Monday, 1 January 2018

Balkan Tour Part 1

It's long past the new year of 2018 and yet I have not done with the last update of my travel for 2017. I had the pleasure of visiting the Balkan countries or some of the Balkan countries and it was such a wonderful trip and a fitting end to wrap up the year.

The Balkans is a region that includes countries on the Balkan Peninsula in the southeast of Europe, including most of the former Yugoslavia. A tour to the Balkans has become popular because not only the cities that we visited  offers beautiful sight and historical architecture and background but the bus journeys between the cities or countries were made really pleasant with amazingly beautiful and picturesque view and scenary. 

The first city we visited was Athen. I guess what comes to mind with the mention of this city is of course the Acropolis. Am I right or am I right? 😀

So, of course those are the places that we went, the old ruin from the era of the Bronze Age way back in the 4th century BC. To be exact we went to the tourist sites such as the Acropolis, Parthenon, Erectheum and Temple of Zeus. We also had time to visit the Greek ancient market and shop for souvenirs at Syntagma Square


After two nights in Athens we made our way to another Greek city Kalampaka (pronounced as Kalabaka; the "mp" is like a "b". It was funny how we had a little argument on how it's to be pronounced and spelled. Tee hee...)

Anyways, it's a quaint little village known as the Kastaki Village, famous for the meteora which features one of the biggest if not the biggest Greek Orthodox Church built on top of one of the meteora hill. It was not a long climb to the top and the incredible view was worth the while. A walk around the village at the end of day brought the visit even more memorable. 
    

We left Greece the next day and made our way northbound to the city of Ohrid in Macedonia famous for the beautiful Lake Ohrid, the deepest and oldest lake in Europe. We went on a boat around the lake after a short tour of the little town. Its such a quaint little town but with some seriously fascinating architecture. With a beautiful lake and all if I have a wish to be granted, I would definitely choose this place as a place I would retire.  Even the dogs were friendly! (We had one quietly followed us around as if looking after us. At least I like to believe so. 😊) 

Anyways, you may not capture my feeling with the photos below but I hope you get the picture! No pun intended. 😉




After a night's rest in Ohrid we left for another country for a short stop for lunch, prayer and a brief city tour of Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Albania is a small muslim country bordered by Montenegro in the north, Macedonia to the east, Greece to the south and the Adriatic Sea to the west. Its a small city with the main attraction centered at the Skanderbeg square. The famous Skenderbeg Monument stood proudly to reflect on history of the Ottoman era. The clock tower, national library, City Hall, National Historical Museum and a few Ministry offices can be found around the square. In one corner stood an 18 century mosque with Ottoman archicture. Et'hem Bey Mosque is a significant building to depict the Muslim country of Albania. 


If I recall correctly, Balkan trip is the longest tour that I ever participated in. I keep wondering whether to break the updates into 3 postings. Or remain in 2 postings as I usually have done.There are several more places and more interesting stories to tell. As I am writing this Ia recalling those places and the happy faces that I met. So we shall see.

Maybe I should stop here for now and continue later. But meanwhile as a teaser the next country that we went to is Montenegro, covering two cities and shown around by a pretty and enthusiastic guide.

So stay tune....! 


   BUDVA MONTENEGRO 


    KOTOR MONTENEGRO 

Travel date : 6 - 19 Nov 2017
     

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Fall Foliage Road Trip Part 2

On the fourth day we started to drive further inland towards  Maine, New Hampshire. Along the way we started to see the colours of fall on both side of the road. But it wasn't until we reached Mt Washington state Park that we get to see the glorious autumn colours almost at its peak. Subhanallalh. We were in awe with the wonderful sight.








Alhamdulillah. I couldn't have asked for more. Its simply beyond my expectations. I feel truly blessed. Nature at its best. The change of colours from green to deep red as can be seen below is as good as anyone can get as a testimony of Allah's great creation.




I shall end my post with some photos of people and places which has left me with fond memories 



Insya-Allah we will meet again perhaps on another road trip. You will never know. 

Travel date : 4 - 12 October 2017





Saturday, 28 October 2017

Fall Foliage Road Trip

I have always longed to visit New England USA ever since I knew that it is one of the top 10 regions famous for their Autumn colours. And my wish came true thanks to a good friend who is currently living in Dallas. 

For those who are as ignorant as I was to geography of the USA, New England is a northeastern region of  the USA comprising the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode  Island. We didn't  go to all the states mentioned though as we focussed our travel to follow the trail of the fall foliage as it was about to peak in some states. 

After a few days rest in Dallas, we flew to Boston and from there the journey began. 



We stayed one night in Boston and after a short visit of the largest city of New England (photos above), we started our road trip heading east towards Bar Harbour. On the way we made a short stop for lunch in Portland where we had our first lobster meal. We stayed in Bar Harbour for two nights and spent the time during the day around Arcadia National Park.  


