London’s unusual sunset spot: Emirates Air Line

emirates air line

 

I feel that sometimes when we live in a place for a long time, we would start taking things for granted, and stop noticing our surroundings. Yet if you talk to tourists or friends visiting from abroad, you are likely to be surprised by their discovery and knowledge about your home city/town/village. Maybe we all have act like a ‘tourist’ sometimes in order to appreciate what is on offer around us. Personally, I find it hard to get bored in London, as I am always discovering something new about the city and I love being a ‘tourist’ here.

The most famous quote about London was recorded in 1777 by Samuel Johnson to James Boswell: “Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

Of course, there are things that I dislike about the city, and have thought of moving away for the last few years, but I have yet to find a place that is on par with London (I can say this after living in New York, Hong Kong and Moscow).

 

emirates air line

 

Recently, I had to go to the Greenwich Peninsula one afternoon, as I was leaving, I was captivated by the sky colours and walked towards the river. Standing by the rirver, I saw the Emirates Air Line, the cable car link that brings passengers across the River Thames. Costing £60m to build (more than double the original estimate) and masterminded by London’s former mayor Boris Johnson, this unpopular project has been viewed as one of Boris‘ vanity projects. Emirates has signed up to provide £36m in sponsorship for 10 year, but what will happen after that, I am not quite sure.

The only time I took the cable car was back in 2014 with an Italian friend from Turin. We went to see an immersive show nearby one evening, and thought it would be fun to take the cable car across. We enjoyed the night view of of the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks, but I never had the urge to return after that.

On impulse, I headed towards the cable car’s ticket area, and paid £3.50 for a single fare using my oyster car. As soon as I stepped onto the cable car, I saw the screen reminding me that the project was partly funded by the EU, and my heart sank immediately… I wonder if this link would be scrapped after we leave the EU? I am not sure how many Londoners use this link as a commute transportation, but judging from the empty cable cars around me, I doubt many Londoners would go on a protest if this gets scrapped.

 

emirates air line

 

Although I don’t see much point of this project, but I certainly did enjoy watching sunset from 90m above ground. Sunny days are hard to come by in winter, so I was extremely lucky with the weather. Before today, it never occurred to me that the cable car would be a fantastic sunset watching spot.

 

emirates air line

emirates air line

emirates air line

emirates air line

emirates air line

emirates air line

 

The 10-minute ride seemed rather short since I was focusing on the sunset and surroundings. When I arrived at the other end (Royal Docks), I felt uplifted and yet disorientated at the same time. I did not know my bearings, and the DLR Royal Docks station was not convenient for me, so I used google map to direct me towards Canning Town. The poor transport link on this end probably explains why this cable link is not as popular as The London Eye.

After the ride, I still couldn’t decide how I feel about this project. Do I think it is a vanity project? Yes, definitely. But was the ride worth £3.50? I would say yes to that, too. Who knows what will happen to this when the funding and sponsorship stop, but at least I would always remember this ride where I saw a beautiful sunset on one winter’s afternoon.

 

emirates air line

emirates air line

emirates air line

sunset

sunset

 

 

Hiking in Hong Kong: Lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

 

Hiking is definitely one of my favourite acitivities in Hong Kong, and I would do at least one hike whatever I visit the city. Not long ago, I reconnected with an old friend in the city who is a keen hiker, and she suggested taking the ferry to Lamma Island (35 minutes from Central) for a hike on a clear and sunny day in April.

The Sok Kwu Wan circular hike is a popular trail and takes around three hours to complete. We passed through the old Mo Tat village, which is several centuries old, and a new one nearby with more modern housing. There are also many banana and mango trees growing here – it is good to know that there are still people who choose to live in small rural villages like these ones in Hong Kong.

 

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

 

Hiking in Hong Kong has become more popular in recent years, and I believe this is related to the global ‘back to basics’ lifestyle trend. Unlike the previous generations, people now understand how stress is affecting our health, and many are trying to find a balance between work and life. Yet living in a small and dense city like Hong Kong, it is easy to feel suffocated and stressed, so turning to nature seems like the obvious choice for people to rejuvenate. Luckily, there are plenty of hiking trails in the city for stressed out people to escape from their hectic city lives.

