Location: St. Julians, Malta
This place is breathing with history and culture. Absolutely wonderful scenery...picturesque surroundings...friendly(ish) people, great looking people (well the men are anyway!!) and most importantly AWESOME food!! I am living it up here in Malta... by far the most beautiful country I have ever visited (a big call since I've been to about 20 now!)
Today I explored the incredibly beautiful Mdina...built upon an old fortress from the 1500s. The place is truely breathtaking.
I have taken LOTS of photos (as you can imagine!!) so will bore everyone with them once I return to Singapore!
I took a ride around Mdina and Rabat today using a horse and carriage (tourist trap but I loved it anyway!!) which was...err...different. The damn horse slobbered all down dad's arm...maybe he thought my dad's hairy arms looked like food!?
There are an incredible amount of Catholic Churches here which are so elaborate that they border on tacky! We are off to see the main church tomorrow ~ St. John's ~ which promises to be just as beautiful, if not more so!
All is going well here...absolutely love it here! Just found out we're off to Gozo on Thursday! woo hoo!!
Location: London, UK
Good morning chaps,
I have arrived safe and well - though a tad cold - in London. Whilst the news of the day is rampant flooding (3 died yesterday!) throughout the UK, we have thankfully been spared most of the English weather *fingers crossed*.
I've been here a two days and a half now and have already seen so much including Stonehenge, Glastenbury, Camden and parts of London.
Stonehenge was a little underwhelming - perhaps because it was bitterly cold and drizzley, and also perhaps it costs us like $30 for a couple of hot drinks and a bite to eat! Argh...everything is sooooooooooooooooo expensive here, especially since I am using Singapore money!! The SG dollar is worth peanuts over here, so everything has to be trippled to work out the price :(
Glastenbury, the home of new age hipppies, was nice to visit. We (we being Mum and Dad and myself) walked around the streets soaking in the atmosphere (and taking in the strange sites of 60 year old hippies!). We saw the majestic cathedral there (well, the remains of it anyway!) and experienced the British countryside which was nice too.
On the way back to London we had a bit of a drama on the bus, with dad taking a turn and passing out (!). I felt like Brad Pitt on Babel (minus the annoying American accent and minus the bullet). Very scary! Once he came around (we reckon it's due to jet lag) we were back on our journey once again!! woo hoo!!
Today we are in the funky town of Camden! Love it here! Heaps of edgy shops and lots to do. Since its only 1pm, i'll be off to see more :)
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
I've arrived safe and well into Bangkok, Thailand, for a 4-day recovery holiday from the school camp! (yes, we get a LOT of school holidays!).
Bangkok is great, as always. Beautiful people, friendly smiles, great food, awesome shopping, breathtaking temples - ahhh I love Thailand!
I went out to Ayutthaya today, which was the former capital of Siam (founded back in 1350). The ruins of this historic city has now been declared an UNESCO World Heritage site, which unfortunately has done nothing to spare it from the hordes of tourists walking all over it.
The site itself is a little disheartening, as all the Buddhas (there are lots!) have had their heads hacked off by the Burmese armies which besieged the city back in the 1700s. The only ones to have been spared the onslaught are obviously those which have been sculpted in the last 200 years.
Tonight I'm off to experience the sleazy nightlife of Bangkok *worried frown*, and hopefully buy some goodies at the night market (err...not THAT kind of "love you long time" goodie!). Tomorrow is yet to be planned, but hopefully it'll involve a trip out to Wat Po and Wat Arun.
Hope all is well back home...
Location: Johor Bahru - Palm Resort, Malaysia
It's not been that long since my last venture out of Singapore, and this time it's across the border to Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
I'm here as part of a 4-day school camp (140 twelve year olds), which has gone surprisingly well. I always dread school camps, but being provided with 4-star resort accommodation isn't anything to shy away from! We are staying at the Palm Resort - about an hour or so drive from the border of Singapore, and basically, between eating, sleeping and sun baking, I haven't done much else!
The only hiccup we've experienced was actually quite funny, though a bit hair-raising! We had to cross the border back into Singapore on the 25th April for the ANZAC Day dawn service, which takes place annually at Kranji Memorial. This is the site of remembrance for the Australian and New Zealanders who lost their lives during WWII as a result of the fall of Singapore.
Our initial plan was to travel back into Singapore, leaving at 4:30am (we thought that 2 hours travel time would be ample time to go through customs) - but of course, things didn't go as planned! As soon as we reached the Causeway (border crossing), we knew we were doomed, for there was a multitude of people, motorcycles, buses and trucks all pushing their way toward the border. With about 200 metres to go, our bus driver gave up, and made us run (yes, literally run!) our 140 kids toward the border. Between beggars, shop-keepers, random people and school kids, our hearts were pumping. By some random fluke we didn't lose anyone, or have an injuries (perhaps just our accelerated heart beats!).
