vineri, 16 martie 2018


The trip to Norway was completely unplanned. The only things booked in advance were the flight to Bergen and the first night of accommodation in Bergen.

Bergen was founded more than 900 years ago and has roots to the Viking Age and beyond. Bryggen, ("The Hanseatic Wharf") is the most obvious remnant from those times, and is nowadays home to many of the city’s restaurants, pubs, craft shops and historical museums.

The fish market is one of the most visited places in Bergen; you can buy fresh fish or eat all sorts of delicious fish dishes here.

Bryggen looks a bit like a fairy-tale, with its wooden colourful houses, small port and wooden boats.
We went to Norway in July and yet I was wearing a warm jacket and a beanie while in Bergen. We were lucky enough to have two really nice sunny days when we did the trekking. Everybody said we are extremely lucky to be in Norway during their 2 days of summer.

One can do all sorts of activities from Bergen, like trekking or taking the funicular in order to see an amazing view over the town.

The town itself is very nice but let's face it, you're not visiting New York. Two days are more than enough to relax, visit, eat and maybe do some shopping. For example, I remember seeing wool blankets everywhere; quite pricey but different in a good way.

We rented a car and we went to the Preikestolen area, accessible from Stavanger. The landscapes on the road are simply amazing; they kinda remind you of Switzerland with an original flavour. The roads are good but quite narrow and curvy, so don't expect to drive fast.

As we only booked the first night of accommodation, it was difficult to find available rooms for the following nights. Booking in advance is highly recommended.

A weird thing is that once you leave a big town (Bergen is considered big), you don't find that many restaurants. I remember we were starving and we entered full of hope in Odda, searching for a traditional restaurant. We ended up eating an okish burger.

The hike to Pulpit Rock is one of the most popular in Norway and is relatively easy – two hours each way plus the time spent on top. I highly recommend buying food and water from the supermarket because there is nothing, absolutely nothing to buy in the area.

Our lunch consisted on some dried nuts found in my backpack. Once we got in the car, I started to search for restaurants on TripAdvisor. Full of hope, we got to a place that looked like heaven, cause it had pictures with the dishes all over the place.

But surprise again, they only served meatballs with some bushes and a horrible sauce. The supermarket never sounded better but we couldn't find one. I lost like two kilos in Norway. That's a good advertisement.

The second trekking was to the Buerbreen glacier, because a lady told us so. Thank you, lady!
I will let the pictures speak for themself. Enjoy!


joi, 15 martie 2018


I decided to go to Iceland five days ahead of the trip. The price of the flight from Brussels costed 140 euro and I decided to just go, disregarding the fact that it might be a bit cold. It was the beginning of September and even though the max temperature was around 10 degrees, due to the wind and the humidity, it felt like minus 10.

Iceland's climate is actually not as cold as many people believe; the average winter temperature is 2°C, but trusts me, it feels way less.

Regardless the harsh weather, I loved every minute spent in Iceland. And I'm not the only one who considers that this country is amazing, because around 1.3 million people visited Iceland in 2015. Bear in mind that Iceland has approx. 330,000 people. 

Weird fact: due to the small number of people living in Iceland, there is an online app where you can check if a person is your relative, in order to prevent incest.

Nearly all of Iceland's heating and electricity needs are served by hydroelectric power and geothermal water reserves

Strange fact is that together with Faroe Iceland and Antarctica, Iceland is one of the three territories in the world where there are no mosquitos. Have no idea why.

Iceland is a very peaceful nation; the country has no standing army. Apparently, the police are responsible for only one death in 72 years. In fact, most of the policemen are not even wearing guns.

The national dish of Iceland, Hákarl, or rotten shark, is considered a delicacy. It smells like a dead body and it tastes awful.

Another weird thing is that for the most part, Icelanders do not have last names, in the traditional sense. Most Icelanders have a last name that consists of their father’s first name with the addition of -daughter or -son. For example, if my dad's name would be John, my name would be "The Daughter of John". 

We spent three nights in Reykjavik and one night close to Hofn, at Gerdi House, apparently a good place to see the aurora borealis. We weren't that lucky but if you wanna see it, you should plan your trip to Iceland during the winter.

