Crete (Heraklion), Greece

Expect to be shocked as soon as you step out of Crete’s Heraklion airport with a line of tour company stalls and groups of tourists! Pick up their tourist map because it shows you five routes you can take to tour the key sites in a mapped out way. You can spend two or three days visiting all the sites including the Palace of Knossos, and be sure to enjoy some fresh seafood along the waterfront, they are all in a row. A recommended restaurant would be Kastella 🙂 You can take a 20min taxi from the airport straight to the city 15Euros to most city centre locations. And from the city back to the airport, you can find taxi’s for as low as 10 euros! They will have sign boards so they can’t cheat you. They don’t use their meters in Greece so make sure you clarify price beforehand.

The main area is really walkable and the only commute is to the Palace. c800e5f2-ae88-4dbb-961b-299298c2d39b.jpeg

Heraklion, also known as Iraklio, is a port city and the capital of the Greek island of Crete. It’s known for the Palace of Knossos, just outside the city. The huge archaeological site dates back thousands of years to the Minoan civilization, and includes frescoes and baths. Guarding the city’s Venetian port is the 16th-century Koules fortress. Heraklion Archaeological Museum has a large collection of Minoan art.

Note for breakers: You can train at the town hall 8pm onwards! There are skaters there too.  I was lucky enough to join in on their busking the night I was there which was the highlight of my trip. F666FAB1-D99D-489D-B126-5CF3CEA79414

Note for EU students: You gain free entry everywhere to most sites!

Here are some of the highlights from my trip:

  1. Palace of Knossos –  the main Bronze Age archaeological site at Heraklion, a modern port city on the north central coast of Crete. It really is just ruined remaining but worth a visit since it’s their main highlight. Read some history beforehand as there are limited sign boards at the site. There are tour guides you can pay for outside if you have the extra money. I would also recommend getting the entry ticket that includes the archeological museum as they do a package deal that make’s it a lot cheaper.
  2. Archeological museum
  3. Venetian Port and fortress
  4. Historical Museum
  5. Church of St Titus 16AF610F-7781-4459-A74F-94F609E57A27
  6. Town hall 80632474-941B-4D2C-8484-04014629E8F5
  7. Cathedral of St Minas and Museum of Christian Art which is right next to the church 968CB171-17AE-4955-85BA-4A50A4A9B21A
  8. Natural History Museum 6C14AA04-CB55-42B7-9D00-C19A303F1F68
  9. Morosini fountain, Lion Square. 4CA19B9C-A13A-4989-85AF-5261DD23B52F
  10. Priuli Fountain 5EEFCCC8-4AE5-42A1-84DD-8D2B65FFECDD
  11. Enjoy the main street filled with shops D2FB5736-E979-4B09-83A5-98FEEF2C3E98
  12. Stay at Dom Boutique Hotel – one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at. They had amazing service and it’s in the heart of the city centre.

 

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is set along the Danube River by the border with Austria and Hungary. Stay in the old town, the heart of the city where you will then have easy access to all the main sites. You can take bus 61 from the airport to Hlavna stanica railway station and it’s a 20 minute walk to the old town from here. The old town is predominantly pedestrianised so you will have a great time sitting outdoors at a restaurant without having to breathe in fumes!

Note: Most museums are closed on Monday’s so plan what you want to enter ahead of time. Pre-buy your bus tickets from the yellow machines and make sure you get them stamped when you enter the bus. You buy a bus ticket according to journey time e.g. to get to Devin’s castle, you buy a 30min bus because the journey take’s around 25mins.

You can cover everything in 2 days. It’s very easy to get around!

