Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol. Known for its winter sports, this picturesque city is surrounded by the mountains. The name, Innsbruck, means “bridge over the Inn”, which is the river that runs across the city. Stepping out of the train station, my jaw just dropped. Everywhere I looked, I saw the mountains, and as I’ve mentioned, I really fell in love with mountains when I was in Austria.

I was to meet Dj and his friend Shannon, who decided to cut their Prague trip short to come to Innsbruck. I hope they didn’t regret their decision, since they only got to stay in Prague for a day, while we had 2 days in Innsbruck.

I tried Couchsurfing for the second time, after such a wonderful experience in Salzburg. Our host, Max, didn’t have a big place but he, and his girlfriend, warmly welcomed us to their home.



On the way to Max’s place, we passed by the Triumphpforte, which was built in 1765 to mark the marriage of archduke Leopold and the spanish princess Maria Ludovica.

After settling in, the first thing we did was go straight for the mountains for a hike. Max brought us to Nordkette. We enjoyed a quiet hike. Max very kindly joined us though he said he hadn’t hiked in ages.



Hungerburg Funicular



Somehow all my photos turned out like paintings. I guess the beauty of the place is simply surreal.


Group photo

 We didn’t make it to the top due to time constraints. I was a little disappointed, but the hike had been an enjoyable one with the most amazing views and the freshest air.



On the way down

 We decided to walk around Innsbruck Altstadt (Old Town).


The colourful houses along the river

It was a short walk and decided to head back to Max’s place, as his girlfriend had made us a meal – delicious homemade Mexican fare.

That night, Max brought us out to have drinks at one of their favourite haunts to watch some football. Needless to say, the guys had their fun.

The next day, we decided to give Max a little break, and headed out on our own to the Old Town again.



IMG_1312Annasäule (Anna Column) along Maria-Theresien-Straße


 The weather was much better the second day compared to the first, which allowed the colours of the houses to pop even more against the blue sky.


I have to say that Innsbruck was probably the most chill trip I had throughout exchange. We made no plans at all before going, relying on Max’s recommendations and our own feet to take us places.

After lots of walking, we stopped for coffee and dessert.


Kirschtorte – cherry cake/tart


Apfelstrudel – apple strudel with vanilla bean custard


Bienenstich Kuchen – bee sting cake

Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the café anymore, but I think it is a prominent one along Maria-Theresien-Straße with outdoor seating. The desserts were excellent. They had the best Apfelstrudel I had in Austria, and the Bienenstich Kuchen – a German specialty, was my favourite of the lot. The crunchy almond top perfectly complemented the soft sponge cake and smooth cream in the middle. They definitely aren’t stingy with the cream. There was a thick layer of it. But no complaints here.

That night, we spent some time with Max and his friends at a bar, having drinks and chit chatting about our countries. I guess Singapore is infamous as a “fine city”.

On our very last day in Innsbruck, we woke up bright and early, packed and said goodbye to Max before heading to our final stop – Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds). Before visiting Innsbruck, I hadn’t questioned the origins of the Swarovski brand. My friends highly recommended visiting the Crystal Worlds, and I would recommend it too!

Unfortunately, we had terrible weather that morning. It was wet and gloomy, and we had to rush for the bus at the Hauptbahnhof that would take us to Swarovski Kristallwelten.

When we arrived, it was raining even heavier, so I couldn’t take any photos of the beautiful outdoor of Kristallwelten. We were also carrying our big backpacks with us, and couldn’t afford to get our stuff wet, especially not my camera.

I was definitely not expecting what I saw inside. Crystals, everywhere, on the walls, on the floor, in all shapes and in all forms.

The most impressive was the Crystal Dome. It’s as though you are standing inside a giant crystal, watching the colourful lights refract off the mirrored surfaces.


The Crystal Dome

The museum is huge, and it takes you through many rooms, each showcasing different crystal pieces and telling different stories. Some of the displays are plain quirky, but I guess that makes the tour much more enjoyable.



At the end of the tour, you can purchase all sorts of crystals. Of course, most were beyond my price range.




 I managed to buy a gift for my dear Cindy’s upcoming birthday, which I would be spending with her in Vienna. Nope, not the tiger, but a simple keychain with a letter “C”.

Once again, I said goodbye to Dj, not knowing when I’d see him again. But thank God traveling around Europe is so easy.


Goodbye, Innsbruck. I’ll be back someday for some skiing!

Innsbruck, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg is known as one of the most beautiful places in Austria. It is also known as the birthplace of that composer, Mozart. Heard of him? Oh, and also The Sound of Music – a childhood favourite!

This was my first trip with Peiwen, who invited me to join her and her friend Angela, from Taiwan.

I remember catching the train at about 6am that morning, after a night partying with the Erasmus students. I was completely exhausted, but stayed awake for the most of the train ride because the scenery on the way from Graz to Salzburg was just so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.

Peiwen and Angela picked me up from the train station, and brought me to our flat which we had found via Couchsurfing. We cut through Mirabell Palace and Gardens, with its baroque gardens which was featured in The Sound of Music.




After lunch with our host at a surprisingly good Asian buffet restaurant, we headed to St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut, a pretty long bus ride from Salzburg Altstadt (Old Town).

St. Wolfgang is an idyllic market town which has a similar feel as Hallstatt.


The highlight of the trip to St. Wolfgang was Wolfgangsee. As with the name of the town, it is named after St. Wolfgang of Regensburg, who built the first church there by the lake.



The church was pretty creepy. I stepped in, and immediately out because I felt something. Have I mentioned, I believe I can feel the presence of ghosts pretty strongly?



