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Hello Europe!!

a travel blog by wangyng

I'm spending the next 3 months sleeping on strangers' couches around Europe!! So this is probably the best way to keep track of what's happening with me or where I am. Please do leave comments and let me know what's happening with you and back home on this blog!! Remember to always leave time for yourself no matter how busy you are! ;)
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Finally... I found a site for my travel blog!

Hougang Central, Singapore

yes! after a few days of searching and trying out different travel blog sites, i finally decided to plant myself onto this one! it's a fairly new site i guess and still in work-in-progress (as mentioned at the bottom of this page) but it looks good so far!

anyway, i really don't know how often i'll be blogging but hopefully often enough to keep my friends and family updated on what'd happened to me and where i'll be heading... cos honestly, i don't really know... i mean there's plans worked out and all but life doesn't always goes as planned does it? after all, the real fun in travelling is the unexpected surprises that comes with it... that's what i think, at least! as long as i get through it fine that is! so... i'll be writing about these experiences over the next 3 months... hopefully it'll be fun, exciting, and full of wonderful surprises (fingers crossed!).

countdown to departure date - 11 days

permalink written by  wangyng on March 15, 2008 from Hougang Central, Singapore
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Hougang Central, Singapore

ok... it's 4.30am now and i can't sleep!!
what's wrong with me?
i suspect i'm already living in europe's time zone in singapore!
so my body and brain are already preparing themselves for the time difference??? sometimes things can be soooo weird!!

since i can't sleep i might as well blog
anyway, i'll be off to europe in just under a week!
i'm starting to feel the excitement as the date gets nearer!
my friend told me "that feeling will hit u when u board the plane"

since a month ago, i have taken out my trusty old backpack from the dark corner of my closet (the backpack has been with me since 1997 and still as good as new!)
i started to pack little by little.
when i say 'pack' i mean i started chucking things i need to bring into the pack... or in the backpack zone (which means anywhere within 2 feet on the floor where my pack lies)..
so now i have things lying on d floor of my bedroom... from books to clothes to daily necessities to little gifts i might give to people i meet on the way... (meaning a really messy section on my floor! -see picture-)

it's all good but i figured i need to do some serious packing real soon!

i haven't done a long trip like this (3 months trip) in a few years.
the last time i did that was in 2003 when i did conservation volunteer work in Australia... that was real fun and i met some really cool people!
so i am hoping to meet lotsa nice people on this trip too!

o ya, i'm gonna be travelling with a good friend from uni
we're both hoping we wont kill each other on this trip... haha

ok it's 5 now and i can hear the bird chirping outside my windows and buses turning into the bus terminal near my place...

i better get some sleep

countdown to departure - 6 days

permalink written by  wangyng on March 20, 2008 from Hougang Central, Singapore
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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the journey begins

Bangkok, Thailand

ok, our journey begins with a 8.10am flight. Eve had a little drama on her way to the airport and i was thinking she wont make it to the flight! -gasp-
but she did so it's cool.
we stopped here in Bangkok, for transit.
it's almost 4.5 hours of free time in the Bangkok airport and it's totally boring there.
WiFi/internet cost a fair bit there so we didnt go online, the shops didnt really interest us and everything there seems pretty expensive.
we sat in 3 different cafes before deciding on the final 1.
we each ordered a drink and sat there for like 3 hours, half the time stoning away... i even managed to take a nap sitting there.
impressed with myself for possessing such skills that i never knew i had! haha
anyway, we were glad to be boarding our next flight to London... personal screen, the movies, music and games... cant wait!

permalink written by  wangyng on March 26, 2008 from Bangkok, Thailand
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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London, United Kingdom

i couldn't be more happy getting off the plane after a 12-hour ride without personal screen! it was quite a shock for us that on a long-haul flight, the carrier has no personal screens facilities!

anway, we're glad the flight's over and landing at Heathrow Airport marks the real beginning of our trip i guess...
we took the tube to see our 1st host, where we will be staying for 2 nights...
it was fairly easy getting there cos we had specific instructions from the host herself and a friend in London.
after about an hour on the tube, we finally reached our destination, cold, wet (like the London weather!) and jet-lagged.
it was in a nice cosy apartment near High Street Kensington station.
Abby, our host, greeted us warmly and immediately made us hot tea. we sat by the fireplace and chatted... for a moment, that felt like heaven!!
with a little help from our host, we sort of decided on the route tomorrow...
so, am going to bed cos we'll be walking heaps tomorrow!