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Bratislava Castle and it’s surrounding gardens. Views of the castle is of course, better from further away from it, in particular, from the bridges.
  2. St Martin’s Cathedral. Between 1563 and 1830 St Martin’s served as the coronation church for Hungarian kings and their consorts, marked to this day by a 300-kg gilded replica of the Hungarian royal crown perched on the top of the cathedral’s 85-metre-tall neo-Gothic tower. If you pick up a tourist map of Bratislava, in red, it marks out the path the royal people would walk after they were coronated. You can also spot metal crowns on the road marking out their paths.
  3. Old Town Hall and the square is a really nice chill spot 773F45C0-3A84-45F0-A2C8-F8D4B8841B10
  4. Primates Palace, pretty in pink! 21B7DE9B-19BE-4491-8DBB-631027B72289
  5. Michael’s Gate – is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and ranks among the oldest town buildings.186F4349-3F25-4371-BC6B-8AB1FEB7C2B9
  6. Galerie Nedbalka. I liked the umbrella’s outside! C9FAC51A-14AF-41F7-BF67-4FC7B7854066
  7. Grassalkovich Palace. Just outside the old town, 5min walk and really pretty with a fountain in the front. 3D00B59D-A651-4C3B-ADDB-443F9FF93AC8
  8. Slavin Memorial. To get here, take a trolley bus 203 from Grassalkovich palace and get off at the end station where you do a short walk up hill to the beautiful memorial site. The statue there is as tall as the Rio Jesus Christ statue. 88CD1E2B-9179-4108-ABE8-01BD129C5CD5
  9. UFO observation deck. Definitely go up top at sunset! You can avoid paying the entry fee if you have a meal but of course the restaurant isn’t cheap. Be warned, it’s super windy. C3EAEE2F-9704-40DE-8F74-77E39F0CD069
  10. Old and new National Theatre. Which do you prefer?
  11. Eurovea mall is about a 15min walk away from the old city, beyond the green bridge and is their latest development.  The surrounding area, with a fake beach has many restaurants along the river. 201924AB-2F61-4274-9D83-9708A2C12DAD
  12. Man at work statue and right opposite is statue that holds a hat.
  13. Take a bus under the UFO bridge to Devin’s castle
  14. Best place to have breakfast/brunch or dessert – Mondieu. Their hot chocolate is incredible!
  15. Slovakian food to try – Their garlic soup in a bread roll and sheep cheese pasta. Bryndzové halušky is one of the national dishes. This meal consists of halušky (boiled lumps of potato dough similar in appearance to gnocchi) and bryndza (a soft sheep cheese), optionally sprinkled with cooked bits of smoked pork fat/bacon.2B716332-3DE7-46C5-BAC2-ED01737994FC

Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne is the coastal capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. People always compare Melbourne and Sydney but it’s really up to you to decide which city your prefer as they both have pros and cons. Melbourne is known for being more artsy but you could get four seasons in one day! Here is a list of things to do in the city, a few eating recommendations and near by road trips you can do too.

  1. Adelphi Hotel rooftop pool (glass bottom)
  2. Aga The French Patisserie
  3. Art Centre Melbourne
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  4. Australian Centre for Moving Image
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  5. Ballarat day trip known for its Gold!
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  6. Bendigo Day Trip
  7. Brighton Beach for the famous colourful beach huts20180623_164239
  8. Carlton Gardens where you’ll find Melbourne Museum and the Royal Exhibition Building
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  9. Chadstone shopping centre with 550 shops, free shuttle available
  10. China Town
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  11. Cycle Merri Creek Trail
  12. Dandenongs Day trip (puffing billy railway)
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  13. Day trip to Yarra Valley with Autopia Tours
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  14. Degraves street for cafes
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  15. Eat at Hawker Chan (Singaporean food)
  16. Etihad Stadium
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  17. Eureka Tower 88 floor observation deck
  18. Federation Square
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  19. Flag Staff Garden
  20. Flinders Street station
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  21. Forum Theatre
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  22. Geelong day trip
  23. Get a bird’s eye view from the balcony of Hamer Hall2F232308-EBE0-4D05-8C4F-EF343265EB6D
  24. Grampians

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    On the way to Balconies Lookout Point
  25. Great Ocean Road

