A Travellerspoint blog

Tips on Traveling to Europe on a budget by an Asian Girl

Now most questions I got from people when they heard of me traveling to Europe would be what’s the budget like? Where are you going? How are you going? These are some of the questions in people’s mind. I used to spend hours just talking about the way to travel and decided would be good if I actually list it down.

I have heard of numerous people who went on tour which costs them a huge amount of money and they only get to spend a day or two in a particular country as well as being advised to follow the schedule and not wander off too far (God forbid if you see anything interesting that caught your eye which you may want to explore). If you are keen to having more time to explore a place to soak in the culture, beauty, food, people and etc. I might be able to share a few tips with you as I have had to many of my friends.

I know and understand it’s a huge task to do planning but trust me, as you go on it becomes easier, you’ll get better at it and you’ll even enjoy it later on. I have been there 3 times and April 2014 will be my 4th time. It gets easier each time :) Planning ahead is essential to enjoy greater savings.

WHERE TO GO

When people ask me where should they go in Europe or what’s my recommendation? I would tell them it’s really subjective, they have to make that choice. Firstly, Europe is a large continent with many countries, it depends whether you want to go to the well-known ones such as France, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Spain etc or their lesser counterpart Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, etc. Secondly, it all depends on your interest: shopping, food, museums, arts, culture, history, nature, etc. I have done a 10 days trip to 2 countries, 3 cities with RM4,000 (all inclusive), 21 days 5 countries, 14 cities with RM11,000 to a 31 days 7 countries, 13 cities with RM13,000 (all inclusive). I know it may sound cheap to some but not the cheapest to others (P/S: I did not sleep in tents or couchsurf, I bought all my transportation tickets and ate well even had a wine or two in various places, however I once did jump onto a hop on hop off tourist bus in Barcelona without buying a ticket just because I was too tired to walk anymore) What I am trying to say is that you can save a large amount of money by planning ahead and still stretch your money 

My suggestion is this: take your pick on countries and cities/towns that interest you on your first trip to Europe (what you have always dreamed of visiting) such as Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, Disneyland, Mozart, Charles Bridge, etc. On your second trip back to Europe (which I told friends who said to me they will only go Europe once in their lifetime, it’s never true once you have gone there and see for yourself), get into the smaller towns to enjoy the nature, local hospitality and more authentic cuisine. Picking more famous cities would increase your costs. I would suggest a big city, a small town then a big city as a traveling guideline so you won’t be too overwhelmed if you intend to go for more than 2 weeks.

After you have listed them down, for cities which have more to see and more time consuming to get around lining up into tourist attractions and etc, you might want to allocate at least 3 days 2 nights considering the get and get out timing, it’s really quite short to see everything and enjoy your stay. I usually stay for 4 days at least in a big city. In fact, I stayed 5 days in Lisbon itself and went on a day trip to Sintra, Cascais and Cabo da Roca. Unless you have a pair of super strong legs, I recommend you to really make time in the city. My first time in Europe, I had a 2 days 1 night in Rome once and it was horrendously rushed. I had to plan night walk to Trevi Fountain, first half of the day at Roman Coliseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and rushed to Vatican City, Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica(only to faint looking at the ticket queue, I can show you later in this post how to jump the ticket queue legally) and take the next morning flight out of Rome! Boy, I have learnt my lesson and did not repeat that in my following Europe trip. I pre booked and printed all my attraction tickets or pre buy them at tourism offices/hotels reception instead of at the actual site.

For small towns, I suggest go for 2 days 1 night or 3 days 2 nights if you want to enjoy slow walks and talk to locals and visit the grocery stores(I enjoyed buying a decent bottle of wine which costs me RM15-30 then bring it back to my hostel and share with other fellow travellers compared to drinking it in a restaurant which costs more) Having pastries and coffee in Marseille was definitely cheaper, tastier and fresher than in Paris, it costs even cheaper than Starbucks in Malaysia!