permalink written by  wangyng on March 26, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Day 2 - London

London, United Kingdom

so... after a little bit of planning and advice from our host, we set off bright and early in the morning (ok, not that bright considering d gloomy weather of London)...

first stop, Portobello Market in Notting Hill.

this is 1 of d closest place we can walk to from where we are staying.
the market aint as busy as it would be on weekends and some stalls were not open... but it works for us as we probably enjoy the walk more that way.
there are quite a lot of antiques shops and it's actually cool to see some really old toys, little tools, bottles, etc.
the fresh food market was very tempting indeed and i couldn't resist buying something in the end...

we headed for the nearby Kensington Garden afterwards... after getting lunch on the way, we decided to picnic there.
ok maybe not exactly a picnic cos it was tooo freaking COLD to sit on the grass even with a ground sheet!
so there we were, having lunch, watching dogs, joggers, and familes goes by, occasionally a pigeon or 2 tried to sneak up and steal our food
but we manage to fight them off... it actually feels really good sitting in a huge n beautiful garden...

besides the fat squirrels running around freely in the garden, we did manage to see the famous gold statue at the Albert Memorial.

it was a HUUUUGE statue... far larger than what the photos made it out to be! there's also the Royal Albert Hall which is directly opposite the gold statue. was hoping to watch something there but it cost way too much!

the day ended with us going to Harrod's which is kinda like a really posh Mustafa Centre... anything u need, u can pretty much get it there... from food to furniture to shoes and jet ski!?!

then it's dinner with our pal from uni Kat that we havent seen in a while... a familiar face in a foreign land always brings warmth to the heart...

so we'll be heading to Oxford tomorrow, a historic town full of academic high flyers (gosh how i hate them! ok fine, i'm just jealous!)
should be a history lesson in the trip itself!

permalink written by  wangyng on March 27, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Oxford, United Kingdom

we were greeted with rain once again on the 3rd day.
we started packing up right after we woke up in order to get the noon bus to oxford.

getting to the bus station is fine but getting to the right bus berth proves to be difficult and stressful! we were sent to 2 different buildings by different people... in the end, we walked to n fro the 2 buildings twice! i was certain we know the road between the 2 buildings very well by then. when we finally got to the right berth, the bus left almost immediately after we got on. thank goodness we made it otherwise we will need to wait for another hour (and pay for another bus ticket!).

after abt 2.5 hrs of bus journey (should be faster but there's a jam in London), we finally reached Oxford and were greeted by our host Mark, a grad-student in Oxford Uni and we are to sleep on his sofabed. he took us out immediately to see the Ashmolean Museum after we droppped our bags as the attractions closed rather early in Oxford. the museum was holding some Egypt exhibits (including a real mummy!) at the time and of cos the house collection of paintings and scupltures.

we left the museum just before closing time. Mark then took us on a quick orientation of the town (since everywhere else seems to be closed). all the buildings are historic and most of them are more than 300 yrs old! the buildings looked really nice and all but after a while, all the buildings looked the same especially for non-locals like us! i had a very English dinner (mash & sausage) at a pub/restaurant and we called it a night. still jet lagged and tiried from the drama in the aftn!

our 1st stop in the morning is d Bodleian Library. it's d oldest library in Oxford. it took 65 yrs to build and was completed in 1488. it holds some of the most precious manuscripts from hundreds of yrs ago including the very 1st edition of shakesphere. becos of d priceless manuscripts/books, the library only allowed scholars (masters & above) into the library and they are only allowed in the section they are researching in. it is also 1 of d 6 libraries in UK to have every book published in UK. it has more than 8 millions books to date and still growing! as space is running out, the library has started to digitize some books and may continue to do so... we were not allowed to take photos inside the library due to copyrights issue. but i can say the library in Harry Potter movies, yes they looked like this 1. the library tour itself soooo feels like a history lesson.