 

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island  lamma island

 

After a relatively easy walk, we encountered a long stairway up to Ling Kok Shan. I usually don’t have an issue hiking uphill, but it was around 3-4 pm in the afternoon, and the sun was right on top of us, with no breeze at all. About 3/4 way up the hill, I felt quite nauseous and had to sit down for a rest. My friend was worried that I was suffering from heatstroke, and so she told me to take my time to rest and drink lots of water before continuing on. Later, I learned that the temperature had reached 28 degrees at 3 pm.

 

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

 

After a 15-minute rest, we embarked on our journey again and I felt much better after rehydrating myself. Despite the slight hiccup, I soon put that behind and was captivated by the panoramic views from the top of the mountain. The precarious-looking rocks from 164-140 million years ago are also one of the attractions here. Thankfully, our descend was easier, meanwhile, the sun was also less strong, which undoubtedly helped.

 

lamma island  lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

 

When we reached Tin Hau Temple at Yung Shue Wan, the sun was starting to set. We decided to get a drink by the pier to watch sunset, followed by a seafood meal at one of the seafood restaurants facing the sea. The seafood was delicious and I felt it was well-deserved after a challenging hike.

 

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

lamma island

 

My last surprise of the day was the ferry journey back – seeing the spectacular Hong Kong skyline at night brought some unexpected excitement. Overall, I did enjoy the day, but would probably check the weather forecast properly before I take the plunge next time.

 

hong kong skyline

hong kong skyline

 

The fascinating streets of Mumbai

Mumbai streets

Mornings and Sundays are the best times to ramble around Mumbai

 

I have wanted to visit India for years and yet never made it until recently. However, due to all the negative press on safety issues for female travellers in recent years, it made me quite anxious before my trip. The only ‘alone’ time during my month-long trip was in Mumbai, and even though I have a good friend there, I still had concerns despite being told that Mumbai is supposedly the safest city in India.

After spending a total of 5 nights at the beginning and the end of the trip, I can now say that Mumbai is generally a safe city for single female travellers. This was also confirmed after speaking to other single female travellers during my stay and they all felt the same way. I think when we travel in major cities, it is necessary to be vigilant anyhow, but I didn’t feel that Mumbai is more dangerous than cities like New York or London.

 

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

Mumbai’s rapidly changing cityscape

 

In fact, I found Mumbai utterly fascinating. Upon arrival, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the chaos, noise and pollution level, but I got over it quite quickly. I think it is a city that you would either love it or loathe it. Mumbai’s current urban population is estimated to be around 22 million (8th in the world), while London is just over 9 million (33rd), so if you think London is hectic, then try crossing the streets of Mumbai during the peak hours – it is really not for the faint-hearted.

 

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat – the world’s largest open air laundromat

 

Mumbai cricket

mumbai

Cricket is still Indian’s favourite sport

 

What make big cities interesting are usually the people, history, architecture and cityscape. In order to appreciate a city fully, you have to be act like a flâneur/flâneuse because walking is always the best way to explore a city. However, some cities are not made for walking i.e. Moscow (not made for pedestrians), and a mega city like Mumbai (I had no idea it was so vast before my trip) is hardly ideal for strolling around. Now due to the constructions of the metro system, the city looks more a like a gigantic construction site and will stay this way for the next few years. During my stay, I relied on uber a few times (cheap and pretty safe), took the train once (with a group), took a tuk tuk once and then spent the rest of the time on foot. I chose to stay in Fort (the old part of town) initially because I knew it would enable me to ramble, and at the same time enjoy the beautiful colonial architecture around me. I highly recommend strolling around Fort on Sundays as it is much quieter with less traffic and tourists.

 

mumbai

mumbai  mumbai post box

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

A signage (see above) that looks very much like the London underground!