WHEN TO GO

Timing is also a great factor to determine whether you will be paying more or less. Personally, I was traveling end of Winter(March, expect the cold but Spring is around the corner) most of the time to stretch my money and once beginning Autumn (end Sept, not too bad with plenty of sun still). If you plan to see Lavender fields in Provence,France (you’ll need to go in summer), Tulips in Keukenhof, Amsterdam is in spring (end March-mid May). Beach holidays(end spring/summer/autumn). Here’s the pricing guide: SPRING (MOST EXPENSIVE), SUMMER(Second most expensive), AUTUMN(Less expensive and low season kicks in), WINTER (Least expensive and least crowded at attractions)

If you choose to go in winter, don’t fret! Choose the least harshest time in winter such as March and put on a good down-feathered winter coat and warm shoes/or sneakers with thick socks and you can still get comfy. When you need some heat, just walk into a café or restaurant and you’ll get warmed up in no time 

FLIGHTS

The most expensive ticket should be from your home country to the first point of Europe. For me,I always have a lookout on online sales or MATTA Fair or Malaysia Airlines Fair to compare the prices and budget beforehand. At this point of time, a flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to any point of Europe can cost RM2500 to RM3800 depending on airline and destination. Some airport charges quite a lot of airport tax hence the price difference.
If you have time to spare and want to save some money, I would suggest you to buy to the cheapest destination and get a connection by train/bus from there to your next city if the price difference for flying direct to your desired city is more than RM300 difference. For example, if you flying Kuala Lumpur > Frankfurt = RM3200, to save some money, you may want to fly Kuala Lumpur > Paris = RM2600 then take a train to Frankfurt which might costs you only RM200 extra totalling up to RM2800 instead of flying direct. However, it’s entirely up to you because some might not get used to flying 13.5 hours and then hoping on a next 5 hours train after you arrived. Look at the air craft type when you buy your air ticket will prove its worth throughout the long flight as well. An Airbus A380 double decker air craft is my favourite choice with a lot of leg space 

Tips: MATTA FAIR happens twice a year in PWTC, KL Malaysia. Once in March/April another in Sept.
Malaysia Airlines Travel Fair (MATF) is usually in Jan/Feb yearly but they also offers online sales some time in OCT/NOV.
It’s also good to like various airlines Facebook pages so you’ll get to see their promo updates in case they suddenly offer a good deal periodically too.
So look out for it!

TRANSPORTATION

There are plenty of cross country transportation options available such as train, coach, low costs flights etc. Please check out your flight/train/coach connection from a place to another if you intend to travel to many places. Some might not have the connection you are looking for. Such as when I wanted to go to Prague(Czech Republic) from Mannheim(Germany), if I choose to fly I need to get to the airport in Frankfurt which is 30 minutes high speed train away cost around RM135 then pay another RM220 for air ticket to fly to Prague. So it’s actually cheaper to get on a coach about 6 hours overnight from Mannheim straight into Prague’s central bus station at only RM270. Even if train travel costs a few Euros more than the flight ticket, I might still choose to take the train because I still save on travels between city to the airport and airport into the city. Some cities have a few airports which may costs a lot more and time consuming to get from city to airport and vice versa. The train gets you straight into the city centre. Do check out more than 1 website for various pricing on train/bus/air travels so you’ll get the best deal/options with less changes.

Personally I do not recommend Euro rail passes, reason because if you pre book your tickets early enough, you may save up to 50%-70% off the price of a rail pass if you compare it. Plus the Euro rail pass do not cover local transport as well as some lines from town to town and also requires a top up on seat reservation. Pre buying a ticket if you already have your dates and itinerary set is way cheaper than buying a flexi rail pass. I have met a Taiwanese friend who bought these expensive Euro Rail Pass but tried his luck on getting from one place to another without seat reservation, he ended up staying a night in the train station then catching the next day’s train because he couldn’t get a seat on the train he was supposed to get on. Risky stunt there!