To cut a long story short, we basically made it across the border too late, and ended up missing half the service. The sunlight was already beginning to shine through the night sky and the infamous Singapore humidity was commencing its daily onslaught. This all wouldn't have made such a big deal, if it weren't for the small fact that our school children were the choir! Crazy!
Anyway, I had better get back to my sun baking - nothing quite like getting paid to sun bake!
I've finally arrived home - back to sunny Singapore! The weather is again hot and humid - definately didn't miss that when I was away!
Singapore's Changi Airport must truely be one of the best (and quickest) airports. No fuss. No worries. No delays. I always dread heading back to Sydney, for the airport there is shocking! Ah, the joys of living in Singapore!! :)
We both arrived back in Singapore around 4:30pm this afternoon, after what seemed a mammoth flight. In total it took over 24 hours to fly back (this including a 6hr stop-over in Amsterdam!). The flight was great - KLM are a wonderful (and cheap!) airline to fly with - big recommendations (err...despite them losing our bags and being OVER THE TOP with security - we couldn't even bring a bottle of water on board - I guess you can judge whether that is a good thing or a little excessive!)
We arrived back in Warsaw on Friday night, giving us one last chance to see this beautiful city at night-time. The impressive Palace of Culture and Science was illuminated brilliantly in the night sky, which looked stunning (interestingly a lot of Poles despise this building because it was built under the Communist regime). We scurried into our hostel for the evening and by the time we showered and repacked our bags, it was time for sleep!
On Saturday we rushed off to the airport early in the morning, and arrived in Amsterdam in the afternoon.
Lisa absolutely loved it there, though I still have my reservations. The sheer number of (drunken) English tourists (mainly men!), and seeing shop-window prostitutes (literally!), was a little off-putting. Apart from this, I definately didn't feel as safe there as in Poland (or Singapore!), which was probably credited toward the high percentage of young people who appeared to be completely off their head with drugs. Not my choice of city, but fun all the same.
When we arrived in Amsterdam, Lisa and I took a boat cruise around the beautiful canals which meander throughout the city. It was such a pleasant sight to see so many couples (of all types, colours and ages) walking throughout the city and relaxing by the water. Amsterdam has a very relaxed feel to it, and I'm sure once the initial shock of alcohol, drugs and sex fades, it would be quiet a wonderful place to visit.
After sailing for an hour, we both ventured out into the touristy part of the city, where we came upon the (very) seedy red-light district. We actually found this area completely by chance, for we didn't use our map and just wandered aimlessly around the city (the best way to see any place!). Like I said, the amount of loud-mouthed Brits everywhere was more than repulsive, especially seeing them frequent the numerous sex venues.
We spent around 5 hours in Amsterdam, but only managed to see a small fraction of the city. I managed to find a beautiful frame which I bought (Gosh! Buying things in Euros is EXPENSIVE - especially when converting from Singapore dollars!!!), and have already picked out a picture for it!
Since I arrived home this afternoon I have been going through the hundreds of photos I took...wow! What a holiday!! We saw so much and experienced a great deal! We both can't believe it's all over!
So...until the next adventure (Malaysia and then Thailand!)...I will need to bid farewell...
Location: Wrocław, Poland
Today was spent in the gorgeous township of Wrocław, which was actually part of Germany for 900 years, until the end of the Second World War. Similiar to the fate that had befallen the rest of Poland, Wrocław, too, has quite a tragic history - both from WWII and from the Red Army which killed upwards of 40,000 people as they pushed Germany back during the War. This of course excludes the 10,000 Jews who were sent to concentration camps and the tens of thousands of ordinary Poles who also lost their lives throughout WWII.
We awoke early this morning and spent the entire day exploring Wrocław. The weather today was absolutely pristine - not a cloud in the sky! Spring has well and truly sprung into life, as the colours of the blossoms are a gorgeous blend of yellow, blue, red and orange.
We began the day with a visit to the grand St. John the Baptist Cathedral, followed by a wander around Ostrów Tumski Island, which provided us with pristine views across the river. This was set against a backdrop of monastries, churches and many other religious buildings. The scenery in this city is truly magical!
After walking around this area of town for an hour or two, we went futher in to the Old Town. This lovely segment of Wrocław is jam-packed with historic buildings, including the impressive Basilica Minor, which we both ascended (over 250 spiralling steps to the top!). The view on top was definitely worth the pain on the legs, for we were rewarded with a 360° panoramic view of Wrocław - wow!!
After lunch we discovered a quaint little cake shop, which we of course had to delight our taste buds with! The food here is delightful - especially the cakes and pasteries - very cheap too!! Lisa bought a yummy Napoleanka while I settled for a custard bun - the taste was far too good to put into words!