 

One of the problems the world faces today is homogenisation. Major cities around the world are being homogenised to the point that old neighbourhoods are disappearing to make way for international chains like Starbucks, Zara and H & M etc. Do we really want all the high streets (and airports) around the world to be the same? Starbucks has been trying hard to make each coffee shop look different, but this is just another marketing strategy to trick the consumers. I like Mumbai because it differs from cities like New York, London, or Hong Kong – It is vibrant, full of character and surprises. Here are some of the reasons why I love the streets of Mumbai:

 

The people

Despite its size and population, I actually found most people in Mumbai very friendly. At times, strangers would say ‘hello’ to me in the streets, while others would ask me for a selfie (Indians love taking selfies with foreigners), but I never felt threatened nor did anyone harassed me when I was alone. Interestingly, many Indians don’t mind being photographed, which is not always the case when you travel in countries like China and Russia.

 

mumbai  mumbai

mumbai

MUMBAI

MUMBAI

tuk tuk mumbai

 

Colours & street graphics

Mumbai is a colourful city. I was particularly captivated by the trucks with hand painted water tanks around the city. They are so distinctive and playful – I love seeing them in the streets. While many first-world cities are embracing the digital technology and competing to be the world’s ‘smartest’ city, I found the hand painted street advertisment and signage very refreshing; I only hope that this kind of craftsmanship will not die out in the near future.

Indian graphic design is unique and conspicious without being tacky. They love usuing strong and contrasting colours with bold typpgraphy, yet they tend to work fairly effectively.

 

mumbai water trucks

mumbai water trucks

mumbai water trucks

mumbai

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img_4977

mumbai graphics

mumbai street graphics  mumbai street graphics

mumbai street graphics

street graphics mumbai  street graphics mumbai

Colourful and interesting graphics

 

mumbai

street art mumbai

img_2385-min

mumbai street art

Street art

 

Animals

It is rare to see animals roaming around in big cities, but cows are ubiquitous in Mumbai, and sometimes they are just ‘parked’ on the pavement, which I find quite surprising.

 

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

mumbai

 

Religious shrines

Religious conflicts are a complex issue across India, especially between Hindus and Muslims. Although the majority of the population in Mumbai are Hindus, you can still see mosques, churches, Gurdwara, Jain and Buddhist temples in different parts of the city. Hence you can find shrines of different religions in the streets, which indicates the diversity of the city.

 

Religious shrines mumbai

Religious shrines mumbai  Religious shrines mumbai

Religious shrines mumbai

tiles  mumbai tiles

 

Street food vendors

It is hard to avoid street food vendors in Mumbai, and the best ones often gather crowds around them. Regrettably, I didn’t dare to try the street food, but I loved walking past these stalls and often was drawn to them because of the smell and crowds.

 

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors

 

Fruits and vegetable vendors

street food vendor

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai Street food vendors

mumbai street vendor

mumbai Street vendors

 

Street vendors

I loved seeing a variety of small street vendors in different neighbourhoods. While many street vendors in other Asian cities are disappearing due to urban development and gentrifications, it gave me joy to see them still thriving in Mumbai.

 

mumbai Street vendors

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor

mumbai street vendor

mumbai

 

After listing all the positive points about Mumbai, there are some issues that I have yet to point out, and I shall continue in my next entry.

One sad incident also happened during my trip was the collaspe of the foot bridge connecting the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station to Badaruddin Tayabji Lane. Seven people died and at least 30 others were injured in the incident that took place during the peak hour on the 14th March. When I heard the news, I was traveling in Gujarat, but I seemed to recall crossing the bridge less than 2 weeks ago.

 

mumbai bridge collaspe

mumbai

The foot bridge that collasped less than 2 weeks after I cross it in Mumbai

 

I tried to search for the photo of the bridge on my phone but couldn’t find it (turned out it was on my camera). I wanted to know if it was the same bridge that I crossed had collapsed. And it was THAT bridge. My heart sank immediately. I felt terrible for the victims and their families, and I realised it could have happened to me.

Apparently, it was the third foot bridge that had collapsed in two years in Mumbai. Yet the structural audit and repairs of this foot bridge were carried out only six months ago. These incidents reveal the infrastructure issues, and negligence is still prevalent in Mumbai/ India. As foreign travellers, we are unaware of the depth of the issue, but this incident did make me see Mumbai in a different light.

mumbai sunset

mumbai sunset

Last evening in Mumbai

 

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rye – the quaint medieval town

img_5959

 

Before booking my day trip to Rye, I actually knew very little about this town. My intention was to visit Dungeness, so Rye was not my destination. But after spending most of the day in Dungeness, I had some spare time and I decided to explore the town before heading home.