Train travel in some eastern Europe countries cann’t be bought online such as my trip from Slovenia to Budapest. I had to buy it at the ticket counter at Slovenia station (don’t worry, they always have tickets) I find train travel in Spain quite expensive so I opted to fly instead vis Easyjet.
Check all the connections available for the travel destinations you have selected to make sure it’s do-able before buying the tickets, also swap the places around to see if other combinations are cheaper. Sometimes even though a country is just right next to each other, travel to another further one first before coming back may end up a cheaper option. I use an excel spreadsheet to list down and plot in the prices before I decide to purchase on which route.

Tips:
Bus: Eurolines www.eurolines.com , Student Agency www.studentagencybus.com
Train: France TGV www.voyagers-sncf.com/en/ , Germany ICE www.bahn.com , Austria OBB www.oebb.at/en , Switzerland www.sbb.ch/en , Italy www.italiarail.com , Spain www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros ,

Low Costs Flights: Easyjet www.easyjet.com , Ryanair www.ryanair.com , Wizz air www.wizzair.com , Aegean Air www.aegeanair.com , Transavia www.transavia.com , Veuling www.vueling.com , German Wings www.germanwings.com

  • Tips: Sometimes I may get cheap flights from British Airways, Air France or other premium airlines when they have promo for the destination I am flying. So check them out as well :) . In Germany which they encourage group traveling, you may be happy to find that if you are traveling 2-5 people together, you’ll get a super good deal when you buy the ticket together to the same destination.

Important: Most promo train tickets are available for purchase online 90 days in advance, Italy 120 or some 90 days in advance, Swiss it’s 14 days in advance. It helps to buy the train tickets first day of sale for your travel dates in order to secure the limited promo fares. If those are sold out, you may be stuck with buying at normal fare which can add up to your cost up to 100%-200% of your budgeted price. Flights can be bought best 6 months in advance for promo pricing, buses same price anytime.

ACCOMMODATION

I have stayed in hostels, self catering apartments, home stay and slept at the airport before. Some are very good and some are just stinky. Here are some tips to hopefully stay at clean, nice and decent places, however it also comes down to who are your room mates when you book a bed in a hostel. The categories are en-suite which has a bathroom attached, shared bathroom means the bathroom is in a common place which you need to bring along your slippers for bathroom usage, private room within an apartment (your stay in one of the rooms within an apartment shared by a few people), a whole apartment.

If I travel alone, I would usually book a bed in a 3 or 4 bedded dorm to maintain a low cost but not get myself into a crowded situation. Most girls don’t have a snoring problem but I have had dorm mates out to a party/club and comes back late night around 4am fumbling over light switches or half drunk case. The lesser you dorm mates, the less likely you’ll get such mates. Check the hostel’s rating by other travellers and read about what they like or dislike a place before you make a decision. I will usually go for at least an 80% and above rating hostel. All hostels being hostels and NOT a hotel usually do not provide toiletries or towel unless stated when you book. So make sure you pack along all your necessary items such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap powder if you intend to handwash your own clothes or just find a self catering laundry place nearby your hostel and get it done.

If you have 2 or more traveling party, it just might be cheaper and more comfortable to stay at self catering apartments or private room in an apartment. Some of the apartments will have facilities such as toiletries, kitchen, washing machine & dryer, etc. Just compare all prices before you decide.

Next thing about booking of accommodation is you must pre book your travel tickets first so you’ll know what time you arrive and depart. This also helps to determine which accommodation is suitable for you. Example, if I arrive in Munich at 7am in the morning on an overnight train from Amsterdam, I may want to book myself a place where they accept 24hrs check in rather than drag my bags and walk around until the standard 2-3pm check in ritual most accommodation practice. Also check out the location map of the accommodation to see whether it’s convenient for you to walk with your bags. You may not want to carry a 12-15kg bagpack and walk 3km to your booked hostel unless you have been working out in the gym for a while before the trip. For your info, my bagpack is usually around 9kg only and I will never book a hostel more than 800m from the nearest train/tram/bus stop. Watch out for downloadable hostel apps as well such as if you book on hostelworld.com website, they charge service fee but if you book on their mobile app, it’s free. This saves a lot if you are booking multiple accommodation with them.

