have, just as a reminder that we are so privileged to have what we have.

After dinner it was already pitch dark and there’s not much to do, so the only place you could go was our improvised bed : two mattresses on the floor with a little pillow and some blankets and a mosquito net above it. I think we were sleeping around 9 pm already, especially because we expected the early alarm, which was not our clock but the rooster. I could even hear the other tourist snoring in the bamboo house next to us. The rooster started being noisy already at 4 am and quite soon after we started our day. The locals prepared us breakfast, they borrowed us a typical costume to wear and soon after we waved our goodbyes and went trekking again.

New day, new views. I just loved it!

At lunchtime our guide set a fire in the middle of the nature, broke some eggs in a bamboo brench and while the meal was getting ready he tried to reach me to make a bamboo cup. That was mission impossible but great fun.

On the other hand, the jungle lunch, as I like to call it has been another success and we licked all our ten fingers after.

The day still had some surprises for us: a beautiful waterfall and a dip in the hotspring.

Just the perfect way of finishing this adventure. On the way back to Chiang Rai I could tell that even Mariella enjoyed, although she’s not a big trekking fan. I was happy to have her around and I think that was our most interesting adventure in Thailand. Jungle trekking rules!

Bangkok

Sitting at the airport in Bangkok to board for Chiang Mai… and was thinking : how different it seemed Bangkok in comparison to my first visit one and a half years ago. It’s a city which goes through constant changes in a ridiculously fast rhythm, but the fact that the government restricted drastically the street food vendors it does really make a difference. 


Khaosan road during the day became way more quiet than it used to be, but as the dawn sets it comes to life and at night is the same: a lot of street food, music, people and happy vibes. Halloween boosted up even more the whole atmosphere and scary looking, bloody faced monsters were roaming around last night.


For a first time thing I’ve finished my dinner with a fried scorpion, which was crunchy and completely tasteless but a funny experience. 


For the braver ones there’s also tarantula and snake.

And for drinks with a view there’s the rooftop bar from Sofitel So, facing Lumphini park. Loved it!



What to do in Lugano in six hours?

Switzerland is tiny, but very diverse and easy to explore. In the Italian part of the country is a similar vibe as in Italy, just still organized in a swiss way.

Tessin, or Ticino as they call it, gets usually more sunshine during the year, perhaps hence the more smiley attitude of the locals.

Lugano, being the largest city in Ticino, lies on the Lake Lugano and it’s surrounded by the Lugano Prealps. Easy to approach both from Italy and other swiss cities, Lugano is a delight of the region. By swiss standards a large city, however small enough to explore by foot in just six hours.

A short walk from the train station and the breathtaking panorama reveals itself. Although it’s just 10 am the sun is burning my skin. The view is wonderful, the sky reflecting in the lake, offering a pleasant combination of colors for the eyes.


Along the lake there are plenty of benches to rest and admire the picturesque view. Besides the walk, various activities may be done, such as cruising or paddle boarding.



It’s wise to have swimmers on in case the inviting water and the sandy beach may get too hard to refuse. The ideal summer holiday setting, even though it’s not even officially summer yet. 


At lunchtime there’s no need to bother going far away, as there are several restaurants along the lake, where serving a meal comes together with the panorama as bonus. The choice may be hard though, because all of them seem cosy and the stuff very friendly.



While in Lugano, what could be the dessert if not a delicious gelato? Ice cream that tastes the best when made with Italian skill, gelato is my sweet memory of Lugano and I’d strongly recommend to try it. Yummi, yummi!

For the afternoon I thought about having a look at Monte Bre, the small mountain that’s considered one of the sunniest points in Switzerland. 


The Monte Bre funicular took me up there in a few minutes for the price of a few gelatos. The investment does well worth it. A spectacular view greets the visitors at arrival, offering plenty of spots for postcard perfect pictures.



 It is also the ideal location to serve a drink with a view at one of the restaurants. 



Heading back to the city… There is still a bit less than an hour left, just enough to briefly check out the old town of Lugano with its fancy boutiques and designer shops.

 No shopping for me, but regardless I made a complete picture of the city. With one last gelato purchased I’m happily on my way back to the train station at 4 pm. 

Tasting Romania 🇷🇴 

Probably if I haven’t lived my first 25 years in Romania I wasn’t interested to go there, as you may not be either. It’s reputation is not the greatest and is still very underrated, but it can surprise you in so many positive ways if you give it a chance.
I have my very best friends there and one of them celebrated her birthday last week. With this occasion I flew in to Bucharest, where I don’t fancy spending too much time. 

On the other hand, where her birthday gig took place is a setting out of nature documentaries. Just a few hours away from the busy capital city, in a rather remote area, lies Valea Doftanei ( Doftanei Valley).

