We started our drive from Vienna at 10 AM, and since then it has been one amazing scene after another. We gawked at Vienna’s grand buildings, at the countryside that looked like Tina Blau’s oil paintings come to life, the roads so smooth and well-maintained, and at the BMWs and Audis zipping past us as we drove our rented Seat within the 130 KPH limit. Little did we know, the best view was yet to come.
After brief stops at several points in Lower Austria and Wachau Valley, we entered Salzkammergut and began our mountain drive. It was like entering a dreamland – we passed through serene villages complete with cows grazing contentedly on emerald pastures, which turned into narrow mountain roads overlooking a glistening lake. Less than half an hour in, we caught the first glimpse of our day’s final destination. As we rounded a curve, the trees parted on one side of the road, and there it was, hundreds of meters below us – Hallstatt lying snugly between the imposing mountains and the serene lake.
As the sun set, we finally rolled in to our pension. The next few days we would explore Hallstatt and Salzkammergut, which became one of the most relaxing holidays and a welcome break from Central Europe’s busy cities.
Continue reading “Best things to do in Hallstatt – a travel guide to Austria’s most photogenic town”
It’s almost difficult to tear yourself away from Austria’s magnificent cities. You can spend days roaming around Vienna’s architectural wonders, marveling at Schonbrunn and the Gloriette, getting lost in mazes of manicured gardens and abundant artwork. There’s much to see and do in Vienna and Salzburg, and indeed, visiting these cities is a great way to discover Austria’s glorious history and culture.
But to get to the heart of Austria’s rustic charm, you must venture to its small countryside villages. You’ll find that there’s more to Austria than operas and schnitzels and all-out opulence. There are also stunning natural landscapes, breathtaking vistas, picture-perfect storybook towns, and plenty of outdoor adventures to be had.
If you only make it to one town, make it Hallstatt. Nestled in Salzkammergut’s mountainous region, Hallstatt is a narrow town sandwiched between a mountain and a lake, lined with pastel houses decked with flowerboxes, and with swans gracefully plying the coastline, making it the perfect storybook town to take a break from the cities. It’s a great stopover on a drive from Vienna to Salzburg, and a great base for exploring the rest of the gorgeous Salzkammergut.
If you’re thinking of venturing to Salzkammergut soon, here are our best recommendations on where to stay in Hallstatt.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Hallstatt – 5 gorgeous hotels in Austria’s storybook town”
Busan is a city with many faces.
At first glance, Busan is a city where you go for a break. Especially if you’re coming from Seoul, Busan’s seaside city vibe is a welcome break from the unrelenting energy of the capital. You can smell the sea even kilometers away from the seashore, which of course, brings with it promises of a lazy, relaxing, and rejuvenating holiday. Continue reading “Where to stay in Busan – a guide to the city’s neighborhoods and best accommodations”
Turquoise seas shimmering under the morning sun, stretches of fine white sand, and sunsets bursting with deep reds and oranges. If you’re like most tourists, these images are probably what drew you to visit the Philippines.
Believe me when I say that I understand the look of confusion (or is it panic?) on your face now that you’ve landed in Manila. Continue reading “3 days in Manila – a taste of the capital’s culture, color, and chaos”
For an island so compact, there’s certainly a lot to see and do in Penang. Not only is its capital, George Town, one of Malaysia’s great cultural and heritage sites, it’s also the country’s best culinary destination and a tropical holiday favorite.
A lot of history and tradition has certainly been cooking in this island since it was established in the 1700s. But this last decade has also given the island a facelift with George Town’s cultural and architectural renaissance happening alongside the fresh strokes of contemporary street art. The tourism industry is quick to jump in on this renewed vigor to draw in the holiday-goers, of course, ultimately giving us an amazing array of gorgeous hotels and luxurious resorts.
If you’re planning a visit to the holiday island soon, here’s where to stay in Penang.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Penang – best hotels in George Town and Batu Ferringhi”
My train stops on the border town of Mikulov in South Moravia, and as I step out onto the platform, I am treated to the distinctive beauty of a Czech castle town: red terracotta roofs, twisted cobblestone streets, and an imposing 13th-century castle set against the backdrop of rolling hills and the outline of a distant mountain range.
But the normally sleepy town is abuzz this beautiful September weekend. It’s the annual Palavske vinobrani, a weekend-long wine festival that transforms the usually sleepy town into a big wild street party. And even first-time festival-goers like me know: where wine flows, merriment follows. Continue reading “South Moravia – revelry and relaxation in the Czech Republic’s wine region”
I make my way to Chowrasta in search of Penang’s famed street food and I’m confronted by this scene – a thick and long row of stalls with a colorful and curious assortment of fruits, fabrics and figurines; the cacophony of hawkers and musical trishaws; and droves of people and motorbikes and cats whizzing past.
Continue reading “3 days in Penang, Malaysia – home of great food, art, and culture”
From its medieval castle to its meandering cobbled alleys, Cesky Krumlov is the stuff of fairytales. Until now, it remains one of my favorite destinations in the world – and definitely worth more than a day trip from Prague.
You can easily spend two to three days in Cesky Krumlov. The first day will most likely be spent staring at the beautiful town square from the castle tower, pinching yourself in disbelief at just how amazingly gorgeous the old town is. Visiting the town’s top sights will take a day or two, while the enchanting Blansky forest surrounding the old town is worth a couple of days of short, relatively easy hikes.
If you’re still thinking if an overnight trip to Cesky Krumlov is worth it, you should definitely go for it. On my first visit, I originally planned to stay just for 3 days. I ended up extending my stay – and still I wished I stayed longer.
So skip the day trip and go for at least an overnight trip. Once you get there, you’ll know what I mean. In the meantime, here’s where to stay in Cesky Krumlov. Book early – Cesky Krumlov’s not quite Prague yet in terms of tourist density, but it’s getting pretty close now that this romantic medieval town’s “secret” is out.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Cesky Krumlov – the best hotels for a magical stay”
Tokyo is an expensive city –it’s reliably always in the top 10 most expensive cities of any survey, both for locals and travelers. And while a lot of travelers shy away from visiting Tokyo because of this intimidating fact, there are affordable alternatives in the city that you can check out.
Here are 10 hotels in Tokyo that don’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s not all hostels and capsule hotels here! You can still stay in Tokyo in style even with a small budget.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Tokyo: budget hotels that won’t break the bank!”
“Prague won’t let you go, the little mother has claws,” so said Franz Kafka, the capital’s most famous son.
And while Franz Kafka obviously had a deeper connection with the city, travelers to Prague can’t help but feel the same way to some degree. Prague never gets old and it never goes out of style or season.
There’s always something new going on in Prague – be it a new row of restaurants, a new edgy café in an up-and-coming neighborhood, or a new quirky art installation. But at the same time, the old is splendidly preserved, the centuries’ worth of Gothic, Romantic, and Baroque architecture still standing proudly even after world wars, fires, and natural calamities.
All these led to the Prague of today: a city that goes from medieval to modern, conventional to quirky, historic to hipster, and sacred to scandalous in a few blocks.
So it goes that your experiences in Prague can depend heavily on which neighborhood you choose to spend your days and nights. Whether you’re up for a crash course in European history and arts or you’re here for the beer, there’s a lovely Prague district that won’t let you go. Continue reading “Where to stay in Prague – neighborhood guide and best accommodations”