Here are a list of accommodation that you may search:
www.booking.com , www.hostelworld.com , www.agoda.com , www.hostelbookers.com , www.housetrip.com , www.airbnb.com

For some exotic places such as the beautiful Hallstatt, when I was there I found the best accommodation facing the lake on it’s Tourism website’s accommodation tab, personally wrote to the owners to book direct.

MONEY & SAFETY

As far as safety is concerned, Europe is more famous for pickpockets than robbery. If you are too flashy or standout with a thick wallet with stacks of cash when you flip it out to buy a train/bus ticket, you might be a good target for those observing nearby. Wear modestly and try not to bring valuables, I usually advise only put your daily cash needed for the day in your wallet and hide the stack of cash elsewhere. Put your wallet close to you or in a hidden compartment in your handbag (I prefer a big handbag than a sling pouch because I want to look as though I fit in compared to other tourist). I also put my camera in my handbag and only flip it out briefly to take some pictures when I need it. Sometimes I estimated too little for my daily cash for the day and usually only do my cash refill into my wallet when I am in a restaurant toilet cubicle. This way, no one will notice it.

PACKING & LUGGAGE

In any length of travel above a week, I only pack a week of clothes max, traveling light is essential so leave your matching shoes, hats at home when you travel. Try packing your clothes by rolling them instead of folding, bring along travel sized products so when they have finished, you can give it some space to souvenirs which you might want to buy. I have met a Taiwanese traveller who needed to drag her 30kg trolley bag up a 4 storey building without a lift and her face turned white by the time the reception opened their doors to welcome her. She funnily recalled the incident and now laughed herself off as a “fake” bagpacker with an oversized trolley bag. Also most pf Europe the roads are made of cobble stones as well as staircases in and out or METROs/ UNDERGROUND, so give your bag and arms a break by carrying a body hugging backpack for easy moving about.

MAPS

If I don’t already have an electronic version of the city map with street names clearly displayed, it’s good to get one when you arrive at a new place. I will either get a free map at the hostel or simply walk to a tourism information office to buy one. It’s very useful, trust me!

LANGUAGE

It helps if you can learn a bit of the language to get the locals to be friendly with you. Learning words like Hello, Excuse me, Thank You in their local language will get you much smiles. I learnt to ask for bill in a restaurant in French and the waiter gave me a big smile. You can start to learn some phrases on your long flight there as well. Just ask the flight attendants for help, they usually know some of the language.

FOOD & DRINKING WATER

Being a typical Asian, I drink plenty of plain water. Most of Western Europe’s water is safe to drink from the tap so bring along a water bottle and refill at the tap as you go as buying bottled water costs more than beer in some places. I best love the water in Rome where it actually tastes sweet to me. Water in London is a no no for me even after it is boiled, it still tastes weird to me. Hoever even if the tap water is drinkable, you will not see locals filling up their bottles, and you will look odd doing so in public and may get some distasteful stares, I only fill water at my hostel before I leave for the day and in restaurants or a super clean toilet at an attraction without people looking.

FREE WALKING TOURS

Most renowned cities have this available. Now let me explain what are free walking tours, it’s a bunch of volunteers/freelance tour guides who dedicate their time to bring a group of people (usually random tourists) to explore the city like the locals. They will tell you the historical significance of each site they bring you, the myth, the festivals, the culture, hidden treasures, the eateries, the bars and story behind some famous personalities who grew up, stayed or died in that place. It’s really a good way to learn of the city and a good orientation provided as you walk your way to all the sites together for about 2-3 hours with the free walking tour guide. As the name goes, it’s free! However the guides live on tips given by tourists at the end of the tour, so you can either tip them or not, it’s up to you. But I suggest if the group you joined is big such as 10-15 people, tip around 2-3 Euros, If the group is small such as 5-9 people, you may want to tip 5 Euros for their time spent with you. The good news is, if it’s your first FREE WALKING TOUR, you are not obligated to tip. Just raise your hand when the tour guide asks if it’s your first, now be honest about it ok?