We left as night fell, and it was awfully cold as we waited for the bus. My leather jacket just didn’t cut it.

The next day, we woke up early to take a trip to Eisriesenwelt – the world’s largest natural limestone ice cave, which is situated in Werfen, about 40km away from Salzburg.

We were lucky to be in Salzburg at that time, as the cave was just about to be closed in a couple of days for the winter. It was such an amazing experience! Definitely the highlight of my trip to Salzburg.

Getting to the cable car that brings us closer to the cave can be quite a journey. From the Werfen train station, there is a van which shuttles passengers to the ticketing office, which is a distance up the mountain. Then, with the ticket, you then take the cable car until you are 1586m up the mountain.




Once you get off the cable car, it is an arduous climb up the mountain to the mouth of the cave. However, the view makes it far less painful. This was the first time I truly fell in love with mountains. I was just in awe. The view is spectacular and the colours in fall are just so vibrant.






At the entrance of the cave, we waited for the English tour to start. We were each handed a lamp with a small fire to light our way through the ice cave. Entering the cave, a huge gust of wind is expected due to the difference in temperature between the inside and the outside. My lamp had to be relit again. That rush of cold wind nearly blew my beanie off.

No photographs are allowed inside the cave, and they are really strict about this. Peiwen snuck a few, but I shall not post them here. The ice formations, such as the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave are really amazing. The total length of the cave is over 40km, and the one hour tour involves climbing lots of stairs in zero degree temperature. Needless to say, bring your gloves, wear thick socks and the appropriate clothing when visiting.

After the tour, we saw a few other tourists taking photos on a bench which sits precariously on the side of the mountain. No way we were going to miss this awesome photo opportunity!



Getting off, I almost fell to my death. The photographer kindly snapped that exact moment for me. Also photographed – Peiwen laughing at me. Thanks.


We left Werfen for Salzburg Altstadt.



Mozart is pretty much a big deal in Salzburg. You can find Mozart’s geburtshaus (birthplace) and wohnhaus (residence).

We went for dinner at Stieglkeller. The restaurant is quite famous in Salzburg, and offers delicious Austrian cuisine and beer. It also has outdoor terraces which offer an amazing view of the Old Town. Otherwise, you may choose to sit indoors in their elaborately decorated halls.


I ordered the Salzburger Fiakergulasch mit Semmelknödel, Spiegelei, Grillwürstel & Gurkerl (traditional beef goulash with dumplings, fried egg & grilled sausage). At just €12, it was totally worth it. My only complaint would be that it was too salty. But then again, I don’t usually add salt to anything. I survived my entire exchange without buying salt or sugar!


Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral)

After dinner, we took a walk up Hohensalzburg Festung (fortress), which is located on a hill above the city. 



The view of the city is really spectacular. My photo does no justice.

 To end the day, we decided to indulge in some traditional Salzburg desserts at Café Mozart. We ordered the Salzburger Nockerl, which is a soufflé-like dessert that is a specialty of the city. It is always made fresh, so our dessert took about 15 minutes to arrive, but it was worth it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. Under the golden dumplings is a berry compote.


Salzburger Nockerl

We also ordered Topfenstrudel mit heißen Himbeeren (Topfen strudel with hot raspberry sauce). Topfen, or quark, is a soft cheese that I fell in love with when I got to Graz. It also happens to be healthy (if not sweetened) and is a good source of protein!


Topfenstrudel mit heißen Himbeeren

The desserts and the service at Café Mozart is great! We had a good chat with some of the waiters there, and even took a photo with one!

The next day, we visited another place where The Sound of Music was filmed – Schloss Leopoldskron. The route to the castle was extremely scenic. As usual, the Festung is visible from a distance, as it sits pretty above the town.





Schloss Leopoldskron

It was a great stroll to start the day.

Next, we headed to Schloss Hellbrunn. Peiwen had previously visited the palace, so Angela and I went in. She didn’t want to spoil the surprise of this magical place, but when I found out it was known for its Wasserspiele (trick fountains), I pretty much expected that I wouldn’t come out dry.

Once the summer palace of the Archbishops of Salzburg, the palace and its gardens were largely used for celebrations. Markus Sittikus, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, was a man with a sense of humour. He built the trick fountains to play practical tricks on his guests.




Steintheater (Stone Theater)


Needless to say, I did not volunteer for anything.


Throughout the tour, I was repeatedly caught off-guard by sprinklers that suddenly came to life from the least expected of places.



Sometimes, you just have no choice but to walk through such paths (as pictured above). This one was my favourite. But I shan’t spoil the surprise!

Schloss Hellbrunn is definitely a place for family and friends to have a good laugh. And also to laugh at complete strangers.

Within the compound, there is also a zoo. However, coming from Singapore, I thought it wouldn’t be worth it to pay it a visit, considering it will take a lot to beat the Singapore Zoo! We decided to climb a small hill to take a panoramic look of the palace grounds instead.




Schloss Hellbrunn

After Schloss Hellbrunn, we headed back to the Old Town to have some food at another popular café – Café Tomaselli, which is a traditional Viennese coffee house, and the oldest in Salzburg. The café itself is over a hundred years old, having acquired another that was opened in 1705. It is also said that Mozart used to have his almond milk here.



Café Tomaselli

The waitress goes around with a cart of cakes to choose from. I chose the chocolate and marroni torte, and we also had Apfelstrudel and Eszterházy torta. All were scrumptious!


Chocolate and marroni torte




Eszterházy torta – Vanilla cream, cinnamon and walnut cake 

The café also offers fragrant Viennese coffee and so many other variants I never heard about until I got to Austria. They really love their coffee!

