It Began From Budapest

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In the end of May, I left for the second trip of this year, to interrail somewhere in Eastern Europe. This trip wasn’t as carefully planned as my SE Asia trip (and that wasn’t either so…) but I had bought an interrail ticket with 7 travel days within a month. So basically me with my boyfriend just looked at the cheapest flight from Stockholm, where we wanted to go first, and Budapest turned out to be the best option. And from there we just thought we’d play it by ear and so we did and it truly turned out to be an amazing and surprising little adventure, which I hope to tell about here within the next weeks. Eastern Europe is an annoyingly wide term, almost like Southeast Asia, and our trip only focused on Romania, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, with small stops in Serbia and Croatia.

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Sun setting over the Danube

But Budapest first. As I explained, Budapest was chosen as a starting point mostly by financial and practical reasons because it got really good train connections everywhere. Also, the whole Eastern part of Europe was chosen largely because it’s so cheap and also a part of Europe neither of us had really seen before. I had also agreed to meet my very good friend Katherine, whom I last saw in Beijing two years ago. She was heading to France for the summer but being in the same continent for once we decided we have to make our paths cross. So a lot of the fun in Budapest was just catching up with her and spending some time together, after keeping up our long distance friendship for two years. This is also why I didn’t really take that many pictures as I only noticed afterwards, but I guess sometimes it’s good to just leave your camera for a while. I think most of my pictures are just taken from our evening walks.

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Joe and Katie exploring Fisherman’s Bastion

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Arpad Toth Promenade on Buda side, a really nice palce to walk at night

Budapest for me was a very European city, a bit like Paris and Vienna but with a little bit more edge and ruggedness. It consists of two sides, Buda and Pest, Pest being the slightly more busy and touristy side. It has got a lot of good museums, like House Of Terror, which tells about the history of Hungary on the facist and communist era. We also visited Hospital in the Rock, an underground hospital that was in use under the siege during World War II. House Of Parliament is the city’s most known landmark and for a reason, it’s very very impressive especially at sunset when the shadows make it look more dramatic.

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Maybe the favorite ”touristy” thing we did was going to a bath. Budapest is known for its thermal spas that were brought to the country in the Ottoman Era. There are loads of them scattered around the city, some more crowded than others. We heard of a night bath at Rudus Baths, and old 16th century bath house by the river. It’s usually for men only but they have night baths, from 10PM to early morning on certain days when everyone can go. I had been on a Turkish hamam before in Istanbul and it was architectually very similar but with the pools and saunas etc otherwise very different. My personal favorite was a little pool on the roof where you could see the river and city skyline going dark.

So if you want, there are a lot of activitites in Budapest, but since it was our first stop on the journey and a chance to see Katie, we also spent a lot of time just walking around the city. One night we walked to what became my favorite place in the city, Fisherman’s Bastion, that overlooks the whole city. It looks like it’s a castle from a princess tale with it’s towers and huge ”windows”. One other favorite thing in Budapest for me were the hills in the Buda side. It has a Liberty Statue on top of Gellert Hill, and the views at sunset from there are very beautiful.

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Fisherman’s Bastion

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After staying for a few nights in some hostels in the Pest side and saying goodbye to Katherine, we thought we’d try Buda side for the last two nights and found an amazingly nice airbnb from an old art deco villa, a little bit further from the centre. That neighbourhood was a lot different, with lots of little fruit shops and bakeries. Yes, the bakeries. There are a lot of them and everything in them is ridicilously cheap. Otherwise being a vegetarian in Budapest (and overall in Eastern Europe) is a challenge to say the least. But we managed a lot with some research and Happy Cow. Best finds in Budapest were this chain called Hummus Bar, which is exactly what is sounds like, lots of falafels, hummus and other good things. Kelet Cafe was a really cute cafe with really good food and vegetarian/vegan options and really cheap, as food generally was in Budapest.

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A very fancy staircase in the villa we stayed at
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Matthias Church

We kind of wanted to get out of the city and a good place for a daytrip is the little old town of Szendtendre, 40 minute tram ride away from Budapest. It reminded me a lot of my old home town Porvoo here in Finland, very quiet with small cobblestone streets and little shops. I really liked the atmosphere there and it’s very easy to get to.

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Still one day before our departure from Budapest we weren’t quite sure (at all sure) where we would go next and spent hours looking at the Interrail map and researching. We knew we wanted to go to Romania, and the connections there were good (although this included a painfully long 13h train ride) so we decided to take a train to Brasov, Transylvania, which was about to be our starting point for a very eventful and adventure-filled week and a half in Romania.

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Julia xxx

Twists, Turns And Paradises Found In Indonesia

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Many things went wrong on the last part of my trip, in Indonesia. Many things also went right and now when I think of Indonesia I see it as a very appropriate ending for my trip, and it somehow tied the journey together.

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Unexpected Adventures In Malaysia

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Malaysia was a funny thing. It was in my itinerary as just a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, between Thailand and Singapore but things happened. Around New Year’s, southern Thailand and its islands where I was supposed to go diving, was flooding. So it became clear pretty quickly that I couldn’t go there but since I already had a flight to Bangkok (I had had to book it before entering Vietnam in case they check my onward ticket for the visa, which they in none of the countries did btw) So I went there and booked a nice hotel for myself for two nights as a Christmas present, haha. But I somehow even on this point, don’t ask how,  had forgotten that I probably should have the onward ticket when entering Thailand as well. So I realised all this in Ho Chi Minh City’s airport and had to make a decision where to go next in like half an hour. Now it’s funny but I was kind of panicking then. Kuala Lumpur seemed like the cheapest option and was sort of on the way to Singapore so I booked it.

