December 3, 2016

Things to do in Yangon Myanmar

Under Construction

Arrived late evening in Yangon on a Jetstar Airline flight from Singapore November 2016. The cost was US$70 for a one way ticket. I had a E-visa for Myanmar which I bought for $50 on line. The immigration and customs is quick and easy with no long lines.

I changed money at the Airport and took a taxi to my hotel, the cost of the taxi was $10, friendly cab driver and they spoke good English.

Weather: November was hot and humid

Tip: Taxis have no meters, most cab drivers will ask a fair price.

Myth: There are no ATM, what baloney, there are ATMs everywhere.

Safety: Myanmar is very safe, I was taking cabs in the middle of the night with no issues.


Things to do in Yangon


Shwedagon Pagoda


This is possibly the number one attraction in Yangon. I took a cab for US$2 from my hotel to get to the Pagoda, the whole complex is huge, entrance ticket for foreigners is US$ 8. 

Give yourself 2 hours to see the whole complex.


Sule Pagoda

This Pagoda is right in the middle of Downtown Yangon, I went there once during the day and once in the night to take night photos.



The first picture above is the Sule Pagoda, second picture is the The Maha Bandula Park, walking distance from the Pagoda with Independence Monument, an obelisk in commemoration of Burmese independence from the British in 1948

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha

Must See - 

Circular Train 

Bogyoke Aung San Market 

Kandawgyi Lake

China Town


National Museum



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December 1, 2016

Batam Indonesia Day Trip

Visited Batam in November 2016


Saturday Morning mid November was eating breakfast at my hostel in Singapore, when the owner asked me what were my day plans, I answered Batam. He said there are demonstrations there and its raining. Anyways from my Hostel I took the MRT train to HarbourFront MRT Station and a ferry to Batam.


TIP: At HarbourFront MRT Station there are different ferry companies, you might want to check the departure times and the cost. I took BatamFast, the round Trip cost was $50 Singapore Dollars. It took 45 minutes one way to Batam Center ferry terminal.

MYTH:

1. On youtube and online forums I read about people facing issues with Indonesia Immigration and long lines. All baloney. I went in November and was in and out of immigration in less than 5 minutes.




2. You can get by with Singapore Dollars every where. Not True, you will need Indonesian Rupiah.

At Batam Center ferry terminal I changed $25 Singapore Dollars to Indonesian Rupiah which was plenty for a days trip if you are not going to do any shopping, and once outside the center I took a Cab to Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple.

Its a Buddhist temple. The cab cost was about $5 or $7 and it was less than 10 minutes away from the center. To the cab driver just say Vihara and he'll take you there.




At the Temple there are three Large prayer halls and beautiful courtyards with statues of Laughing Buddha in the yards.

Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple


Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple















Maha Vihara Duta Maitreya Temple
















Above Photos of the 3 Halls.

The Temple Complex also had a Vegetarian Restaurant, the food was not expensive and delicious. About $2 for food.
















I spent an hour and a half at the Temple including the time eating. There is also a Gift shop at the Temple Complex, After that I took a cab to drive me around Batam, and later drop me at the Ferry Terminal. My ferry on the way back there was an hour wait, and I visited the Batam Mega-mall for 45 minutes.

There is a walkway from the ferry terminal to the Mall, seems like there might be people visiting Batam for the sole purpose of shopping. The Mall is huge.

There is a waterpark and other things to do in Batam, none of those interest me, Vihara was my main focus for the trip and it was worth it. I was not able to spend all the $25 Singapore and still had change left over.

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October 30, 2016

Viva la Vida 2016 Austin Texas

Viva la Vida 2016 Festival and Parade Austin Texas

Viva la Vida is a festival and parade celebrating the Day of the Dead also known as Dia de los Muertos a holiday celebrated in Mexico each year to remember family members who have died, and offer prayers their spiritual journey. Its held near Halloween in October end or beginning November. This year 2016 the Parade was on Saturday the 29th October.





Location and Route: The parade Started on 5th street between I35 Northbound Frontage Road and Waller, and traveled west on 6th street to the festival location at 4th and Congress in Downtown Austin.

 Dia de los Muertos Viva la Vida 2016 Austin


I got there early to take pictures before the parade stated, camera was a Sony NEX 3

The parade was very colorful and inline with traditional, contemporary, and keeping Austin weird.




The Parade had bands and singers, Aztec and Matachine Dancers




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August 5, 2016

Things to do in Lima Peru

Cathedral of Lima
Cathedral of Lima
I spent 2 days in Lima on my way to and from Cusco, stayed with a Peruvian family I found on Airbnb.

Peru is the land of Pre-Colombian heritage, where the tribal heritage still bears the color of its unique culture. The capital and the biggest city of Peru is Lima, the glittering colonial city. This amazing city was founded by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the year 1535. In one side the old churches, cloisters, and monasteries give a view of the colonial heritage, on the other side the city portrays a metropolitan attitude with nightclubs playing the tropical tune. This city is second driest capital of the world and risen over the coast of Pacific. Home of authentic Peruvian architecture and mouthwatering Peruvian cuisine, Lima is one of the most populous cities of the world. The places and experiences you cannot miss while in Lima are 

Plaza Mayor

The plaza mayor is also known as plaza de Armas of Peru. It is the historic center of the city. The centerpiece of the historic square is a fountain from the colonial era. The Palacio Del Gobierno, Cathedral De Lima, Archbishop's Palace, the Municipal Palace etc are the places you cannot miss around the plaza.