After coffee and cakes, we set out to find the original Mozartkugel, which is a chocolate bonbon that was created by the Salzburg confectioner, Paul Fürst, in the 1800s. However, since the confectionery Fürst does not own a trademark for Mozartkugeln, there are numerous imitations out there, such as the gold ones you find everywhere. DO NOT BUY THOSE. Please, please look for Fürst if you are in Salzburg. Even though pretty pricey, I highly recommend giving it a try. As a true chocolate-lover, it receives my stamp of approval.




die Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln from Cafe-Konditorei Fürst



Mirabell Mozartkugeln

The difference between the quality of the chocolate and marzipan is obvious. Think Godiva versus Hershey’s. The original Mozartkugeln has a chocolate-hazelnut nougat creme core with a small piece of marzipan, and is coated in dark chocolate. Two thumbs up! So, go for the silver, not gold!

We continued to walk around the Old Town, and looked for the famous Bosna. Yes, more eating! Bosna is like the Austrian version of the hot dog bun.




The original

We ordered the original, which has onion, parsley and curry powder sprinkled on top. It was delicious, but I think the Americans win this time.

Salzburg is truly an amazing city, and remains one of my most memorable trips. I would definitely return again if I had the chance. I got to see beautiful architecture, savour the traditional foods of the city, see the best nature has to offer and most importantly, got to know more about the history of Salzburg.


Until we meet again.

Salzburg, Austria


I shall skip the post for Graz for now, because I think it will be terribly long and I’ll be so emotional just thinking of all the fond memories.

During orientation week in FH Joanneum, which was the university in Graz which I did my exchange programme at, a bunch of us decided to go hiking at Bärenschützklamm. Bärenschützklamm is not for the faint-hearted. It is an amazing place to hike. The ascent to the top involves climbing 164 wooden bridges and ladders along 1300m.

I almost didn’t go for the hike because we had to wake up really early to take the train. But I’m really glad I decided to sacrifice some sleep for this. It gave me the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen. Indeed, nature at its finest.

The hike involves climbing up a gorge with many perilous wooden ladders, all wet due to the roaring waterfalls. I can’t count the number of times I almost slipped, but I held on to my life, and a few times, I had someone hold on to me.















We didn’t manage to get to the top as we were taking too long and it would be dark. We ended our hike at a lodge, where we had some food. Then it was a race against the clock to get back down before we would be left in the darkness.

As we made the descent, I started losing the feeling in my fingers. Shortly after, they started to hurt really badly. I was so afraid I might get frostbite. But Clement was a good friend and he gave up his gloves so that I could warm up again. For that, I am extremely thankful. Thank you! 🙂




The most beautiful view from the hike

Overall, it was a great experience. I’d never done anything like this, and I have never seen such beauty before.

By the time we got back to Graz, we were cold and hungry. Clement and I made some hot soup for dinner to warm up.

Needless to say, we slept very well that night.


Paris, France (Part 2)


Almost 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year. It is 324m tall and weighs 10,100 tonnes.

The next day, we were blessed with much better weather. The day before, it was rainy and foggy; not the best day for a good view atop the Eiffel Tower.

I found quite a strategic location to actually take some shots that showed both the tower as well as the humans. But it required very dedicated photographers to get down on their knees (or lower).


IMG_8870IMG_8827 IMG_8841


Beneath the Eiffel Tower

You can actually buy your tickets online so that you have one less queue to wait in.

 Instead of taking the lift all the way up, we decided to climb 704 steps to the second floor to save some money (€11.50 vs. €13.50 in total for 12-24 year oldsand also some time, since the queue for the lifts were horrendous. It was a pretty good experience climbing. We got to see all angles of this wonder and also, could take our time to take pictures and enjoy not squeezing with a thousand other people. Ok, I exaggerate.

Climbing the Eiffel Tower

Beyond the second floor, climbing is no longer possible. So we had to take the lift to the top. At this level, the view is phenomenal as it is unobstructed; unlike at the top where there are pesky fences that deprive us of really amazing shots. But, of course, you can always stick your camera out; just don’t drop it. It will fall to a terrible death.


Looking up from the second floor

We then took the lift to the top.



At the top of the Eiffel Tower

We took the lift down from the second floor and it was a fun ride down. The lift was made with clear panels so we could see the descend, and it moved diagonally down the legs of the tower.

Our next stop was Cathedrále Notre Dame de ParisMost of us would know of Notre Dame Cathedral from Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It was written to bring awareness to the value of Gothic architecture, which was slowly being replaced by more modern styles. His novel might very well have saved the cathedral from demolition!


Access is free. I was never a believer of churches that charge for entry.



We were fortunate to have entered during evening mass. There was a huge congregation, and the music playing was really haunting (in a scary way). It gave me goosebumps.

We remembered what our tour guide, Nancy, had told us about Notre Dame, and how we should see the rear as well. It was really different from the front. It reminded me of a spider.

The next day, we decided it was about time to visit one of the world’s most famous and most photographed museums – the Louvre. The best thing about Paris? Entry is free for most, if not all, museums! Hooray for Erasmus!



As I have probably mentioned a thousand times, I’m not the biggest art fanatic. My appreciation for art cannot rival my appreciation for good food. I like art only because I enjoy looking at beautiful things (people included). So our goal was to see Mona Lisa, some other stuff for a short while, and we were out! We did try to “appreciate” the art, but the Louvre is just HUGE. There was no way I would last that long in there. We were getting bored, so we had to find our way to the wing where Mona Lisa was.