the next 2 places we went to, we didnt have real good luck. The Modern Art museum was closed to prepare for the new exhibition starting the next week. so it was quite a bummer. we then head to Christ Church. we want to see the Dining Hall, which was used to shoot the dining scenes in al of Harry Potter's movies. unfortunately, the dining hall was booked for a private function that night n was closed to the public! i cant believe our luck! arghhhhh

we took a long walk to the next destination, which is the Pitts River Museum. it was right next to the Museum of Natural history. both the museums was full of interesting exhibits and there were lotsa kids there running around filling up their little book of information. a pity we got there pretty late and only managed to spend 1.5 hrs in the 2 museums. we did see some huge dinosaurs' in there thou!

we were still pretty disappointed with not seeing the Dining Hall in Christ Church and told our host about it. he suggested us attending the service the next morning and then staying back in the church and maybe get a glimpse at d hall. so we decided to heed his advice and head for the service in d morning.

this would be my 1st service at a Catholic Church. more than half d time i didnt know what's happening... well u cant blame me! d last time i attended a service in a church was when my Christian friend got married! anyway the service took 1 hr and we left to roam around d church. we walked to an area where we thought it would lead to d dining hall. we were right! however, there was a person there guarding the stairs who wont allow us to head up to the Dining Hall at all!! we werent even allow to get a glimpse of d hall! sobs!

just before we left, Mark took us up to the top of the Nuffield Tower. we were able to see most of Oxford from there! the view is really nice (least d 10 storeys we climbed was worth it!). we were asked which buildings

we recognized fr d tower... none, zero, zelch! we couldnt recognized at all!!!! talk abt bad memory n geography! ahahha

so that's our 1st 'history trip'! i'm sure there's more to come later!

permalink written by  wangyng on March 28, 2008 from Oxford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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London (Part 2)

London, United Kingdom

ok... so we headed back to London before our next stop in Worthing/Brighton.
actually we dont NEED to go back to London but it's easier to go places from London since it is well-linked by all sorts of transport medium.

our next host is an animal lover + single mum. she has 3 cats n 2 dogs.
the room we are sleeping in is the living room where the dogs usually sleeps... no no we didn't have to sleep with the dogs..
as messy as it is (i dont think any1 can imagine the level of messiness!!), we slept really well that 2 nights cos we were soooooooooooo tired!

anyway, we met up with Kat again n also Eve's sister-in-law n friends for dinner opposite Enbankment tube station.
Kat n us took a long walk along Thames River after dinner.

the night view was nice n there's some street buskers singing along the walk... the lights, the atmosphere... it feels pretty romantic actually.
we walk for almost 1.5hr, til we see the London Bridge before heading back for the night.

we took the next day really easy, just going to the markets in Camden nearby. Camden is known for their markets so u can imagine there's lotsa tourists there even on weekdays.

after walking through 2 markets n a street full of shops selling shoes n all kind of hats, we both ended up buying something... i just feel like i need to buy something there! hahah

for dinner, we met 2 friends (Oway n YiYing) of our friend in Singapore,
the gals brought us to a really famous n popular Japanese restaurant (u MUST make reservation to eat there n it's usually fully packed with back to back reservations!)

the gals are great fun n really nice people! it didnt feel like we just got to know each other (of cos, bitching about common friend helps break d ice quickly! ;) ). we had drinks afterwards n met Jeff. great food n good company, i think that's a good last night in London!

next stop, we're heading to the beach: Worthing! we actually wanted to head to Brighton but we only managed to find a host in Worthing, which is 30 min drive fr Brighton. dont know what to expect for the beach here but still looking forward to it!

permalink written by  wangyng on March 30, 2008 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Worthing, United Kingdom

after our bus experience to Oxford, we are NOT going through that drama or stress again. so we made sure we got the the bus station well in advance, and made sure the information desk person gave us all the information at one go and not in several segments!

we actually plan to see Brighton but only managed to find a host in Worthing (as mentioned in my last blog entry). the bus is going to Worthing n makes a stop at Brighton. our bus ticket only gets us to Brighton. we started to think we should get to Worthing and do a day trip to brighton the next day. luckily for us, the bus driver allowed us to stay on the bus and get off at Worthing without charging extra!
yes! there's nice people in London too despite hearing sooo many cold tales!