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    Gibson Steps Beach
  26. Hanging Rock – Macedon Ranges ( I would highly recommend Hanging Rock Llama Walking Tours hosted by Mark, be sure to book ahead)850D80D9-FE42-481F-9AFF-C3A022CE306E
  27. Heide Museum of Modern Art
  28. Hopetoun Tea Rooms – always fully booked
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  29. Hosier Lane and Centre Place for street art
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  30. Immigration Museum
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  31. Luna Park
  32. Lune Croissanterie, always sells out
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  33. Melbourne Museum
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  34. Melbourne Zoo
  35. Mornington Peninsula day trip with Bunyip Tours which will include either the hot springs or Sorrento and Port Sea in the morning followed by the Enchanted Adventure Gardens in the afternoon

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    Arthur’s Seat View Point
  36. National Gallery Victoria
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  37. Nicholas building (shopping)
  38. Old Melborne Gaol
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  39. Old Treasury Building (really good free museum)4E60113F-7576-48E9-9B62-E71BDAA82C8F
  40. Parliament House
  41. Philip Island day trip, they come out after sunset
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  42. Pidapipo Gelato (try the Nutella one)
    E8891845-0940-4707-B9DB-09146EAC4F23
  43. Port Campbell (part of Great Ocean Road trip)
  44. Princes Bridge
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  45. Queen Victoria Market
  46. Royal Botanic Gardens
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  47. Royal Exhibition Building
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  48. Sofitel Hotel toilets for a view!
  49. Sorrento and Port Sea
  50. South Melbourne Market
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  51. St Kilda where you can also see Penguins for free
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  52. St Paul’s Cathedral
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  53. State library
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  54. Take the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento
  55. Take the free city loop tain
  56. The Block Arcade
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  57. The Star – their ferris wheel for great views from up top
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  58. Town Hall
  59. Waterfront city/New Quay
  60. Yarra River

North Island, New Zealand

Kia Ora (hello,welcome, goodbye, have a safe journey)

I’ve just come back from my 10 day road trip from Wellington to Auckland and thought I would share my entire itinerary here. I definitely could have spent longer at each destination due to the many hikes so i’ll be back!

Day 1: Arrived in Wellington and picked up our JUCY car rental from the airport to drive ourselves to the city centre not far away. Climb up Mount Victoria for a 360 degree view of the city and enjoy the play area there too (definitely adult friendly). Take the Wellington cable car up and walk back down to the city through the Botanic Gardens. AirBnB 120 The Terrace.

Day 2: Drive from Wellington to Cape Palliser where you will see a large seal population along the sea front near the light house. Climb the steep steps to reach the lighthouse and enjoy the views. Return up the road to the start of the Pinnacles hike (funky rock formations from Lord of the Rings). Drive to Whanganui and visit the near by beach for sunset. Accom: Whanganui Backpackers (a motel).

Day 3: Visit Whanganui National Park for the Atene Viewpoint Walk. Another highly recommended option which we didn’t do is the ‘Bridge to nowhere’. Then drive to Tongariro National Park for plenty of hike options! We did the 2h Taranaki falls loop track from Whakapapa Village (the largest ski area). If you have a full day, definitely do the Tongariro Alpine track which takes around 8hours. This was my favourite park out of all the hikes I did so I definitely want to come back to do it one day. Have dinner in Taupo and watch sunset by the lake. Accom: A Plus Samurai Lodge Backpackers (not the cleanest but it’ll do for the hike day)

Day 4: Drive to Taupo lake view point before heading to Wai O Tapu geothermal pools and geysers. The entire highway passes thermal pools so you’ll see plenty of steam along the way as you drive. Wai O Tapu is the most well known and the lady Knox geyser show starts at 10:15am so don’t miss that. Before heading to Rotorua, stop by the blue and green lake viewing point and lake Tarawera viewpoint, they are along the way. When in Rotorua, definitely try out luging! We then did the Maori village cultural show and dinner, and stayed the night in Rotorua Motel.