We knew we were in the right area because there was a crowd of “paparazzi” (like a hundred people) trying to capture a picture of the Mona Lisa. You know what they say… If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! I jostled into the crowd with Joel to see this enigmatic, little thing that hung on a wall disproportionately bigger than she. Oh, and by the way, she is also protected by bulletproof glass.


Mona Lisa

Just across the Louvre is Pont des Arts, otherwise known as the Love Lock Bridge. Each year, thousands of lovebirds flock to this bridge to “lock” in their love. They then throw the keys into the Seine. Throughout the world, other couples have done so on other bridges.


Us at Pont des Arts


The funny couple with their German padlock. SPOIL MARKET.

We didn’t do the whole lovey-dovey thing. We don’t want to add any more weight to the poor bridge, which is so heavy from the locks that part of it recently collapsed. Also, the authorities occasionally remove parts of the bridge to prevent such mishaps. I don’t want anyone to take our love away, ya know? Besides, he’s already got the keys to my heart ❤

From Pont des Arts, we grabbed a quick snack of French goodies.


Pain Viennois



We got the bread and madeleine at a random bakery and they were so good! I especially love the madeleine. So buttery and soft.

We passed by Eric Kayser again and had more even more to eat. We tried the pistachio éclair and a raspberry financier.


Pistachio éclair

I’m a huge fan of éclairs, but this just did not cut it. I felt that the choux pastry was too hard and too dry. The ones we get at Délifrance here in Singapore are better. Sorry!


Financier aux Fruit Rouges

The raspberry financier, on the other hand, was exceptional! It had a core filled with raspberry and a wonderful taste of almond. Slightly crumbly and very rich.

Our very last stop was to the Palace of Versailles. But first, I had to get myself another one of those paninis from the first morning.

Smoked salmon and mozzarella panini from Epik Café

I. Just. Love. Stringy. Cheese.

Versailles was just a 20 minute train ride from Paris. I first heard of Château de Versailles in high school history class. It was in 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors, undoubtedly the most famous room in the whole of the palace.



Inside the golden gates of the Palace of Versailles

Once again, entry was free for us. We just needed to flash our student Visas.



The Hall of Mirrors

The history of the Versailles Palace is an interesting one. Take a guided tour or the audio tour, and take lots of pictures too. The House of Mirrors is exceptionally stunning. The entire palace is over-the-top. There is gold in every corner. Louis XIV definitely outdid himself.

Versailles Palace is also where you get a peek into one of history’s most outstanding female figures – Marie-Antoinette. In Austria, I would find out more about her. But that’s for another time.

We were quite unlucky that day. When we arrived at Versailles, it was already drizzling. By the time we were done exploring the palace, it was almost evening and the rain was falling heavier than before. The palace gardens are beautiful with manicured lawns and flowers, and I really did want to see it. However, the weather just did not permit it. It was wet and cold, so we left the compound with only a short glimpse into the park.

We realised that we hadn’t eaten a proper meal out in Paris thus far. I’m sure it was the exorbitant prices restaurants charge there. All this while, we were surviving on pasta we cooked at the hostel. Their stove wasn’t even working, so we had to boil water over and over again to cook the pasta. I also made microwave scrambled eggs a couple of times. So, for our last meal, we decided to indulge. We searched Tripadvisor for good restaurants around our area and found one that was #29 out of 12,383 – Les Rillettes.

When we found the restaurant, it was full, and we were asked to come back in about an hour’s time. The restaurant is pretty small. I only recall two long tables. There were also only two people working there – a husband and wife duo. The wife waited on the tables while the husband was the chef. They were really such lovely people!

The menu was in French and so we had to depend on my limited knowledge of French to figure out what each item was. Fortunately, the chef’s English was good and he explained it to us.



Most of the mains are burgers but with a French twist. You may notice that the burger buns look different. They used gougères in place of the usual bun. A gougère is a savoury choux pastry mixed with cheese. Very delicious.



Beef burger with foie gras, ham and a homemade onion and tomato compote – €20


Grilled chicken burger with French ham, Camembert and roasted mushrooms – €17


Beef burger with tomato cherry chutney, onion compote, melted cheese and ham – €17

Till this day, these burgers have to be the most delicious burgers I have ever eaten. Hands down. And it has nothing to do with the price either. I would definitely recommend the beef burgers for meat-lovers. I only ordered the chicken because I can’t take too much beef.

For dessert, we had Fontainebleau chestnut cream with chestnut honey. This was so light and refreshing. I personally love crème de marrons and have a container full of it at home. The guys really enjoyed this too. We were scraping off whatever was left in the glasses.


Fontainebleau chestnut cream with chestnut honey

This was definitely one of the most memorable meals for me. Good food, good ambience, great service and even better company.

The next day, Dj and I left Paris for Warsaw, where I would pick up my bags and head to Graz alone.

Paris was, overall, good to me. The guys were not so impressed; the whole experience tainted by our run in with those brutes and also the dirty, stinky train stations and streets.However, I hope to return someday and enrol in Le Cordon Bleu Paris. That has been my dream for a long time. So until then, au revoir, Paris!

Paris, France (Part 2)

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember much of what happened in Amsterdam. And no, it has nothing to do with the use of “illegal” substances. What I do remember, and enjoy, were those leisurely strolls we had from our lovely apartment – which we rented on Airbnb – to the city centre. It is somewhat surreal waking up and, looking out the window behind your bed, seeing the canals which are so synonymous with Amsterdam, otherwise known as the Venice of the North.

We arrived late in the night, and kind of got lost for a bit trying to find the apartment. But our Airbnb host waited very patiently for us and warmly welcomed us. The apartment was really nice and had two bedrooms and a couch that could be used as a bed for one. If interested, let me know, and I can drop you the host’s profile on Airbnb.