The afternoon was spent walking a little further afield, where we saw the amazing Racławice Panorama - a mammoth (15m high and 114m long) painting depicting the Battle of Racławice. This monumental panorama stands in a circular fashion and presents different scenes of the battle. The painting itself is so life-like that it feels as though you are in the battle itself - a true masterpiece!
After experiencing this, we walked a little further down the road to the National Museum, where we saw a treasure-trove of Medieval art (including sculpture, religious relics and paintings). The gardens directly outside the museum are just as stunning, with lots of beautiful art installations.
The botanical gardens were next on our agenda, and once again we were not disappointed with either the weather or the sites. Seeing the bright arrangements of spring flowers was one of the highlights of the day (especially after experiencing the surreal lack of plant-life in and around Auschwitz). The gardens provided more views of the Cathedral, and allowed us both to sit and unwind after an action-packed day!
Lisa and I are both exhausted after our long day, but are both very relucant to leave Poland. Time seems to have gone by so fast this past fortnight, that is is painful to think that work is just around the corner again! We've both agreed that Eastern Europe is next on our wish-lists of places to visit!
Location: Wrocław, Poland
We have both arrived safe and well into Wrocław - a 4hr train journey southwest of Kracow. We had quite a hair-raising experience catching the train yesterday, as we both had to run (literally!!) with our 20kg backpacks across the railway station and jump (literally!!) onto the train as it was beginning to move! Crazy! We must have made it by no more than 10 seconds yesterday. It wasn't entirely our fault that we were late - a combination of a late pick-up taxi, issues with the hostel, our first traffic jam and leaving it a bit too late ! Anyway, we are here now, so that's the main thing!!
Today we are off to see the Old Town (it appears that every Polish city has an Old Town!) - which incorporates the Botanic Gardens and a mini-Vatican city of some description. The man who owns our hostel was saying last night that is the administration hub for the Catholic Church, and that the buildings there are quite beautiful :) We will also be seeing the historical university and surrounding areas - looks like it will be an action packed day!!
We've decided to extend our stay here for an extra half-day (just to fit everything in!) which will mean that we will lose our extra day in Warsaw. Clearly this is a country where at least a month is needed!
I hope all is well...
Love Ben xoxox
Location: Kracow, Poland
I'm back in Kracow now - soon to be departing for Wrocław (a 4 hour train trip which will lead us to the southwestern region of Poland).
Today, Lisa and I returned to the beautiful Wawel Castle for one last look before we leave Kracow for good. We've both had an amazing time here, and will take the memories of this beautiful city with us for a long time.
Wawel Castle served as a royal residence from 1038 until 1596, so as you can imagine, the architecture and sheer size of this castle is quite breathtaking. We wandered through the Wawel Cathedral (part of the castle complex) and experienced the Bartolomeo Berrecci's stunning Sigismund's Chapel which was built in 1519-33. The eloborate artworks, combined with the overwhelming size and wealth of the Cathedral itself, provided us with lots of phototaking opportunities! I can't wait to upload some of the pictures to this site for everyone to see!
The grounds of Wawel Castle are indeed just as beautiful, for it provides a panoramic view of Kracow City. It would be a site to behold in winter I'm sure! We also gained a wonderful view from the King's Bell Tower, which we ascended with a group of French school children (!) The actual bells which have been used for 400 years are still intact, and their massive size and weight must provide the city with a most wonderful melody.
Anyway, time is ticking, so I will leave it there for now. Off to Wrocław now!
Location: Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Poland
Today I experienced the depths that human ignorance can inflict upon others. This destruction through hatred, racism, injustice and the consequent slaughter of innocence is Auschwitz.
1.6 million Jews.
We started our melancholy at Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, which served as an administrative center but still resulted in roughly 70,000 deaths (mostly Poles and Soviet prisoners of war). This was followed by an even more daunting and terrifying walk through Auschwitz II (also known as Birkenau), an extermination camp, where at least 1.6 million Jews, 75,000 Polish people, and some 19,000 Roma (Gypsies) were killed, along with homosexuals and those deemed as "antisocial".
Both sites are tormenting and cause a complete breakdown of emotion - it is truely one of the most depressing places you will ever visit. What struck me is how terryifyingly similiar some aspects were to the killing fields of Phnom Penh; the documentation, the photographs, the sheer pleasure the guards had in inflicting sadistic torture upon their captives and the extreme mortality rate.
Nothing can truely be said of Auschwitz as there are too many emotions attached. Despite having read scores of books and articles on the Holocaust, nothing prepared me for the onslaught of emotion I felt as I walked through the main gates, under the ironic banner of "Work Sets You Free". The images I have seen today will remain with me forever.
I'm not sure what else to write or how to express my thoughts...
I'll head off to bed and will let my mind ponder on the experiences of today.
For more information, visit: http://www.auschwitz-muzeum.oswiecim.pl/