Day 5: Drive from Rotorua to Mount Maunganui and hike up of course! Then drive to Coromandel area for Ha Hei beach, walk to Cathedral Cove and then hot water beach (visit during low tide only). Stayed the night in Coromandel in the most amazing cabin ever (find Viv on AirBnB 75 Harbour View Road). I would go back to Coromandel just to stay in this accommodation again.


Day 6: Drive to Hobbiton  for the tour and then to Hamilton, stopping by the massive garden they have created. You could spend a whole day here if you wanted, appreciating the design and  gardens of the world. AirBnB 80 Beerescourt Road Suite (really cozy accom again)

Day 7: Drive to Waitomo Glow worm caves (no photos allowed) for the short tour then to Auckland, stopping by Mt Eden crater before dropping off the car. This was my favourite drive day in terms of awesome views along the way, other than the Tongariro national park drive day. Accom for the next three nights: Grand Central apartments (15min walk to city centre)
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Day 8: Walked Auckland’s main high street: Queen street and competed in Battle of the Year at night. Didn’t do much this day due to the competition.

Day 9: Ferry to Rangitoto volcanic island for the summit hike. There are specific ferry times so make sure you pre-book for the trip there and know when the last ferry is to get back! 36NZD return.


Day 10: Chill day, walked the city and played an escape room before flying back to Sydney. Try Giapo ice cream!

My first legit road trip and I loved driving those country side roads  I would do it all over again.

 

 

Shanghai, China

Shanghai is a global financial centre and transport hub in China, with the world’s busiest container port. It is buzzing with life and here are my top recommendations as a tourist:

  1. Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) is a really big area with traditional looking buildings, temples, tea houses and of course, a garden. You will find constant rows of shops and street food too, so make sure you come with an empty stomach!

     

  2. The Bund and Nanjing Road can be done together as they are within walking distance. The Bund is where you’ll get great views of the Shanghai’s financial district and it’s tall towers such as the Oriental Pearl TV tower. Nanjing road is full of bright lights and your common shops, but the atmosphere is particularly great at night.
  3. Qi Pu Lu is where you can find several buildings filled with market style shops which is particularly useful to get a bunch of cheap stuff or very good quality fake branded goods. The branded goods are not always laid out but trust me, someone will approach you to bring you to secret stores and rooms (I felt safe, but would never go alone so go with your gut feeling).
  4. Tian Zi Fang – known for its artsy area with bars, cafes, crafts shops, design studio, galleries and boutiques. It is also known for old Shikumen houses (stone-framed-door houses). Consider trying ‘Smoky Cookie’, where they use liquid nitrogen so you can have a bit of fun blowing smoke through your mouth or nose from the cookie!
  5. Qi Bao Water Village – there are many water villages but this is the closest one if you don’t have much time. They have maintained their traditional buildings and are known for rivers running through the village. Another place filled with narrow alleys of shops and street food, as well as museums which are also great to visit to learn more about Chinese history and culture.
  6. Visit a Speakeasy Bar – Speak Low is ranked one of the best bars in Shanghai, having placed #15 The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards 2016. Slide behind the secret bookshelf of a cocktail supply store and find a speakeasy bar with wood panels, jazz music and well-dressed bartenders. 2/F & 3/F, 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu (near Ruijin Er Lu) 复兴中路579号 (近瑞金二路).
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  7. Hai Di Lao Hotpot. Literally the best hotpot because of the incredible service. You can expect to queue for at least one hour, but while you wait, they provide free snacks, drinks, origami paper, games, massage chairs and even manicures. I suggest you opt for the VIP room (you have an extra $130 RMB) but get a personal waiter who will take good care of you e.g. give you bibs, hair ties, zip lock bags for your phone, refill your drinks, organise the food for you etc.

    Extra tips: Download we chat because whatsapp won’t work in China. Download baidu maps because Google maps won’t work in China. It would help if you or your friend had a China bank account because a lot of things are paid through we-chat, which requires a local bank account. We-chat gives you access to their bicycles, their version of uber and many shops prefer to run cashless! I suppose this system doesn’t make it tourist friendly, but it makes sense that we move towards a cashless society.