On the first day, I took a walk with Dj to the city centre. I wanted to visit the Anne Frank House.


In Amsterdam, cycling is probably THE way to get around. You don’t see that many cars on the roads. Instead, lots of cyclists. Very eco-friendly. Apparently, the number of bicycles outnumber the number of citizens, over a million!


IMG_6896The idyllic canals of Amsterdam

We first stopped for lunch at Toos & Roos. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much cheese in my life in a single seating. I had a goat cheese sandwich with honey and walnuts, which was served with pumpkin soup shooters. I was expecting just one slice of goat cheese, but I got three. Thankfully, Dj was there to save the day, otherwise I would have puked trying to finish it all. Goat cheese is really strong and way too cloying after a while.


I’m sure most of us know the story of Anne Frank. I read the book as a teenager. Even to this day, I enjoy reading stories about the war and memoirs most. The Diary of a Young Girl is beautifully told. Visiting the Anne Frank House was truly a haunting experience for me. It is definitely one of the better museums around. Even those who have never read her story should visit it. There are many good museums in Amsterdam, but this was the only I wanted to visit. Other museums to consider are the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Museum and Rembrandt House Museum. Museumplein (Museum Plain) is where you can find the major museums.

IMG_6907Anne Frank House

After the Anne Frank House, we met up with the rest. And that was when I made a discovery – Speculoos! As someone who loves baking and looking for new recipes, I’ve always wanted to try Speculoos and transform this yummy cookie butter spread into a cupcake. We first bought one bottle, but after our first try the next morning at breakfast, we were hunting the supermarkets for more.

IMG_6923The original Speculoos spread

It was soon dinner, and we came across Manneken PisNope, not the bronze sculpture of a pissing boy which can be found in Brussels, but the store that sells huge-ass servings of kick-ass fries. We had ours drowned in Samurai sauce because we really, really missed spicy food. Unfortunately, it was more tangy than anything. The fries were delicious and piping hot, perfect for the chilly weather!


No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to one of their renowned coffee shops. We were looking for Green House, which is pictured on the left of this beautiful shot I caught on my iPhone 😛

I was sulking at this point, as this was the first time we had actually been in cold weather. In the day, it was warm, but by evening it was so cold, and I was in my tank top and shorts with just a thin cardigan. All I wanted to do was go back to the apartment and sleep.


IMG_6983Green House

To look around and see so many people smoking weed like it’s no big deal is actually quite the experience. Amsterdam is also the place where I first learnt how to identify the smell of weed. This would later serve as an important skill while traveling around Europe.

So, enough talk of weed and space cakes… which I have to add, is a total waste of a perfectly delicious marble cake, because it tastes like grass… to more delicious things. There was a really good ice cream place called Yscuypje that we passed pretty often. We went there twice. The first time, we had chocolate and Speculoos. GOOD!


On our way to the city centre, we also pass by this really awesome store that sells such a wide variety of cheeses. They’ve got really exotic flavours such as wasabi and pesto too. Dj and I walked in twice just to taste the samples! The store is called Kaashuis Tromp. They even have yummy looking cheesecakes which I was so tempted to buy!



Amsterdam also has great architecture… like almost every European country. Something will catch your eye. That’s why I enjoy walking over taking the tram. You’re bound to discover something.

IMG_7092Spotted a rainbow!

IMG_7056Amsterdam Centraal

Amsterdam Centraal is the main railway station. The building is huge and so grand. A very beautiful design with its red bricks.





IMG_7037Street performers

IMG_7088By far, my favourite shot taken in Amsterdam. The Royal Palace of Amsterdam.

Another must-visit is the Red Light District. Before entering, you are welcomed by a “traffic light” that is red. Upon entering, you are welcomed by scowling, and very plastic-looking prostitutes in glass windows. I found them to be highly entertaining and offensive at the same time, if that’s possible. Try not to take photos of them, they really hate it.

IMG_7102Red Light District

To prove that you really have been to Amsterdam, visit the Rijksmuseum, where the famous “I amsterdam” sign can be found. When we got there, it was crowded and we had to wait quite a while for the place to clear out before climbing up those letters. Please be careful when climbing, it can be awfully painful. I think Dj got a cut somewhere. But we got up relatively easy. We are fit people!

IMG_7163“I amsterdam” at the Rijksmuseum

At the park outside the Rijksmuseum, you can get some snacks and just people-watch. A must-try food here is the Stroopwafel. Yes, you can get them in Singapore, and the good ones cost a bomb, but you can get these freshly made, warm and filled with that unbelievable gooey-goodness, for an affordable price in Amsterdam. This was the best I had there. I wish I had eaten more of these fresh ones before leaving.

IMG_7133Fresh Stroopwafel

We took a walk to Vondelpark after the Rijksmuseum. Vondelpark is the largest park in Amsterdam. Europeans really enjoy their parks. I guess the weather makes it a much more pleasant experience.


Our last meal in Amsterdam was at Pancakes! AmsterdamThis was beside Toos & Roos, where I had my first meal. Dutch pancakes, Pannekoek, are unlike the standard American pancakes we get. They are thin and large. I chose the lemon sugar pancake, while the boys got the apple with nuts and Calvados, and paprika, mushroom, bacon and cheese pancakes. All very yummy, especially the lemon sugar. Amazing how something made with flour, eggs and milk can be so yummy!


That marked the end of our trip to Amsterdam. We left at about sunset with a bag full of Speculoos and supermarket brand Speculaas and stroopwafels.


Next stop, London!