our host David came in a taxi to pick us up! he also gave up his bedroom for us and slept in the living room cos he said he is a gentleman and will NOT let ladies sleep on a couch! i actually feel bad about that but he insisted in his pirate-speaking way and it was a done deal, no negotiation!

we manage to take a quick orientation walk around and see the Pier before sun set. the beach is more pebbly than sandy and seems to be great for surfing.

we saw a number of kite surfers on the bus ride and it was quite amazing (especially when we wont be able to see much of this in Singapore!)

we then head back for a nice dinner courtesy of our host and spent the evening watching tv, drinking wine, listening to music and chatting about travelling experiences.

o yes, i forgot to mention that i was sick for the past few days being jet-lagged, travelling, trying to get used to the weather and that time of the month all happening at the same time, my body decide to go on strike!
so the only full day i have in Worthing/Brighton, i was sick in bed, trying to sleep it off. Eve went on to Brighton alone and when she got back, told me it was ok I didnt miss too much. phew!

our 2 nights stay was cut short as we decided to spend a night at the airport due to an extremely early flight (7.40am!). the morning train to the airport was cutting a bit too close to our flight time and we didnt want to risk it!

so...... here's my 1st time sleeping in an airport!

it was just past midnight when we arrived. there were already many travellers sleeping in the lounge area. some were nicely tucked in their sleeping bags... we each took a bench and started our night at d airport. at this time i remembered the lazy chairs/day beds we see in Changi Airport and learn to appreciate it more! being able to occupy 4 seats is not bad but of cos the day bed would be MUCH more comfy...
anyway, i was still rather conscious with many people walking around (and of cos bright lights!!) n i couldnt sleep. i reckon i only slept ard 4.30 am cos i was way too tired! (recovering fr a flu is quite quite tiring!)
we got up and checked in around 6am and all went smoothly.
we then head for breakfast at McDonalds (where else!??) before boarding.

the plane ride is juz an hour and we'll be in Brussels Belgium. Chocolates & waffles (& beer of cos!) here I come!!

permalink written by  wangyng on April 2, 2008 from Worthing, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, Belgium

Day 9

with such an early flight, we reached Brussels ard 9.45am. this is where we start feeling the language barrier, almost everything is in French or Dutch. we only make things/directions out from the little diagram beside d words.

anyway, after 45min of waiting for our luggage, we head for the bus station, following instructions given by our host in Brussels, Bertrand. we need to change to a tram at one of d stops and we had to ask for directions. she started to direct us where to go and which directions to take for the tram, in French and at d same time with lotsa pointing and signing! we didnt understand what she was saying but we understood her directions. it was a rather funny sight i have to say!

we managed to follow d lady's instructions and reached our destination without much trouble. after a short rest at our host's nice home on the 4th floor, we took a tram just to see a bit of d town. we ended up near the Atomium! nice surprise! This Eiffel Tower of Belgium apparently went thru some major cleanup and is now shiny n Bright!

we tried to have an early night but we werent very sucessful at all! we spent the night cooking n chatting with our host over dinner.

Day 10

d weather wasnt much better than yesterday but we started on our walking tour anyway. we walked thru the 'posh' street where all d big brands are (obviously we didnt do any shopping there!). our 1st stop is Palais de Justice. d building is HUGE n really old n wasnt maintained. so it wasnt very nice. but d building was on a higher ground n we managed to get a good view of Brussels city from d back of d building.

we then took a long walk to the Royal Palais de Belgium. apparantly there's 2 palaces, 1 is in d city and d other just outside. or cos we werent allowed in to neither of them so we only took photos outside it.

we went into the Brussels Park across d palace n had ice cream there! yes we were freezing but eating ice cream! it was cool! d ice cream doesnt melts easily cos of d weather so u can really enjoy it slowly!! there are many statues in d park but none of them were well maintained. some were covered with algae n other slime. d fountains were either dried or really dirty. so it was quite a pity that the beautiful park was not very pretty.

on our way to d Grand Place/ Grote Markt, we pass by this nice little garden Place du Petit Sablon where there's lotsa statues of important people who helps bring prosperity to Brussels. what i cant understand is that ALL d statues has huge calf muscles! every single one of them!