 

On the forth day of our trip, we started to see more of the fall colours on the way to Maine and we were pretty excited with the beautiful foliage and the abundance of deeper shades of the leaves along the way. 

    

    

Whenever there was a good opportunity for us to stop, we would excitedly exit the car and take photos. We struck gold in one partucular stop where there was a completely still water reflecting the autumn trees. 


Masya-Allah. It was breathtakingly beautiful. 



But, little did we know that an even more beautiful sight was yet to come! It made us feel so blessed to have out feet on this part of the world. I shall save those photos in the next posting though. And you will see what I mean.

To be continued...

Travel date : 4-7 October 2017

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A trip to Turkey (Part 2)

Hello again! 

Before I continue, I have a confession to make. All this while I thought Cappadocia is a state or city and I was searching high on low for it on the map that we were given on the bus. It was only a couple of days later when I googled that I found that Cappadocia is actually a region in Central Anatolia which include  Nevsehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, Aksaray and Nigde provinces. No wonder I couldnt find it on the map. Duh...

I have heard so much about Cappadocia and apart from Pamukkale it is a popular tourist destination because of its uniqueness in geology. Due to the eruption of ancient volcanoes million years ago as well as erosion in the course of time, the earth produced hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like form. Actually, they look more like mushrooms to me. You know, Korean king mushroom!!! Anyhow, there are still visible traces of ancient houses carved from the volcanic rocks. There are also cave hotels and cave restaurants available for tourists.

The best way to view the amazing earth natural formation is either on the hot-air balloon or the jeep safari. Either you get a birds eye view from the high above or up close and personal in the valley. We were all excited to experience the much-talked-about hot air balloon but alas the weather was not on our side. Thats how we ended up on a thrilling jeep safari. (If you wonder whats it like, its actually like being on a short bursts  of roller coaster ride. He he). 




After all the exciting adventures in Cappadocia we went northbound, by-passing Ankara, the capital city of Turkey and broke the journey in Bolu. The hotel that we stayed for the night was located in the middle of a pine forest near a lake and a mountain as the backdrop. It was so picturesque and peaceful that we wished that we could stay longer. 


The last leg of our tour was centred in and around Istanbul. We had a great weather during our city tour but unfortunately the sky was grey during the Bosphorous cruise. 

We spent sometime at most of the tourist spots like the Blue mosque, St Sophia Museum, Topkapi Palace, Al Fatih mosque, and shop at the Spice Market and Grand bazaar. And I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise despite the unfavourable weather. 





All in all, it was a wonderful trip. If anyone ask me which country that I would recommend to go on a holiday, Turkey is definitely on top of the list. 

And on top of that the people that I travelled with were wonderful too. Complete strangers in the beginning of the trip who later became friends. 


That's  one of the advantages of a group tour. We get to meet and make new friends. And this particular bunch of people are really great. Honestly, I have been to a few group tours and more often than  not there would be at least one who can be annoying or picky, but not this time. And you know what? A good tour leader and tour guide also made a lot of difference. And this time around both of them were excellent! 

Alhamdulillah. I have been blessed. 

Will update on a couple of short trip real soon so meanwhile stay fit and be happy! 

Travel date : 6-18 May 2017


Friday, 11 August 2017

A trip to Turkey

Last May I joined a group tour to Turkey. I have been to Istanbul on a 5-day-visit as a stopover from Paris to Kuala Lumpur and managed to explore some places of interest in Istanbul. But I have always wanted to visit again and explore other parts of Turkey especially Pamukkale and Cappadocia. And that I did.

Spring was almost over during our visit but we managed to catch the last bloom of tulip. But what caught my eyes were the roses. They were as big as saucers and in vibrant velvety colors. They were such a delight! 



Anyways, immediately upon arrival we made our way to Bursa and visited a couple of historic mosques. Ulu Mosque or Ulucami, was built during the Ottaman empire and has a unique architecture as well as a water fountain inside the mosque for ablution. It was said that this huge mosque with 20 dome was built instead of 20 small mosques around the region for a significant reason.

We also made two other stops: the Green mosque and The Green Mausoleum (second photos below).



The next day we head out to Pamukkale. One of the two places that I was looking forward to see. The antique city of hierapolis is an ancient city on hotspring in the southwestern Anatolia (adjacent to Pamukkale). It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa and became a healing center where doctors used the thermal springs as treatment for their patients. The remaining structure that we see today was mainly built during the Roman empire, destroyed by wars and earthquakes. The well preserved Roman ruins and museum are said to be underestimated as its being overshadowed by the natural wonder of the hot spring. 