Lisbon, Portugal

From Madrid, we left Spain for Lisbon, Portugal. I was really looking forward to Lisbon. Portugal has been one of the countries I’ve always wanted to visit since I was much younger. Spain, of course, was my number one destination since I was a little kid looking through travel guides. Yes, I started young.

I love the streets of Lisbon. Cobblestoned, sloping, with quaint little buildings on both sides. Lisbon is also known as the City of Seven Hills. You will understand when you start exploring.

We arrived early in the morning and checked into our hostel. We stayed at Passport Lisbon Hostel. Location wise, it was good as it was in the centre of Bairro Alto and a stone’s throw away from Chiado, and there are many trams running right in front of the hostel. However, if you are a light sleeper, you might experience some problems. Right in front of the hostel is a statue of Luís Vaz de Camões, who is considered the greatest Portuguese poet. It is THE meeting point for many, especially at night. There also seemed to be music coming from I don’t know where late into the night, which really pissed me off. But the hostel itself was great. I might consider it the best one we stayed at. Clean, big beds, friendly staff and a very good breakfast!

So off to breakfast after checking in. I will remember this breakfast, because we had such simple, unpretentious, yet yummy food.



This croissant with a thin slice of ham was so yummy. Not the usual flaky, pastry croissant, but more like bread, soft, but layered, with a hint of orange, baked till golden.

 The late morning we spent eating egg tarts and taking a nap. We were so exhausted. I recall walking down the streets with Dj in the evening to catch the sunset.



A lot of my photos of Lisbon have this yellow tint, and I think it is true when they say that yellow, or rather, gold, is the colour of the city.


Sunset in Lisbon

On the second day, we went for a free walking tour which started at the Luís de Camões Square. Good walking shoes are highly recommended. There is a lot of walking involved in this tour; and we walked for hours. Our tour guide was a funny chap, easy to talk to, and had lots of stories to tell about Lisbon. So, if in Lisbon, I do recommend this free walking tour. Link to their website here.

Here are some of the places where the tour brought us:


Rua Augusta Arch 

This arch was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) where the arch is situated, is HUGE.

Our tour also led us from Baixo to Alfama, which is the oldest district in Lisbon. The walk was, indeed, a step back in time. For photographers, this little district presents great photo opportunities.

Our guide

Sadly, I don’t remember his name, but what I do remember is that he thought us a Portuguese word – Saudade. Saudade has no direct English translation, but describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for something or someone that one loves.

It is the most beautiful word, to me.





View from the climb up at Alfama

Tram 28

Tram 28 is listed as a must-do when in Lisbon. The iconic tram brings you many historical locations in Lisbon. We took the tram to Castelo de São Jorge and Miradouro, which is an excellent viewpoint high on one of the hills.

We took a day to go to Belem, which is a not-too-long train ride from Lisbon’s city centre. Why did we go there? For the original Portuguese egg tarts of course! Pastéis de nata were created by Catholic monks before the 18th century in Belém. Pastéis de Belém has been baking these scrumptious tarts since 1837. The queue was long, but it moved fast. We bought a couple of boxes of them and devoured them so fast. Was so tempted to get more, but they are really sinful.


Pastéis de Belém

I think what makes this egg tart so different from the ones we get in Macau, is its crust. Thin and crunchy, flaky. We got them warm and it was divine. The custard perfectly caramelised on top.



Pastéis de nata

Traditionally, pastéis de nata is eaten with a dash of cinnamon, but I much prefer it without!

After gobbling down two whole pastéis de nata, we went for a walk to Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Had to steal Dj’s photos of the monastery, because strangely, I took none?!



Just a short distance from the monastery is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), which lies on the northern bank of the Tagus River. The monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery.




My Muay Thai kick in front of the Ponte 25 de Abril, or 25th of April Bridge, which connects Lisbon to Almada.

We heard a lot about Sintra from the locals, so we decided to spend our last full day in Portugal there.

The train ride to Sintra took about 40 minutes from the train station in Lisbon (I think it was Oriente). Indeed, Sintra is a mysterious place. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits at the foot of the Sintra mountains.

Before exploring Sintra, we had an amazing meal at Café Saudade.

Empada de Porco Preto (Iberian black pork mini pie)


Tosta Mista (ham and cheese panini)


Queijada de Sintra – a local, cheesecake-like pastry which were a favourite of King Ferdinand II.


Saudade coffee with condensed milk – one of the best coffees I’ve ever had!


Chocolate fudge cake. Yup. No words needed.

After our meal, we took a ride up to the attractions, to one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.








Palácio Nacional da Pena

Such rich, vibrant colours. Palácio Nacional da Pena was surreal. The view from the palace was spectacular as well, overlooking Sintra. We spent a few hours at the palace before proceeding to one of the spookiest places I have ever been to. So spooky I refused to take photos in fear of capturing something supernatural in my picture.



Quinta da Regaleira

The gothic façade of the palace gave me goosebumps, and when I entered, I immediately wanted to get out. Maybe it was the time of the day – it was late in the afternoon, that made things worse, or maybe it was how it seemed like we were the only living souls in the huge estate which includes a sprawling park with wells, fountains and other odd structures.

I tried to rush the guys, but they were looking for some landmark within the estate and I was so afraid that the sun would set and we would be left inside with no light to guide our way out. Alas, we gave up and hurried out. We had dinner at a restaurant (Trip Advisor recommended) before walking down the hill to catch our train. By then, it was dark, damp and cold. After the sun had set, the hill was shrouded by a mysterious fog. Funny how Sintra transforms from a crowded tourist attraction in the day, to a ghost town in the night.

On our last day, we had a few hours, so we hopped onto Tram 28 for a ride up to Castelo de São Jorge and Miradouro for the view.