Reykjavik is a cute town, but I wouldn't spend more than one or maybe two days there. There are plenty of good restaurants and for me the best dish was the salmon in the oven with honey, almonds and potatoes. Trust me; it is way better than the rotten shark.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, filled with seawater, which is believed to have natural healing powers. The water is rich in silica and minerals and apparently works well on all sorts of eczema and skin related problems (e.g. psoriasis).

The Blue Lagoon is located around 40' drive from the capital and it was a memorable experience; I recommend buying the tickets in advance.

A tour recommended by everybody is the Golden Circle, which consists of three equally stunning locations: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall. None of them is further than a two hour's drive from Reykjavík, and therefore all three can be visited within a day.

Driving in Iceland is relatively stress-free, because the traffic is almost non-existent once you exit the towns. But the weather can worsen the experience. We rented a car and it was the first time I paid for an extra insurance against volcanic ash.
The country has a main road, which looks like a ring. The eastern road took us to the above mentioned accommodation (Gerdi House), close to Jokulsarlon glacier. This glacier is definitely a must see and it was on the top of my list for Iceland.

You can stop many times on the way to the glacier; there are plenty of impressive waterfalls with impossible names and the landscape itself is breath-taking.
Around 180 km southeast of Reykjavik is Reynisfjara, a black sand beach, surrounded by the hexagonal basalt columns of Reynisfjall mountain.

Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia

flooded village Cambodia
 I decided to restart writing, 5 years after my last post, because I keep receiving questions regarding the trips and my memory is failing me. My hair colour is blonde again. And yes, these two sentences seem to go well together.

flooded village Cambodia
Indochina was on my list for a couple of years and I finally managed to tick it from my list. At least I got a glimpse of it, because the initial plan was to spend 3 weeks in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but I ended up spending 10 days in Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. It was a compromise that worked out just fine.

Angkor Wat

My flight from Bucharest till Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) had two stops, one in Istanbul and another one in Dubai. Tiring, but this is what happens when you decide last minute what to do for New Year's Eve.

From Kuala Lumpur, we took a flight to Siem Reap (Cambodia), where we spent two days and a half. From Siem Reap we took another flight to Hanoi (Vietnam) and from Hanoi we went to Kuala Lumpur. The flights in Asia were quite cheap, around 60-80 euro per person luggage excluded.

The plan was to see the most important attractions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. The winners were Angkor Wat and a flooded village (Kompung Phluk) in Cambodia, Hanoi and Halong Bay in Vietnam and Kuala Lumpur and Batu Caves in Malaysia. A bit crazy for 10 nights, but it worked just fine for us.

We spent one night in Kuala Lumpur and the next day we took the flight to Siem Reap (Cambodia). There are tuk-tuks everywhere; it is only a matter of knowing the prices and negotiating. We arranged for a tuk-tuk driver with the hotel and the prices were fixed.

As a general impression, we kinda expected that people were way nicer, and the places way cleaner. Don't get me wrong, we also met really kind people, but my impression is that the mass tourism ruined a part of these places' charm.

Once you exit the touristic part of Siem Reap, you literally have to cover your nose cause it smells really bad. A combination of dead animals and sewerage. "Pleasure" for my nose and eyes …  

Last year I got a food poisoning on my last day in Bali and I got kicked out from an airplane because I said "I feel a bit sick". So this year the plan was to be really careful with what I eat. Of course I wasn't.

In Cambodia and Vietnam I eat only cooked food but I drank cocktails with ice, which was made for sure with tap water. And after each meal, I felt like I am pregnant with twins. Food wise, things got really bad on my last evening in Kuala Lumpur.

We already eat 3 times in a place called "Opium" and besides the usual bloating, it seemed a good place to eat. Wrong. I vomited the whole night before the flight, I couldn't eat or sleep for 45 hours. But hey, even though I felt like shit, I had a huge smile on my face when I was boarding. So I managed to land safe and sound in Bucharest. I was so tired that I fell asleep before putting my ear plugs noise stopper.