The Archbishop's Palace of Lima

San Francisco Monastery

The monastery of well preserved Baroque Architecture, the San Francisco monastery is another attraction of Lima. The mysterious atmosphere inside the monastery will take a world of its own. Don’t miss a trip inside the well-preserved old library of this place. 

Miraflores and El Malecón

From the amazing history, if you want a taste of the upscale Peru, visit the seafront strip El Malecón. It provides you the excellent view of the coastal Lima. The park and the modern sculptures of the city can be seen here. Miraflores is a happening district of Lima. You can expect to find the chic restaurants, lively bars in this area. 

Took a Tour Bus in Miraflores called Mirabus, if you short on time I recommend it. Picture I took from the Bus, Parque del Amor with the Bay of Lima in the background



Cerro San Cristóbal


The hill Cerro San Cristóbal provides the excellent view of the city Lima. The hill Cerro San Cristóbal is located in the Northeast of the downtown Lima. On a clear day, you can have a panoramic view of the city and the sea across- from the top of the hill. 




Experiences to have in Lima: 
German Clock Tower at University Park in Lima

•    In El Malecón, you can opt for a Paragliding experiences over this city. This 15-20 minutes ride will give you an excellent view of the city from the sky.
•    Peru is known for its amazing ceviche, a dish cooked with raw fish, onions and chili pepper.  So, visit any of the cevicherias of Lima for the mouthwatering ceviche. 
•    Visit the famous museums of Lima, like Museo Larco, Museo de Historia Natural, Museo Nacional del Arqueología etc. 
•    Take a stroll through the bohemian quarter of Lima, Barranco. The 18th-century architecture along with the small yet stylish cafes will give you a visual treat. 

Often called as the ‘City of Kings’, Lima is to give you excellent doses of thrill which can be undoubtedly called as the experiences of typical America Latina.

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July 6, 2016

Kronborg Castle Helsingor Denmark

Helsingor ferry

My Second Visit to Beautiful Scandinavia, drove from  Almhult Sweden to Helsingborg.

From Helsingborg Sweden I took the ferry to Helsingor (Danish) or Elsinore (English Name), 20 minute ride by ferry and the ferry runs all day long. The ferry was packed with Swedes going to Denmark to buy Cheaper Alcohol

Kronborg Castle is a UNESCO's World Heritage Site and the main attraction in Helsingor, it is the castle of Shakespeare's Play Hamlet

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronborg_Castle



Wiki Page for Shakespeare's Hamlet.




Kronborg Castle, picture taken from the courtyard.








The above 2 pictures are the Kronborg Castle chapel, the chapel is from the period of King Frederik II, he rebuilt Kronborg castle in Elsinore between 1574 and 1585. In 1567 he founded Fredrikstad in Norway.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_II_of_Denmark


If anyone wants exact location of Helsingor, below is a map.



View Larger Map


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June 27, 2016

Cusco Peru Travels



Spent 3 days in Cusco, 2 days before starting my trek to Machu Picchu as I needed to get used to high altitude, (Elevation of 11,152′) and one day on the way back before catching my flight back to Lima. 


Cusco City with the Andes Mountains in the background.

Below Local Peruvians Cusco
Local Peruvians CuscoPeruvians

Plaza de Armas Cusco - The center of the city



Day 2 - I did a free walking tour of the city provided by my Hostel, I have started to like guided tours as you can see things you might have otherwise missed. The tour takes us to Plaza de Armas, Qoricancha, museums, Inca archaeological sights, and a visit to the  San Pedro traditional market.


Above Sketches are displayed at a museum in Cusco, I do not remember the name of the museum

The walking tour ended at the San Pedro Market where they sell fresh farm produce to bakeries, also any souvenirs and things you might need for your trek.



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June 21, 2016

Machu Picchu Inca Jungle Trek

Most treks to Machu Picchu start at Cusco, give your self an extra day in Cusco before starting the Trek, to get used to high altitude. I booked my trek in Cusco and my choices were Inca Jungle Trek or Salkantay Trek. The traditional trek using Inca Trail gets booked months in advanced. I picked the Inca Jungle Trek as it had Downhill mountain biking, zip lines, whitewater rafting and visit to the Santa Theresa hot springs. Zip lining was extra $$.

Day One the tour van was at the hostel early morning to drive us to the Andes mountains, my start of the Machu Picchu Trek was a mountain Bike ride in the Andes mountain, it rained on us and it was freezing. Regardless it was a great great time, once in a life time experience.



Get a good slip resistant hiking boots before going on a hike, my advice is to spend the extra money and get a good pair. Break them well before starting the hike. mine and were slip resistant and water proof. I plan to use them on several other mountain Hikes. Hopefully to Kilimanjaro.