Tips: Type in the destination+Free+Walking+Tour in google search and you’ll be able to find many. The timing and meeting place is stated there.

ATTRACTIONS

Most tourist attractions are bustling with people and the queue may be overwhelming. You can do the research online before you fly there and pre buy your entrance tickets online and print it out at your home and bring it along to cut the queue. Some they charge an extra fee which costs less than 2 Euros per ticket compared to buying at the gate, I’ll tell you it’s all worth it! You may line up for 30-45minutes just to buy a ticket and line up again for 30-45 minutes just to use that ticket to enter an attraction if you don’t do so earlier. I have learnt my lesson and paid almost doubled the actual ticket pricing to join a guided tour just to cut the queue the first time and didn’t know about pre buying tickets online.
Tips: When you search online tickets for the attractions, make sure you go to their official website as agents tend to sell them online too and the pricing is quite different buying from the official website versus buying through agents.

Happy Planning and Traveling! 

Posted by jokermiss 00:22 Comments (0)

Bali Oh Bali

Crazy girls outing

sunny 30 °C

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Bali is truly a great place to rest and relax, at least for 6 of us girls, we had a great time doing a full day tour and then checked into a two bedroom villa with private swimming pool facing the Straits of Lombok on the Ahmed side of Bali island which is 3 hours drive away from the airport.

There are a few cheap and easy contacts that I would like to introduce: one is our awesome and friendly Bali private tour guide, Edy Ardian of Bali Bagus Transport +085237819353, wmailbalibagustransport@yahoo.com. His rates are just out of this world! A full day tour from Kuta all the way to Ahmed passing and stopping at various sights just costs us USD38 per person! The next one is the accommodation we had at Villa Aquamarine Ahmed facing the sea with private swimming pool. Check it out at Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/hotel/id/aquamarine.en.html, you will not believe the prices for this 5 star private villa :)

We arrived Bali and put up a night in Kuta Town and stroll towards the Kuta beach area in the evening. It was bustling with traffic and activities, we even saw horse carriages on the busy road catering to any tourist who fancy a ride instead of walking. Seafood and western restaurants can be found everywhere and it was not expensive at all.

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The next day starts our tour and journey towards our next accommodation. Edy took us to Mas Village, Kintamani - Mt Batur and its Lake, Lunch facing Mt Batur, Tenggalalang Paddi Terrace, Tirta Empul, Tampak Spring Temple, we even went to try various coffee including the famous luwak coffee in Bali. It was slightly difficult for us to find the accommodation but the house keeper waited for us. Basically , the whole villa was so huge, it could definitely accommodate more than 6 people! It has TV, DVD, iPOD dock, fishing rods, boardgames, fully aircond, outdoor shower, terrace and menu which you can order as well as tell the chef what time you would like it to be served. The Villa has great views of the sea and we managed to see dolphins and tried our luck at fishing. Sunset and sunrise is spectacular there with all of us getting up at 6am to catch the sunrise!

It was a very relaxing trip overall and would recommend this to anyone :) Here are some pics of the trip:

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Posted by jokermiss 27.09.2013 01:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged sea bali beach fun villa Comments (0)

Munich to Fussen

The journey to the magnificent fairy tale castle on the romantic road

snow 4 °C

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This is my third trip to Europe, Unfortunately lost all my notes which I have saved on my iphone notes app, so here is the summary of my trip to the magnificent castle which inspired the Walt Disney castle.