The accommodation in Siem Reap was quite expensive and I won't mention it. It was some sort of a bed and breakfast and it costed 80 euro per night. Not exactly cheap. Food wise, on our first night, we went to a restaurant recommended by Tripadvisor; it looked very nice, with a garden and Zen arrangements. The bad part is that there were huge rats everywhere. Welcome.

Cambodia was the center of a great empire during the Middle Ages. It occupied all of Cambodia, but also parts of Thailand, Burma, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam. The greatest testimony was Angkor, the capital, a large set of temples and civil constructions that were erected for centuries by different monarchs. However, the basis of its power was its water management system, through channels, which translated into the improvement of the harvests.

I loved Angkor Wat and we both agreed that in order to see the amazing places in Asia, you gotta close your eyes in front of garbage and rats and bad smells. You cannot have it all.

Everybody recommended to go to Angkor Wat and to catch the sunrise. We preferred to sleep.
Again, we arranged with the hotel a tuk-tuk driver, who stayed with us around 8 hours (20 USD) and who advised us to take a ticket that gives access to 3 temples (37 USD).

It is very hot and you have to buy water from the entrance. Otherwise the distances are big and you cannot buy water once you enter the temples. You can also buy fried bugs, scorpions, snakes and other things that will never seem appealing to me.

Siem Reap seems to be a good place for partying but we were there to visit so we didn't test the clubs.

The next day we went to a flooded village named Kompung Phluk, which was an amazing experience, different from everything I saw before. The drive there (1,5 hrs one way) with a private 4x4 car with a driver costed 80 USD, a total rip-off I would say, but well, we were there and we wanted to see the damn village. You also need to buy a ticket for the boat (25 USD for the individual one).

I really loved the village; pictures speak for themselves.

From Siem Reap we took a flight to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam and the nation's second biggest city. Its population in the year 2009 was assessed at 2.6 million for urban locale and 7 million for the metropolitan jurisdiction.

Hanoi has a special charm, with its narrow houses, cables everywhere and five million motorbikes. I read that the government is planning on banning the popular two-wheeled transport by 2030, due to pollution.

On our first day in Hanoi, we thought that we will never be able to cross a street, because the drivers don't respect the street signs. You simply have to cross the street and pray. We met some people from Australia who were saying that Hanoi is nothing compared to Hô-Chi-Minh in terms of traffic.

We stayed at Angel Palace Hotel, who offers very basic but clean accommodation and a super kitschy reception, with colourful plastic flowers. The good part about the hotel was the position, on Hang Bong Street, where you can find plenty of stores with cheap and very nice souvenirs (paintings, wooden statues, silk scarfs, etc).

We've been told that we should go to Vietnam with an empty suitcase, because the shopping is amazing. We didn't listen and we were wrong. One weird this is that people are shorter and the sleeves simply don't match.  It's like trying kids clothes.

Besides the old town, we also saw the Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, Hoan Kiem Lake, Temple of Literature, One-Pillar Pagoda, Trấn Quốc Pagoda, etc

Batu Caves

One place I've been craving to see is Halong Bay, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. We took a one day trip with Viator for 45 euro, which included a big boat trip, with a very nice lunch included, a small boat trip and the visit of a cave.

 I spent the last two days in Kuala Lumpur. Frankly, I expected to see a city like Singapore, but Kuala Lumpur is two steps below. Besides the Petronas towers and malls (if you are in the mood of shopping), I wouldn't recommend much. There also exists a nice botanical garden surrounded by skyscrapers and a birds park.not-well-taken-care-of.

During the trip to Halong Bay, we met two very nice couples who live in Kuala Lumpur. I met them on my last day in Kuala Lumpur. They were extremely kind, picked me up from my hotel, took me where locals go and were the best possible guide.

Ah, they also told me that the town is not exactly safe, that there are a lot of robberies and corruption is everywhere. 

I was shocked to see that the men paid for everything. Even though I really insisted to pay for myself, one girl told me: "Violeta, you are in Malaysia. Women don't pay here. If you insist, men will feel really bad, it's a cultural thing".

So I did shut up.