Besides a change of clothes, a rain poncho, the few other things I carried on the hike was Energy bars, hydrating gels, band aids, flash light and alarm watch. Band-Aids came handy as with all the walking I started to get blisters, nothing to bad though. You can also buy  coca leaves and chew on them for energy and they help with altitude  sickness.

Did white Water Rafting in the Urbamba River, the rapids were not too bad compared to rafting in the Himalayas India 


Day 2 - our tour guide put some kind of a henna tattoo on us, the tattoos are washable and they symbolized Inca warriors, Picture below - The Group I was part of that did the trek with me, showing our tattoos. The sheds in the picture is where we stayed the night with a local Peruvian family.

Most of the day was spent trekking, with a break for lunch. In the evening it was time for a relaxing dip at the Santa Theresa hot springs.

Day 3 - Zip Lining in the Andes Mountains, I did zip-lining across 6 lines in the mountains. Little nervous on the fist one, but by the 3rd and 4th, I let go off my hands. This was day three.



Above Pictures are other members of my trek group Zip lining 

We trekked the afternoon to Aguas Calientes. The trek is something that cannot be described, it needs to be experienced, the beauty of the Mountains, rivers and streams along the way. One of my best travels.







Day 4 - Stayed the night at Aguas Calientes and next day the Climb to Machu Picchu started at 5 AM.  About an hour and a half up the Inca staircase to Machu Picchu. Our tour guide spent a good 2 hours giving a tour. 

If you have the energy left, I highly recommend doing the Huyna Picchu climb, below me at Huyna Picchu. Awesome view of Machu Picchu can be seen from Huyna Picchu, you will need to book the additional Huyna Picchu trek when booking your Machu Picchu trek as additional ticket is needed.

At Huyna Picchu, it was a cloudy day, still could see amazing views below 


Have you been or planning to go to Machu Picchu, Comments?
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June 10, 2016

Getting to Machu Picchu - How to Travel to Machu Picchu

Trip: Lima-Cuzco-Machu Picchu



Leg 1: Lima to Cuzco



There are two ways to get to Cuzco from Lima, with flying being much more recommended than taking a bus. The flight will only take you about an hour, while the bus will take about 20-22 hours due to the mountainous terrain. The prices found below will vary depending on when you make your reservation. Also, if you hold a Peruvian national identification card (DNI) then you will be able to obtain considerably cheaper flight prices than those listed. Finally, if you are converting to dollars the official exchange rate as of 6/9/2016 was $1 to S/. 3.30.

If you decide to take a bus, here is the One Way info

Cruz del Sur S/. 150
You can purchase tickets or ask questions on their website

Oltursa S./ 99.00-185.00
If you go this route, I recommend paying extra for the “160°” seats. Read here for more information.

Tepsa S/. 201.30
Information on Lima-Cuzco tickets can be found here

*Note: There are many bus companies in Peru, but these are recognized as being safe and comfortable, especially for tourist travel. Of the listed companies I have taken Cruz del Sur various times and have never had any problems with their service.

If you decide to go by plane, I recommend using a search website such as skyscanner.com or kayak.com to find good prices. A few notable companies that have good reputations in South America and have regular flights from Lima to Cuzco are listed below: Company Listed Price on Website (round-trip) Website

Avianca $185 www.avianca.com

LATAM $150 www.latam.com

StarPeru $216 www.starperu.com



Leg 2: Cuzco to Machu Picchu





The two ways to get to Machu Picchu from Cuzco are by train or hiking the Inca Trail. The train takes a little over three hours, while the hike’s duration will depend on what version of the Inca Trail you take.

Only two train companies run from the train station in Cuzco to Machu Picchu. They are Peru Rail and Inca Rail. In my experience, Inca Rail tends to run a little cheaper. Both have multiple trains running daily. A roundtrip ticket may cost anywhere from about $150 to over $300, depending on the level of comfort or luxury you wish to experience. It is best to read each company’s website to determine which train type fits your preferences. Please know that the train station in Cuzco is named Poroy; there are other train stations in the Sacred Valley that you should not buy tickets for (and which will be cheaper since they are closer to Machu Picchu) if you plan to do a direct Cuzco-Machu Picchu route.

I recommend using a licensed tour guide company if you take the Inca Trail. Tourists are not
permitted unaccompanied on the Inca Trail. The traditional trail takes 4 days, but alternatives include a 2-day trek (which cuts out much of the beautiful scenery of the 4-day trek) and the 5-day Salkantay Trek. The Salkantay Trek is gaining in popularity because it is less used and has stunning scenery. If you want to try the Inca Trail or an alternate, a list of licensed tour guide companies can be found here. Prices will vary wildly, and generally you get what you paid for. Make sure anything you are not providing (food, backpacks, etc.) are provided by the company you choose.

I did the Inca Jungle trek which I recommend, the trek included mountain Biking  in the Andes mountain, and I payed Extra for whitewater rafting Zip lining and the Huyna Picchu climb.

One final tip: Be sure to buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu in advance. The website for purchasing tickets can be found at www.ticketmachupicchu.com

Climb to Huyna Picchu is an extra ticket and I highly recommend it.

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