The area is more well known tourist attraction for its large white limestone formation of the hotspring. Indeed, the natural formation is one that we have to see with our eyes. Not only the mineral rich water and milky pools shaped over millennia present a beautiful site but the view of the vast mountain is also a splendour. I wish I could stay all day here just to bask in the view with my feet soak in the theraupic water.



After spending a night in Pamukkale we travelled east towards Cappadocia. We made a stopover in Konya to visit Mevlana Museum which is also a mausoleum for a Sufi mystic known as Mevlana. 

Its a pity that it was a cloudy day for the building structures and the garden around were so camera-worthy. And the tulips garden was still blooming in riot! 


We also made a short stop at an ancient pitstop for weary traveller of the olden days. The roadside inn is called caravanserai. (Four top right photos below). And at the same I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the modern day pitstops that we had throughout our 10 days journey. (The rest of the photos below). The food was good, the rest rooms were clean and the mosques were beautifylly decorated. 


We spent the next 2 nights in Neysehir for the adventure in the Cappadocia. But first we must visit a historic underground city. The closest one was Kaymakli underground city. Like all underground cities they were built in the early century for protection. 

What I find amazing is how the earth remain in position over centuries without collapsing! 


There are a lot more stories to tell and many more photos to share but I shall put that on hold for now. 
Too many good things all at once will be too much too handle 

See you later. 

Travel date : 6-18 May 2017

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Japan Food and Street

No, I am not quite done with stories from Japan. He he 

I am sure that some of you would have realised that I never talked about the food in Japan. I am saving the best for last. 

As a family we are all a fan of Japanese food therefore we thought we should not have any problem with food during our trip. Nevertheless we still brought we us plenty of sustenance from home. You know. The usual stuff; instant noodles and ready to eat rice, etc. But of course we must try the local shashimi and ramen. The real thing I would say. 

My daughter Hanna who planned the trip was told that one of the best shashimi one can get is at the fish market. So off we went in search of the freshest salmon shashimi and and grilled octopus, another family favourite. And we were not disappointed.

We went to Tsukiji Fish market. And even stop over at the wet market. 



We also had the chance to try out the full set meal in a couple of local halal restaurant. And they were goooood! 



Other than food, I thoroghly enjoyed watching the street. Quaint shops as well as typically Japanese houses with aesthetic doorways. 



A week is never enough to explore more but then it gives plenty of excuses to come back. At least I can now checked Japan in my list. 

Alhamdulillah. 

Travel date : 9 - 16 April 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Japan Family Trip - Kyoto and Osaka

Everyone I know who have been to Kyoto told me that it's a great place and I felt blessed to be able to experience it my self. The great thing about it is that the interesting tourist attractions are within a few train station away.

One of the most popular site is the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine. And it's the first place that we went to upon our arrival in Kyoto. The spot where it is located is only 5 mins walk from the station but be prepared for long uphill walk because the shrine gates are spread across an entire mountain! I was told that it will take about 2-3 hours to go all the way up the highest shrine and back. Well, of course I didn't make it that far. I was not even half way up.  


Another most photographed sight in the city is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. There is just one main path through the grove and hence the throngs of visitors made it difficult to capture a good photo. There is also a pretty garden nearby with a scenic backdrop of the Arashiyama mountain and a lake. 


I love the colours of the trees on the mountain and I was thinking to myself that they must be amazing in autumn colours too. 

The next day we had the pleasure of seeing more beautiful cherry blossom panoramas. One of them was Tetsugaku-no-michi or also known as the Path of Philosophy.


And the other was Keage-incline. What's  interesting about this place is that there is an old train track that is no longer in use and its lined with sakura trees. 


On the following day we visited yet another popular tourist spot. The Heian-jingu Shrine. What made this popular is the garden that is located in the vicity. 


The garden has a lake surrounded by trees with beautiful colourful leaves or flowers. A walk around the lake or garden would give   a peaceful and calming feel that would melt any stress or trouble away. At least that how I feel. I am pretty sure that in the peak of the cherry blossom season the garden would be even more beautiful and amazing. 


Much that we had wonderful time in Kyoto, we had to leave and depart to Osaka, our final overnight stay. Since we only had a whole day and evening we made full use of the time. Off we went to the Osaka Castle. It s a pretty popular spot for tourists and locals alike for there were several event and activities around the area. There were rock bands playing in one corner and a full orchestra in another. There were jugglers and ninjas and even an old samurai. Believe you me!



Finally the day came that we had to say goodbye to Japan. It had been a marvelous family bonding time. The time that we spent together in such a wonderful surrounding and the shared memories and experience will certainly be a treasure to us all. And I hope that we get to go for a family vacation every once in a while.  Insya-Allah. 


Thank you Allah. I have been blessed. In deed. 

Travel date : 13-17 April 2017