Munich

Munich is famous for it’s Oktoberfest, however it can be quite crowded if you are not into big rowdy festivals. I am once again traveling to Europe in end winter, this year’s winter was a rather long one so most places were still covered in snow. I travelled on a 6 hours train from Paris Est station to Munich Hbf and landed in my favourite land called Germany. Checked into the Euro Youth Hostel, I quickly prepare for my next day’s itinerary and then my favourite German sausages as a treat. Tried the Yorma’s sausages and a cup of coffee. Karlplatz is a short walk from Munich central, the famous restaurant Augustiner is there and I was recommended to try their suckling pig and their famous Augustiner beer which can only be found in Munich. It was a great choice indeed! The restaurant is really big, food and service is really good as well. Keep walking onwards and you will reach Marienplatz where the new town hall and old town hall stands. You’ll see the clock tower at the new town hall which will “play” music around 11am. Since I registered for the free walking tour which gathers around that area, I got to listened to all the stories revolving around Munich city which includes the beer houses and Hitler’s origin. St Peter’s church is just a short walk away as well as Viktualien markt which comes alive during weekends selling food and local produce. Bavaria which is the region which Munich is in has a very interesting tradition. Every town in Bavaria is customary to have a May pole at the entrance of the town and the May pole has designs on it which symbolises what the town is famous for. You can see one of them at Viktualien markt. Moving on from there, the residenz is also worth a visit. One place that I wanted to visit is the BMW Museum - which I took the train from Marienplatz to the U3 (underground), direction Olympia-Einkaufszentrum, to Olympia-Zentrum, from there it is only a few more steps to the BMW Welt. Next to the BMW Museum is a large park which is quite pleasant to walk about.

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Fussen to Hohenswangau

Reason for me to set foot in Munich is primarily towards Fussen and Neuschwanstein Castle. Fussen is a beautiful small town. It’s situated in the romantic road. The town is small but clean, with the Bavarian Alps as the backdrop and colourful houses and clean river, it’s a very refreshing view compared to the city. Fussen is easy to reach as it took me only 2 hours by train from Munich Hbf. I put myself in City Apart Hotel Fussen which is at the town’s main’s street and took a bus No. 73 or 78 from the train station to Hohenswangau which is 5km away from Fussen. The fare was €2.10 one way. From the Hohenswangau town, it’s just a few meters walk towards the tourism office which you can grab tickets to the Hohenswangau castle and Neuschwanstein castle. Also there’s a Museum of the Bavarian Kings and the combi ticket for the 3 sights costs €29 per person. They will advise you the entry ticket time when you tell them which one you would like to visit first. Personally, the Museum of the Bavarian Kings was not very interesting. To reach the Neuschwanstein castle, you can either walk, take the horse carriage or the bus. I have chosen the horse carriage which costs €6 per person for a 20-25minutes ride. Watch out for the horse farting at you if you choose to sit right at the front of the carriage. I managed to ask the horse’s name, turns out one is Max and the other is Tony. The other method is to take the bus all the way up to Jugeng Bus stop and walk 200m to Marien’s bridge which you can then hike 5 minutes up to the castle. During winter, this alternate route is not accessible due to slippery icy road, but other days, the view of the castle from the bridge is the best picture taking spot ever!

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Posted by jokermiss 27.09.2013 00:41 Archived in Germany Tagged winter castle munich fussen hohenswangau Comments (0)

Fascinating YangShuo, China

Guilin, river cruise, garden, nature, beauty, china

semi-overcast 25 °C

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A trip to Guilin would not be made complete without a day or two in YangShuo, a smaller town which the famous Li River runs through. Yang Shuo has many gems one of them are the numerous beautiful Karst caves, parks, streets etc. Yang Shuo also has many minority people groups such as Zhuang, Tong, and etc. Majority of them are Zhuang tribe so you’ll find their Chinese language has their minority accent in it.

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Silver cave is one of China’s AAAA grade tourist spot. It’s about a dozen miles away from YangShuo and is one of the most beautiful Karst caves in China. It presents dozens of stalactites, stone curtains, stone flowers, stone pillars that radiates under the colourful spotlights inside the cave. This fantastic place takes you about an hour to explore and you will definitely be amazed and dazzled by the many beauty of natural stones that has been formed inside.

Shangri-La of Yang Shuo is rated a AAAA grade China Tourist Spot which takes you through a river ride that passes through some local villages, swallow caves, minority custom gallery with the many hills as it’s background. You’ll be able to see some local dance performances, handy-crafts when you small boat ride passes along the river.