 Castelo de São Jorge

One of the best views of Lisbon is from Castelo de São Jorge, a Moorish castle which overlooks the city and the Tagus River. Entry fee is just 4 Euros.

That pretty much summed up our trip to Lisbon. Charming cafés, beautiful architecture, rich history, beautiful streets.


Lisbon, Portugal

Valencia, Spain

Our second Spanish city – Valencia.

I enjoyed our short stay in Valencia. I actually wish we could have had an extra day there. One of the highlights of my entire travel experience I had here in this beautiful city.


Cathedral of Saint Maria of Valencia

This church is supposedly the home of the Holy Grail.Image



No trip to Valencia is complete without trying the famous Horchata and Fartons. Horchateria El Siglo has been around since 1836. I tried the Horchata in Barcelona, and it doesn’t come close to the one I had here. However, you either love it or you don’t. I happen to love it. Horchata is made of tigernuts, which like peanuts, are not nuts! Horchata made with tigernuts is called Horchata de chufa. The youtiao looking pastry is called a Farton. Also similarly to youtiao, you dip them into Horchata. We just had it on its on, and oh my god, this is probably one of the best things I’ve eaten ever! So soft, so sweet. The perfect pastry.

Horchata El Siglo – Address: Plaza de Santa Catalina, 11, 46001 Valencia, Spain

ImageValencia’s narrowest house

It might very well be the narrowest in Europe (as far as I know). 105cm across. Image

The back streets of Valencia

ImageOur very charming, Scottish tour guide. Wicked sense of humour.


One of the nicest markets I’ve visited so far. Mercat Central (or Mercado Central). It is one of the oldest in all of Europe. Stalls sell everything from fresh produce, meat, cooked food and souvenirs too.

ImageLook up.


Wasn’t expecting to see this.


Fruit lovers’ heaven! Yummy, fresh and plump figs and a wide variety of fruits.


Iberico ham


Tigernuts that are used to make Horchata


We had cheap and relatively good paella and my favourite Bocadillo with Spanish tortilla just outside the market.



The aquarium in Valencia is famous, more so for its architecture than for its marine wildlife (in my opinion). It is, however, huge! We visited Oceanogràfic and the City of Arts & Science. However, we only had the time to go into Oceanogràfic. I don’t recall it being cheap, but I quite enjoyed myself because we watched the dolphin show! Amazing dolphin show, except that it was all in Spanish. Ich spreche kein Spanisch!








After Oceanogràfic, we headed to the beach, where, apparently, there is excellent Valencian paella. Paella originates from Valencia, so make sure you don’t leave Valencia without having your fill of the authentic stuff.



Honestly though, I still find the paella which my friend from Valencia cooked for me back in Singapore the best I’ve ever had.  This didn’t even come close, although I must say, it sure beats the ones we had in Barcelona.

As luck would have it, we were in Valencia when they hold the famous, annual tomato-throwing festival – La Tomatina. We didn’t have tickets and we heard that they recently passed a regulation on the maximum number of participants that could attend the festival. However, we decided to take our chances and took the train at about 6am to Buñol, the small town where it is held every last Wednesday of August. I had already known when we were planning our trip that we would be there, but I never expected that we would attend it! But I’m glad we took that train down to Buñol! It was an amazing experience. Yes, it rained in the first time in 8 years during the festival, I used the most filthy, disgusting public toilet ever, we were soaked in acidic tomato juice, sometimes hit hard with uncrushed tomatoes (hey, please crush before throwing), and we were freezing our asses off. But it was sooooooo worth it! I would go for again, this time armed with a Go Pro.

As we were busy throwing tomatoes at random strangers, we met Bing Chia, DJ’s friend and if not for him, we would not have this amazing photo! Proof we were at La Tomatina 2013!


Credits to Bing Chia. Thank you 🙂

When the festival ends, there’s lots of partying going on. Kind locals hose you down from their balconies, but trust me, you WILL find some tomato stuck in your ears for days. And the sour smell of tomato gets stuck in your hair too, even after multiple washes. It was pretty unhygienic actually. Some people scoop the squashed tomatoes and its juices from the ground and just pour them over your heads. But, it’s all for the name of fun, so don’t get pissed off. Also, goggles may seem like a good idea, until someone throws a tomato so hard at you, it hits your goggles and it cuts you on the nose. True story. Ear plugs, however, are a better option.

Safe to say, I didn’t have tomatoes for a long time after.

Absolutely exhausted after the whole event, we headed back on a train packed like sardines in tomato paste :/ We took a shower and napped for a bit before heading out for dinner and to meet with Bing Chia again for some paella, the best churros I had in Spain and also for my last horchata.


Churros with hot chocolate at Valor Chocolates. They have amazing hot chocolate! I prefer the churros here because I don’t like them too hard and crunchy, but I know people who do. These are made fresh for you when you order, and the chocolate is served steaming hot. So damn good in that rainy weather. Valor is in all major cities in Spain. Find them! You won’t regret it! Website here.

As I said, I wished we had an extra day there. We were so tired after La Tomatina, we didn’t go to the cathedral to see the Holy Grail. I really did like Valencia, more so than I enjoyed my time in Barcelona! I guess I prefer the less crowded, less touristy cities. They have their charm.

Ciao, Valencia.

Next stop, Madrid.

Valencia, Spain

Barcelona, Spain (Part 2)

Back to Antoni Gaudi. His works are everywhere in Barcelona. We got to see a few more during a free walking tour. I really wanted to go into these buildings, unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. If only we did a little less shopping and more time sightseeing!ImagePalau Güell

ImageTiles designed with Gaudi which pave Passeig de Gràcia

ImageCasa Batlló

ImageCasa Milà

More photo spam:



ImageYes, this was by Picasso.