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A Little Treasure Called Laos

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Probably the most common question I got after my trip was ”well what was your favorite place?” And answering that is just as impossible as it sounds. Instead I replied that the place I would first go again to would be Laos. Because I felt I saw a tiny glimpse of something absolutely amazing and largely undiscovered by many.

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Photo Diary From Chiang Mai

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Well it’s been a loong, quite an eventful while. The last time I wrote was before I left for my Southeast Asia journey and now here I am, back in Finland, on my very own couch. Lots of things have changed over the past two months, biggest of them being me. There are hundreds of aspects from which I could write about this trip, but I thought that first the simplest thing would be to just split the trip in parts and introduce the places I went to. So, I thought I’d do a little series since many people have been asking for something like that: first Chiang Mai, then Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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I’m Going On An Adventure!

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Soo here we go. Ahh it’s been a long long time coming. Years in my dreams, months in the planning, weeks preparing and now one day away. As long as I can remember, I’ve had a thought that then when I’m done with school, I’ll just leave for a while, all by myself. Where? Asia. Two reasons, besides the fact I’ve always loved Asia: climate and cheapness. Okay, and food. Feels far too real to say it out loud but tomorrow I’m leaving to solotravel Southeast Asia for two months. *insert a nervous giggle

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So what is my plan? Well, I have two way tickets to Bangkok since it’s the cheapest. I do have a some sort of itinerary that I’ll stick to if things don’t change which they will. But I’m very not sure yet where I’ll go. My first stop is Chiang Mai in northern Thailand but that’s all I know for sure. The thing is, I’m trying to do something very uncharacteristic for me this time: I’ve been trying not to plan too much. You know, just kind of go there and wing it, do how I feel. And trust me, the inner me hates this. For a control-freak person who plans absolutely everything from a busride inside Helsinki to a menu at every dinner party, finds out as much as possible in advance while conducting a thorough research on every place I’ll travel to, this has been extremely difficult. It has caused stress, nerve-wracking anxiety and sleepless (take this literally) nights. Why bother, you ask. Shouldn’t it be fun to go? Yes it is. I’m overly excited and I’ve been waiting for this for years but I take this also as an opportunity to try and get out of my comfort zone, where everything is carefully planned and controlled. It’s like challenging myself, as cliche as it sounds. And oh boy has it been uncomfortable. Also fun though, but mostly very…not me.

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What to take and what to leave…

One thing that’s been funny to watch has been people’s reactions when they ask who I’m going with and I just say ”alone this time”. ”WHAT?” ”WHY?” ”You tiny girl?” ”Won’t you get lonely?” Probably yes and no. I hope to meet new people better this way when traveling alone but I also know I’ll be spending lots of time alone. It doesn’t feel like a bad thing though. It’s not supposed to be a ”Eat, Pray, Love / I will go and find myself” and all that type of trip I guess, or call it what you want to, but I do take it as a chance to spend some time with me and also, as I said, as a kind of growing experience. People grow in new environments out of their comfort zones and that’s where I’ll be pushing myself. Am I more nervous going alone? Yes of course. I’ve been terrified at times (including now) but I’ll deal with it. It will all be good eventually. And do try and tell this to my grandma who thinks I’ve lost it completely and who said she ”won’t be sleeping” while I’m gone.

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Lilo is having none of this 😀 She senses somethings going on and is not enjoying it

Now I am writing this with my backpack all packed, just missing some final things. There is something very calming knowing that that’s your life for two months, in that 50 liter backpack. I’ve been from pure excitement to absolute panic and from ”I cannot do this I’ll cancel my flights” to ”I’ll be fine”. Now I’m there somewhere in between. Excited? Yes. Terrified? Yes. Panicking? Yes. But over all that I think eventually this will be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Fingers crossed,

Julia xxx

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P.S. I don’t yet know how much or if at all I’ll be updating my blog from the road. It depends on a) how good the wifi is and b) how much I have time. But you are more than welcome to join on my trip through instagram (@juliaelleonora) which I’ll probably be shamelessly spamming if the wifi only allows and at snapchat (juliaelleonora there as well)

Shots Of San Francisco

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There are many ways to describe this amazing city but for me it was one long time dream come true. Ever since when I first saw pictures of the Golden Gate and shimmering sea yeeears and years ago I remember thinking that I just have to see that some day. And when lots of people when talking about California say they want to see LA and Hollywood and all that jazz, I was never truly interested. I somehow knew I’d like San Francisco, that it would be my kind of place. And it was.

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The New York Experience

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There are places you wish to go to someday and then there are places you know that you need to go to. New York for me was one of the latter. I feel like I don’t want to write too much about it to not to spoil the whole thing but on the other hand I could spend an entire day just talking about it. I could also list every single place I saw but that wouldn’t really help. Guide books are also going to tell you a bunch of other things: Times Square isn’t nice at all but you should still go there once, go to the Empire State Building in the morning and yes, MoMA is a very nice museum and walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is something you should do. Now that I have that over with I can write about why I personally fell in love with the city as much as I did.

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Let’s Be Honest Here

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Hi. What have you been doing?

I went to New York. Then I worked, a lot. And worked a little more. Too much. Then I moved. And worked again. And finally went to San Francisco which I just came back from. And now I’ve been procrastinating to write this blogpost for about a month and yesterday did so by baking cookies, not that it’s a bad excuse.

Needless to say, this summer was kind of fucked up but so incredibly cool if I think about the amazing and kind of mind-blowing trips I had which I will write about later. But otherwise, it was way too busy and hectic and stressful and not like summer should be at all. Which brings me to the blog silence.

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