 

img_5977

rye  rye

rye

 

Walking around the town centre, I felt like I have been transported back in time. The cobbled streets and historic architecture are charming and fairy-tale like. There are also many independent shops and galleries located inside buildings with traditional shop signage.

 

img_5963

rye

Britcher & Rivers   Britcher & Rivers

 

In need for some caffeine, I walked past a few pleasant cafes but chose to carry on walking until I reached Rye’s Gates and Walls. Just before the gate I spotted a small cafe on my right and it is a hot chocolate cafe called Knoops. I was intrigued and I went inside. The cafe has a wall featuring hot chocolate with different percentages; seeing this prompted me to change my order from coffee to mocha, which turned out to be a wise choice.

The mocha was rich and very intense; it is unlike any mochas I have had before. Mochas I have had elsewhere usually have a more subtle coffee taste, but here it has a strong coffee taste, which suited me just fine (apparently, the kick was from the expresso).

Then I had an interesting conversation with the friendly German owner about London, Derek Jarman, Dungeness, Hurricane Ophelia and hot chocolate. Before long, I realised that it was almost time to catch my train… I think the mocha was exactly what needed to end my day.

 

img_5971

knoops rye  knoops rye

 

Before I headed off to the train station, I made a detour around the town to watch the stunning sunset caused by the Sahara sand and Hurricane Ophelia. What a memorable way to end my wonderful day in Rye and Dungeness! As the train departed for London, I thought to myself that I have to return again soon, and I would have to spend more time exploring this historic part of England.

 

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img_5975

img_5984

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dsc_0241

Chasing sunrises & sunsets in Myanmar

bagan sunset

Sunset in Bagan

 

There are some places in this world that offer spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and Iceland is definitely one of them. Now though, I can also add Myanmar (Burma) onto this list. Apart from Iceland, I have never been able to watch sunrise and sunset daily throughout my holiday, so it was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my trip.

Bagan is an ancient city in central Myanmar, and it is one of the world’s greatest archeological sites, yet it is not as famous as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. There are over 2000 Buddhist temples and ruins in the 26-sq-mile area, and the original ones were built between 1057 and 1287. The temple setting creates a perfect backdrop for sunset viewings, and it is almost on every tourist’s itinerary to watch sunrise/sunset from the top of a temple.

 

bagan sunset

bagan sunset

 

Our first sunset viewing experience on the top of an over-crowded temple was not pleasant at all, as it was a gauntlet where the tourists fought to occupy the best spots for photo opportunities. It was hardly a serene experience. Luckily, on the next day, our tour guide took us to a tourist-free secret spot where we were able to watch the sunset without tourists elbowing around us.

 

bagan sunset

bagan sunset

bagan

bagan sunset

mandalay sunrise

Sunsets in Bagan

 

Sunrises are equally spectacular in Bagan, though strangely, the colours seem to resemble sunsets in the photos! Unfortunately, my travel companion and I were unable to take the air balloon ride at sunrise since all the tours were fully booked, but we did manage to watch sunrises and sunsets from the cruise on the Irrawaddy River over the following few days.

 

sunrise bagan

bagan sunrise

Sunrise in Bagan

 

Our 5-day river cruise tour started from Bagan and ended in Mandalay, and our Mandalay tour itinerary included sunset viewing at the popular Taung Tha Man Lake where the famous U Bein Bridge is located. U Bein Bridge is the world’s longest teak footbridge, and it is a magnet for tourists and locals alike. We got onto a small rowing boat and were taken to the middle of the lake with other boats full of tourists around us. The sunset was beautiful, but the attraction felt like a tourist trap, and we were starting to feel apathetic towards these ‘picture perfect’ moments.