ImageFC Barcelona

 Football players have perky butts!


ImageFlag of Catalonia

ImageSANDEMANs Old City tour

Our free walking tour of choice. They operate in quite a few European cities. Check them here.


ImagePicasso Museum

We queued for the museum as it was free. What a long queue.

ImageMercat de La Boqueria

On our last day, we visited the Mercat de La Boqueria. I love these markets. So much fresh food, fruits, and local specialties!


ImageFood, glorious food.

 Off to our next Spanish city – Valencia.

Barcelona, Spain (Part 2)

Barcelona, Spain (Part 1)

Spain. My dream country. I remember flipping the pages of travel books in my younger days and always wanting to go to Spain. I actually wanted to go to Spain for exchange, but my mum would not allow it because it is “dangerous”. But I am perfectly happy with Austria now, and I got my chance to visit three cities in Spain. First stop – Barcelona.


Parc Güell 

We visited Parc Guell on our first day in Barcelona. Parc Güell is another masterpiece by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The park was initially meant to be used as a housing estate for the rich. However, it was a flop and only Gaudií and Count Güell resided there.

Throughout the park, mosaic is used in the design. I think the park, like many of Gaudí’s creations, are pretty whimsical. At the entrance stands two gingerbread-looking houses, and as you walk in, you meet the mosaic salamander.

No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing La Sagrada Familia. Once again, it is another work of art by Gaudí.

Construction of the basilica started in 1882, and it is still a work in progress. I wonder how many more years it will take before completion! To say that the basilica is huge is an understatement. I have never visited any that comes close to its size. It is over-the-top, in typical Gaudií fashion.

There are three façades – the Nativity, Passion and Glory. My favourite is the Nativity façade. It is also the most elaborate. I was amazed the sheer amount of detail.


 Later in the night, we went to the Font Màgica de Montjuïc (the magic fountain of Montjuïc).


 I really enjoyed the atmosphere during the spectacle. Great music, great crowd. And the water show was amazing. Vibrant, colourful.

Taking a break from the attractions… Let’s talk about food! I think we all loved the food in Spain. From the sweet to the savoury. Here are some of the delicious eats we had.


We came across a lovely pastry shop called Bombeneria La Colmena Pasteleria. They sell such beautiful meringues (DJ’s favourite), chocolate mediants, cakes and pastries.


Ensaïmada – traditional sweet bread from Mallorca

I loved it. I tasted a hint of citrus, like orange blossom, in the pastry. It is soft and light and just plain pretty.


Magdalena – Spanish muffins


More cookies. The longer variant looks like Langüeta del Gato (a.k.a. Cat’s Tongue cookies).



Everywhere I went, I had bocadillos, which are like Spanish baguette sandwiches. This one was from our favourite joint in Barcelona. Vegetable omelette. I also had the Spanish Tortilla bocadillo, chicken and tuna one too. I don’t know how they make their omelettes, but they are near perfect.


Jamón Ibérico – Spanish ham from black Iberian pigs


Sangria – my favourite drink 


Paella – our first and certainly not last Paella during our stay in Spain

Unfortunately, no paella we tried in Spain, even in Valencia where it is supposed to have originated, tasted as good as the one my dear Valencian Exchange group mate made for us earlier this year. I was utterly disappointed! But the guys enjoyed themselves, and I am sure they would love to have paella agains soon. My goal – to reproduce my friend’s paella!


Alfajores – sandwich cookies with dulce de leche filling and coconut

Part 2 of Barcelona soon! I need to get back to my workout. I am certainly getting much fatter here in Europe with all the traveling and the good food ):

Barcelona, Spain (Part 1)

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

From Santorini, we took a short flight back to the Greek capital of Athens. Athens is rich in history and culture, and I was excited to explore the city. I couldn’t wait to visit the Akropolis, as I have read story books in my younger days about the Greek gods and goddesses, the temples, the heroes and the heroines.

 We got in pretty late, and wandered around looking for our hostel. We stayed at a place called Neos Olympos. It was a comfy place and we enjoyed our stay, except for the receptionist that is on night shift. He was just plain rude.

Here’s some photos from our two days in Athens.



A good place to shop. No trip to Greece is complete without buying a pair of gladiator sandals, no?



We spent a good few hours at the Akropolis. My favourite temple has to be the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena.





 The view of the city from the top of the hill is spectacular too. Here’s a good photo of DJ and I. The wind was so strong, it took many shots to take a decent photo of me, without hair flying everywhere.



As the sun began to set, we made our way to Filopappos Hill to watch the sunset. Although not as great as Santorini sunsets, it was beautiful nonetheless. A really warm, red and orange sunset behind the hills.




When in Greece, try Baklava and Kataifi. Diabetes-inducing, artery-clogging goodness.


The best gyros we had in Athens, from Smile Cafe Restaurant.

Address: Syngrou Avenue 24, Athens, 117 42, Greece


Panathenaic Stadium (Panathinaiko) – Venue of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.


Changing of guards at the Parliament Building, Syntagma Square

This has to be the most entertaining changing of guards I have ever seen. Over 6 feet tall men, dressed in pleated kilts, stockings and oversized, cutesy flats. Be sure to catch it. The ceremony takes place on the hour (apparently 24 hours) every day, and the grandest one every Sunday at 11am.



Saying goodbye to my beautiful sandals. Fortunately, I did buy a pair of sandals at Monastiraki. Unfortunately, it is no longer sandal-weather in Graz!

Next stop, Barcelona!

Athens, Greece