When I say remote, it means you should be prepared for bumpy roads at some point, literally bumpy roads, especially if you take the forest road, which some tourists took by accident. 

After a good 3 hours drive we reached this peaceful spot, where it was just us, a super friendly host and the blue sky above. It didn’t take long until the uninvited guests joined us, attracted by the smell of our tasty barbecue. 

Barbecue in Romanian style is a whole ritual of bringing together several types of meat, veggies and the unforgettable tuica, which is the traditional, home made , hardcore alcohol. Food is taken seriously by Romanians , frankly, too overwhelming for me personally. The fact is that every meal is tasty, delicious and just too hard to refuse. 



As a bonus: it’s prepared with so much dedication and passion, that even the sneaky fox gets pious once it tastes it.

That weekend food played an important role in my life, however, what I was craving more was to explore a bit the nature. We did make time for this too and discovered some really nice spots. 



In the middle of nowhere has been totally amazing, I recharged my batteries, but only my own ones, as for my phone there was no need because I completely forgot to use it. No internet, no reception, no communication with the outside world. Isn’t that heaven on earth for a few days? It certainly was for me.

Although exploring the forest, dipping our feet in the ice cold creek and counting the stars on the clear sky has been amazing, on our departure day I was looking forward to the journey back to the city because we’d planned to stop at a beautiful spot that I eyed up already beforehand.



Paltinul Lake, the place we stopped at on our way back to the city, is a place that, too my shame, I didn’t even know it existed. Green grass, tall trees, blue sky reflecting in the crystal water of the lake and a friendly cow savouring it’s lunch, undisturbed by my camera. 





Pretty much the perfect scenery, but … I’d so much love to imagine that it was just the beautiful spot and no extremely loud music coming from a house nearby, no litter forgotten randomly here and there, no rotten stench of a dead dog left by the shore. Although, our nose and ears were clearly affected, we managed to put away the negative for a bit and just stare at the beauty that was lying in front of us. Maybe by next time the dead dog will disappear, the litter will be collected and the party at the house will be kept private … 

DĂĽsseldorf – freezing, yet friendly 

I like to say that the unexpected ways of life take me sometimes to places I had no plan to go to. Surprisingly I even have friends to visit in such places. This way the long weekend was not only productive, but also a great occasion to catch up and discover a new city with the help of locals. 

Some time back I had a short layover in DĂĽsseldorf already, not having enough time to leave the airport though. This time I wish I didn’t have to leave the airport – that was my first thought when the cold wind abbusivily blew through my body as I got out of the main train station. It was a really cold start of the journey, not the one you wish for when you are about to stride through the city. 

I fished out my warm scarf and gloves and in a minute I was prepared to win the battle against the inconvenient weather … at least for a while. 

I must admit there were not many fellows taking walks along Königsalle, so it wasn’t a hard job to take shots of the landscape without any people in them.




In the park it was pretty much the same situation, hence the pure beauty of the fall colors as they were.




As much as I cherished the lack of people in the above settings, at some point I started missing the sound of the everyday life and I decided to head towards the old town, where I knew there must be something going on with the occasion of the official DĂĽsseldorfer Karneval opening day.

Karneval is a big deal in some German cities, DĂĽsseldorf being one of the most important cities that hosts yearly the famous event. At 11 am of 11.11 every year the old town turned into a dance floor of the dressed up, already tipsy German ladies and gents and dozens of school kids. It’s a fun event and probably a great reason for drinking beer before midday. 


​However, it looks like it brings out the best of Germans, as they become instantly relaxed and totally laid-back, not to mention that they lose their reputation of being cold people, at least until the beer keeps flowing and the dj keeps playing their most beloved schlagers. 
Luckily the sun decided to show up on the sky for a short bit, just in time to be able to admire a blue Rhein, instead of a grey one.



A walk along the Rhein is a must while in DĂĽsseldorf, especially if it’s a sunny day.

Further on it will look like I hopped over to Japan, because I’m just about to reveal the highlight of my trip: the stunning Japanese garden at Eko Haus. I learned that outside Japan, DĂĽsseldorf is the city with the highest concentration of Japanese residents . I wonder what attracted them exactly to this city? I mean it’s nice city, no offense, but 11.000 Japanese it’s a semnificative number. That explains also the big number of Japanese supermarkets, book stores, restaurants and also the existence of this amazing place, EKO Haus, my favorite spot in DĂĽsseldorf. It’s small, neat and complete: little lake, bridge, house, stones, colorful trees and above all: a peaceful piece of heaven, perfect for staying and reflecting or reading a book and relaxing – in summer ideally – my summer weekend getaway plan in DĂĽsseldorf possibly.