 

mandalay U Bein Bridge

u bein bridge  sunset at u bein bridge

mandalay U Bein Bridge

mandalay U Bein Bridge

Sunset at Taung Tha Man Lake and U Bein Bridge

 

After disembarking from our cruise boat, we spend the night in Mandalay and on the next day, headed towards Pyin Oo Lwin, a colonial hill station loved by the British as a summer retreat during the colonial days. The main attraction of the scenic hill town is the 435-acre National Kandawgyi Botanical Garden founded in 1915 by an English Forest Researcher Mr. Alex Rogers. Modelled after Kew Gardens in London, the garden features more than 480 species of flowers, shrubs and trees. This is one of my favourite sights during my trip in Myanmar, and I almost thought I was in the UK until I saw some Buddhist monks and nuns strolling around in the garden.

Before the garden closed, we climbed up the odd-looking (East meets West-style?) 12-storey Nan Myint viewing tower to enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the area, and free of tourists too. It turned out that we were the last visitors in the garden, thus we were able to experience some tranquil sunset moments as we were leaving.

 

National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens

National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens

National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens

Tranquil sunset at National Kandawgyi Botanical Garden

 

When my travel companion and I were planning our trip, we did not intend to visit Inle Lake in the Shan State, but since it was highly recommended to us by various people, we decided to spend a few days at the second largest lake in Myanmar. The most popular way to do sightseeing in the area is to hire a local motored wooden canoe (a Burmese gondola) and a coxswain for the day, as there are many sites worth visiting around the lake.

After a long day of sightseeing around the lake, our coxswain stopped the canoe in the middle of the lake, and we watched the sun setting behind the hills without any disturbance. At last, we both agreed that it was our ‘perfect’ sunset moment during our trip.

Sunsets are the best time to unwind and appreciate the natural wonders of this world. Hence, it’s best avoid the touristy sunset-seeking spots in order to enjoy an authentic and relaxing experience.

 

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

inle lake sunset

Sunsets at Inle lake

Nostalgia for the Icelandic sky

reykjavik

Sunrise in Reykjvik

 

One of my favourite documentaries of all time is Chilean documentary film director Patricio Guzmán’s ‘Nostalgia for the light’. The poignant, insightful and stunningly beautiful film was set in Chile’s Atacama Desert, and it is a meditation on life, history and the universe. The film touched me on many levels, but I was notably struck by the film’s cinematography. I was utterly mesmerised by beauty of the Chilean sky and desert.

On my recent visit to Iceland, the sublime and awe-inspiring nature not only reminded me of the film, it also made me appreciate the grandeur of our mother earth and the universe. The Icelandic sky in particular has stayed in my mind since my return, I simply cannot forget the serene and unpolluted sky.

 

Hallgrímskirkja  Hallgrímskirkja

reykjavik hateigskirkja

Top row: Hallgrímskirkja church; Bottm: Hateigskirkja church

 

Looking at the photos, it would difficult to guess the time of day (except for the night shots) when these photos were taken. In January, sunrise starts around 9.30 am and the sun sets begins at 4.30 pm. The sun remains low near the horizon throughout the day, hence even photos taken in the mornings and afternoons resemble sunsets in the UK.

 

iceland   iceland

iceland

iceland  iceland

 

I regret immensely for not bringing my watercolour set, because I was yearning to record the sky colours throughout the day while I was traveling on the road for three days. Pale blue and pink, blue and orange, violet and shades of blue… oh, how I wanted to record these colour combinations! I don’t think the camera did it justice, because what I perceived or experienced was far more vivid than what was captured.

 

iceland  reykjavik

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

Last 2 rows: Seljalandsfoss waterfall

 

Although we had sunshine and clear sky during the day, we were slightly unlucky with the weather in the evenings. The clouds blocked our encounters with aurora borealis (i.e. northern lights), and we only saw a glimpse of it when we were returning from the southern coast back to Reykjavik one evening.

 

iceland  iceland

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

iceland  iceland

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon

Skaftafell Nature Reserve

2nd, 4th & 5th rows: Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon; last row: Skaftafell Nature Reserve

 

Yes, we saw faint green lights behind the clouds, but that was it. It was nothing like the photographs we often see when the entire sky is green. It was slightly disappointing, but it also provided me the incentive to return to Iceland again.

