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

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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