we walked thru the shopping areas where we had a late lunch... fries! our host had told us earlier that d fries here are excellent n we must really try it! so we did that. they were indeed nice! more chunky n tasty n they dont turn soggy when they're cold! yum!!! after lunch, we actually visited some chocolate shops and of cos we have to buy some chocolate... how can i walked into a Belgian Chocolate shop without buying chocolate!??!?!?? we went into 3 stores n bought something from each shop (all were dark chocolate, my fave!!!). we decided to stop entering chocolate shops cos we knew we will be tempted to buy more...

just going to these few places in d city already took us like 3-4 hrs! the city is not as small as our host told us!! we decided to wait for nightfall so we can see d Grand Place/Grote Markt at night with all d lights. we picked a not so crowded restaurant just behind the main square and ordered mussels. a huge pot was served shortly, with fries (a little toooo much fries in 4 hours). it was really nice to have a piping hot pot of mussels in a cold weather like this! d mussels were really good n fresh and we cleaned d pot out without much effort! guess what we have for dessert?...... yes! waffles!! i ordered 1 with chocolate sauce... very very yummy but a tad bit overloaded with sugar.. ahahahah...

by d time d sun went down around 9pm, i was pretty happy cos i think i won't be able to stuff myself anymore than i did! saw d nicely lit Grand Place/Grote Markt. it was very very beautiful indeed! we were clicking our cameras away like there's no tomorrow! i think we might have taken tooo many... hahah...

we walked to the infamous monument of Belgium which is very nearby. it is a very small statue actually... lotsa tourist were exclaiming about how small it is! of cos as a tourist, i need to take a photo of it...

we headed home after that... it's been a fruitful day in terms of camera and food! hehehe......

permalink written by  wangyng on April 4, 2008 from Brussels, Belgium
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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Brussels part 2

Brussels, Belgium

we had plan to head to the Basilica Koekelberg at d edge of d city today. there's an exhibition on DaVinci n it's d last 2 days of the exhibition. we wanted to leave ard 11.30am but it was rainig quite heavily so we decided to wait. we only left ard 1pm when d rain turns into a drizzle.

after getting info in d city centre and walking ard a little, we decided to just head for d Basilica.

d metro stop is a fair bit of walk away from the Basilica. we need to walk thru a huge park b4 getting to d Basilica. it was a really long walk (ard 30-40min). we could see d Basilica getting bigger as we get nearer.

when we finally enter the compound of d Basilica, we can feel it's really really is H U G E !!!!!!!! i cant describe how HUGE it is in words! after a few pic (everyone looks tiny in photo), we head for d exhibition entrance.

it's ard 4pm by then n did we get a surprise. there's a looooooooooong queue to get d tickets! d queue was sooooo freaking long dat we couldnt see d start of it (it was in another room). we were trying to decide if we shd see d exhibition or not. we ended up queuing almost 1.5 hrs to get d tix n another 30min to enter d exhibition ( it was way too crowded to let everyone in at d same time). by d time we actually enter d exhibition, it was about 5.45pm! it's a pretty big exhibition talking abt Da Vinci as a man, an artist, an architect and scientist. it was pretty detailed... there's his art work, his architectural work and his inventions. let's say i know him quite well now...

we finish d exhibition ard 8pm. our host Bertrand n his girlfriend Prisca waited for us to have dinner cos we are going to try d Thai takeaways near his home which he said is really gd. we gave him a chopstick d night b4 as a thank you gift and he was really happy with it. he was using the chopsticks. he had mentioned he will display d chopsticks in his kitchen cos he likes it so much. dinner is good n we had a nice chat.

the next morning, Prisca was heading home n she dropped us at d antique flea market near where she stays. this would be our last stop b4 we take d evening train to Brugge. there's a lot of nice things at d mkt but i cant buy any. i really wanted to buy d camera but carry it on d 3 mth trip would be a nightmare! and in d end, i probably have no place to display it at home anyway.

as we walked home fr d flea mkt, we head to this italian restaurant which was recommended to be cheap n good. unfortunately for us, after a 30 min walk, we were greeted by a dark interior and tightly shut door. what luck! we ended up going to a nearby fast food restaurant QUICK (the Belgium version of Mc Donald) b4 heading back to pack.

so this ends our time in Brussels. til d nx town.....Brugge.

permalink written by  wangyng on April 5, 2008 from Brussels, Belgium
from the travel blog: Hello Europe!!
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