 

northern lights

A glimpse of the northern lights

 

I was lucky to have traveled extensively throughout my life, but I have never felt as exhilarated as I did in Iceland. It was the connection with mother nature that had a profound impact on me. Seeing nature as it is, with least human interventions, can be quite startling for city dwellers.

 

iceland  iceland

full moon

A view of full moon from the plane window

 

Still enthralled by what I saw and experienced in Iceland, I reluctantly boarded onto the plane back to London. Yet another natural phenomenon appeared right in front of me – an unobstructed and bright full moon in a distance from my window seat. At this point, I was simply grateful to be alive, and to witness the sublime beauty of the universe.

Human beings are so insignificant in compare to mother nature, and we have to do our best to protect it rather than destroy it. However, I fear that it may be too late already, and mother nature has started to retaliate against mankind’s perpetual destruction on the environment. The recent erratic weather patterns around the world is a wake-up call, and if we continue to ignore it, the consequences will be irreversible. And this time, I am on nature’s side.

 

Winter getaway in Portugal

cascaiscascais cascais

 

Like always after the busy Christmas season, I longed for a holiday/getaway to revitalise myself. As I discovered, January is the perfect time to travel to the southern part of Europe; it is warmer, sunnier, less touristy, and best of all, much cheaper than London.

Portugal has become one of my favourite getaway destinations in recent years. I first visited Lisbon with a friend in 2009, and I was smitten by this historical, charming, laidback and friendly city. A few years ago, I visited Porto with another friend for a long weekend; and again we had a wonderful time and spent many hours port tasting at various port cellars!

Whilst planning my trip, I wanted to revisit Lisbon but at the time venture beyond the city. I decided to spend some time by the seaside and explore other provincial cities/towns away from the hustle and bustle.

Sea

I didn’t realise how much I had missed the sea and the beach until I saw it! I am not into sunbathing/sun-seeking holidays, but I love hearing the sound of the waves, and seeing the sea and beaches alone fill me with immense joy.

 

santa maria lighthouse cascais cascais cascais

 

I spent two nights (which was too short) staying in a studio minutes away from the beach in Estoril (half and hour’s train ride from Lisbon), and I strolled to the nearby Cascais along the promenade everyday (which took about 45 minutes). With the sun on my skin, the sea next to me and joggers running past me, I felt mere bliss and gratitude to be there.

 

Historical city & town

I left the Lisbon region and traveled eastwards to the Alentejo ( also known as the “bread basket”) region, where it is especially well known for their wine, olive oil, cheeses, smoked hams, cork and marble (apparently, Portugal is the second largest exporter of marble in the world). I first visited the Unesco World Heritage site Evora, and then took a bus to the nearby marble-town Estremoz.

There were few tourists about and thus I was able to enjoy these places in a relaxing pace and observe the locals getting on with their daily businesses.

 

estremozevoraestremozevoraevoraestremoz estremozevora evora evora university

 

Blue sky & white walls

Traveling in this region, the colours that you are most likely to encounter are: blue and white. The blue coloured sky is so sharp that it reminds me of the TV screen when it goes all blue at times, which creates a huge contrast against the white walls and buildings. Estremoz is known as “Cidade Branca” (white city), not only for its traditional white houses but also for its marble architecture. Arriving into the town via a local bus, I was astonished to see an entire bus station built from marble including all the seating, flooring and toilets!

To call this town ‘sleepy’ would be an understatement. With an university situated in Evora, one can still see young people; in Estremoz, I seldom saw people under the age of 50 on the streets. There was not much to do or places to visit, so I spent most of my time wandering around the small town and randomly stepping into public places with their doors opened!

 

estremozevora evoraevoraevora cascaisestremoz

 

People

Portuguese are one of the friendliest and hospitable people I have encountered throughout my travels. Perhaps it’s to do with the weather and their laid-back attitude, most of the people I met are welcoming, patient and calm. People here enjoy a slower pace of living; they are more concerned with the quality of life and this is something I miss living in the stressful and unfriendly London.