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Yang Shuo and Guilin are famous for it’s “beer fish” as it’s main dishes. Since it’s mountainous, all the fishes caught are river fish. I had the privilege of going on a fishing tour to watch some of the more traditional ways of catching fishes by the locals. The local fishermen here “employ” a certain bird which in Chinese they call it “Fish Hawk”, it’s actually “Cormorant” which they tie a chocker around it’s neck and then send it off to do the fishing. When the Cormorant caught the fish with it’s mouth, it has been prevented to swallow the bigger fish by the chocker and the fisherman would then pick up the Cormorant and retrieve the fish from it’s throat. Smaller fished may be eaten by the Cormorant. It’s an interesting thing to watch indeed. While on the small boat, the local tour guide will also try to sing their famous traditional mountain songs and asked that you duet with them after letting you hear the tune and get familiarised with it. The “mountain songs” are made famous by a movie personality called “Liu San Jie” who was famous throughout the 70s-80s.

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Impression Liu SanJie (a Zhang Yi Mou Production) is a large scale outdoor performance that took 5 years to complete. It’s the biggest natural stage in the world, built on the Li River that stretches for 2 kilometers long with 12 mountain peaks as it’s background and large lighting system. It also uses the echo of the maountains to gain a natural sound effects combining the story and songs of the classical Liu San Jie. The show incorporates more than 600 performers who are all local peasants by day and actors by night. The show lasts for 60 minutes and is truly a world class performance not to be missed!

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Posted by jokermiss 01.11.2012 02:41 Archived in China Comments (0)

The Great Tonle Sap Lake

sunny 30 °C

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Tonle Sap (Pronounce as “Tone Lay Sap”) is the greatest lake in Cambodia which connects to the Mekong, ranges from 2,700 square km to 16,000 square km during monsoon season. Tonle Sap lake is full of floating villages. Most are ethnic Vietnamese but grew up in Cambodia. Most of them are born without genuine papers therefore deprived of an average life. Most of them never left the lake which they are born and died there. It has very much become a tourist spot of Cambodia in Siem Reap region.

Day to day, the villagers paddle on the water or ride on speedboats chasing after tourists’ boat bringing with them either cans of cold sodas or offering a quick pat of their pet snake hanging around the little children’s necks. Occasionally, you’ll see the speedboats catches up to the tourists’ boat side by side and steering close to it, an unexpected little child will hop onto your tourist boat trying to sell you the sodas. It reminds me of some boat speed chasing scenes in some movies where the bad guy jumps into your boat, while in this case it’s a cute little child looking to earn a living. You can even find little children seated in large deep cooking or washing pots with a wooden paddle, paddling towards you for spare change.

You’ll also find your stop in the middle of the lake at a floating restaurant for tourists, complete with a miniature crocodile farm. You’ll be lucky if you can see them being fed and get a closer look at them just about 5 feet away. At the floating restaurant, you must try the fresh water shrimp boiled to perfection and some Angkor Beer (locally made). The whole lake tour will take you pass occasional swamp areas where crocs and snakes hideout a lot and I have even saw a cemetery underwater with just the tombstones half submerged. Nearer to the end of the day, as you leave the lake on your boat ride, you’ll be able to see the daily lives of the people on the lake, drawing the same water from the lake which I see as dirty to wash their clothes, to cook, wash themselves and etc. The government of Cambodia charges an entry fee of USD2 for each foreigner at the entrance before you board the boat.

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Houses on the mainland towards the lake are built on stilts. They are affected badly by the recent flood. You’ll be able to see simple houses on stilts built with the donation from foreigners directly contributing to it as it’s written with a description contributed by “so & so”. A nice tour to the lake reminds me of the simple life the floating villagers have. Most may never leave the lake to be able to get a better living elsewhere as this is all that they know how to survive. Do spend half a day visiting the floating village; their lives will bring a good retrospect and a deep reflective in our own lives.

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Posted by jokermiss 10.02.2012 00:24 Archived in Cambodia Tagged boats village lake floating poor reap siem tonle sap Comments (0)

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