 

estremoz evoracascaiscascais estremozestremoz

 

Nature

I always enjoy visiting parks and gardens whenever I travel. Yet I didn’t expect to see chicken walking freely, nor peacocks posing complacently on a wall of a ruined former palace within the public gardens! And even in the midst of winter, there are still tropical plants and flowers to be admired, as well as orange and lemon trees everywhere.

 

chicken in the park evoracascaiscascaisportuguese flowersportuguese plant flowers lemon trees

 

Quirks and unusual sights

There are always quirky and unusual sights to be found while traveling. One of the quirkiest was when I came across a front garden covered with about 20 or more soft cuddly toys on sticks! Unfortunately, there was an elderly couple in the garden and I couldn’t take a proper photo of the garden, but I found the idea utterly amusing!

 

cascaisevoraestremozevora graffiti cascais portugal evora

 

Sunsets

It is rare to be able to watch beautiful sunsets on almost daily basis while traveling, but I was able to do so on this trip. The sunsets in Portugal are mesmorising and the colours are stunning; whether I was by the sea or up on a hill, these were precious moments that would stay with me for a long time.

 

evora sunset lisbon sunsetestremoz sunsetcascais sunset cascais sunsetlisbon sunsetestremoz sunset

 

Silent nights

It is not easy to enjoy silence and solitude in cities like London at night. Yet there were times during my travel when I noticed that the streets were almost empty, it was strange for someone like me who is used to seeing people around or hearing traffic all the time except for when I am in the countryside. Silence and solitude is something that city dwellers require from time to time, as it is the best time to wind down and clear our minds.

 

evoracascaiscascais cascais

 

To be continued…

 

Winter sun seeking in London

london sunset

 

The idea of sun seeking in London esp. in the winter sounds as mad as a hatter. Whenever I travel abroad and tell people that I live in London, they usually would grin and say something as follows: “Nice city but miserable weather” or “Is it foggy and rainy all the time?”. No matter how much I try to convince them otherwise, they would still look skeptical and doubtful as if I am taking them for a ride!

Since my words fail to convince the skeptics, I hope these photos taken within the last few weeks would do London/ London’s weather some justice! It is true that we would frequently experience grey and wet weather, but there are also days when the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the sun is shining bright.

 

hampstead sunsetLondon skylineLondon sunset london sunset 

 

Like most Londoners or Brits, I also love to moan about the weather occasionally because that is our habit or an effective ice breaker as conversation starter. We simply cannot help it because our weather seems to play a key role in our lives for some bizarre reason. Yet despite our complaints, admittedly, I am rather fond of the English weather. I like the fact that it is unpredictable, relatively mild and it has four distinctive seasons. And I think many Brits would share my paradoxical view towards our weather.

I honestly believe that I would be bored of seeing the sun everyday if I were to live in somewhere like S.E.Asia when the weather is so predictable and lacks seasonal transitions. And when compared to other countries in the northern hemisphere, we are lucky that we rarely experience extreme conditions in summers and winters. Our heatwaves are usually temporary, and snow is a seldom seen sight in the south eastern and south western part of the UK. There are no significant earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and hurricanes; though storms, droughts and floods are becoming more frequent due to climate change.

 

hampstead sunsethampstead sunset sunset London IMG_3517-compressedlondon's sunset

 

The joy of having unpredictable weather is that we would cherish the sun more after several gloomy and wet days. We would appreciate the rain after a few weeks of heatwave as it would clear the mucky and humid air. Perhaps it also enables us to be more receptive to changes, and accept that we can’t predict or control external factors… in weather and in life.

 

hampstead sunset

 

I am unashamed to admit that I am a London sun seeker esp. during the winter. To witness the wonders of sunsets is always an awe-inspiring moment for me. The winter sunset time in London is usually between 3-4pm, and remarkably I have witnessed many stunning sunsets against the backdrop of urban landscape or tree silhouette this winter. These evanescent moments not only enable me to appreciate the beauty of nature, but I also feel grateful to be alive to observe a natural phenomenon that we often take for granted. And for a change, being a ‘sun seeker’ or ‘sun worshiper’ is no longer an embarrassing term when it is used in this context.