Vat Phu

There was of course something in Champasak because otherwise what’s the point of going there. Champasak was the home of Vat Phu another world heritage site and supposedly older than Angkor Wat.

So this was our destination for the day. To go there we rented another scooter and Dudley drove us to the site. It was actually quite easy to go there. 10km straight ahead, over two bridges and then to the right. All very easy and straight forward, so we found it without trouble.
We paid our entrance fee and then sat down on the electric bus to get a lift up to the actual site. All very sophisticated especially since we were the only two tourists going up. Which is a bit unfair because there were other people once we were at the site (but nothing compared to Angkor Wat).
Having arrived on site we first got a bracelet full of blessings around our wrists for which we donated handsomely. Because what’s the point of money if you can’t share it with others?

So this was the start of our tour with a blessed bracelet and I was ready to be amazed again by a temple (see it’s enough to let some days go by and I was able to see another temple). Also Vat Phu was a bit different from Angkor Wat since it was built at the foot of a mountain, with another temple on top and a small spring.

 

We didn’t take the obvious column lined road, no Dudley wanted us to take the paved one and leave via the boulevard.

So coming slightly from the side we could first see the two mirror temples with the one on the left side under heavy reconstruction.

We therefore visited the one on the right side.

    

The way up was long and stony and had of course super steep steps again. But while going up the structure of Vat Phu became more and more visible.

  

  
Once up we were rewarded with a view over the valley and the Vat.

While visiting the temple on top we heard that if you pour the water from the spring on your head it brings good luck. One can never have too much of it, so of course I poured some.


     
I don’t know if it helped but it definitely hasn’t hurt to get as many blessings and good luck bracelets on this trip. We went to explore the area further and came upon some rocks higher up with elephant carvings.

  

The way down was steep as up with the added challenge of actually going down. The steps were in some parts so narrow that I had to navigate them sideways.

The fallen statue of a Buddha had something tragic but walking through the boulevard lined with columns on both sides felt majestic.

  

Since we were already in the area we set our sights on another temple just around the corner. The Hong Nang Sida Temple was just 2km away from Vat Phu but also in another world. The road there was no longer paved but a small dirt road with deep tracks, extremely muddy due to the rainfall last night and still half under water. Dudley managed to gut us there, I would have given up by at half way through. So this was how it looked in former times


and this is what we saw.

This temple has seen better times but it was still interesting to walk around. Not only we found that but also the local cows.

  

Of course the moment we walked back to the scooter it started to rain again. So we took shelter under the only construction at the site, a local house which looked lucky to be still standing. It helped with the rain though.

When we left the dirt road had changed into a mud pool and I was never more happier to drive shotgun. Dudley sneakers got dunked more than once.

Back on the paved road we had to stop for shelter a second time, the rain was coming down really hard (please see here).

But eventually we made it back into Champasak and Dudley had had it with me always sitting in the back, so he set out to get me driving. And of course I wanted to, it’s very limiting if you can only take the bicycle. Anyway, here we go.

  

 

I drove a couple more rounds but definitely not enough, so I will have to do it again soon. It was a very liberating experience that I could that. Good to know that you are never to old to learn a new trick! Yours, Pollybert

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Annapurna Trekking Experience

Another early wake-up, today for our trekking experience. We had our breakfast and one more look around    IMG_1347

and then left on time at 8am to drive to our starting point.

The starting point looked easy enough, just a couple of steps leading up into the mountains. This couldn’t be so difficult.IMG_1349IMG_1348IMG_1351IMG_1352IMG_1353If you look at Sylvia at our first stop you will notice that it might have been more exhausting than expected. All in all we managed around 4000 steps.

But there were always some distractions along the way, big and small animals and little shops to buy more water. And every animal we saw was a mountain animal, so not just a goat but a mountain goat etc.IMG_1355IMG_1360 IMG_1363 Eventually we made to the halfway point or the tourist check point. Kul had to show our trekking permit and we took more pictures. IMG_1367 IMG_1370

After that more steps waited for us which we also took in stride and in the end made it to the top. Our top, which was the Australian Camp, where we were not rewarded with a great view. To our bad luck clouds were coming in and the mountains were somewhere behind them. At least we made up to the camp without rain, just 30 minutes later we watched hikers coming up in pouring rain. IMG_1371 IMG_1373 IMG_1375 IMG_1376

We moved into the restaurant and enjoyed a hearty Nepali meal, well deserved after the long trek up there. IMG_1377 IMG_1378 IMG_1379I spent the afternoon in our hut taking a nap while Sylvia played with the dog (as I had done before too). All the while it was sunny but rather cool. For dinner we refueled again with more food and more importantly carbohydrates. We needed a lot of energy for the trek down the next day. IMG_1387 IMG_1380 IMG_1381

Guess who had the pizza? We settled in our beds for the night with the sleeping bag/inner bag respectively. Since the light was not great and wifi was not working in the hut, we called it a night around 8:30 pm. IMG_1385

The next morning we woke super early to rain and fog. IMG_1386We wanted to start at 8am but had to wait for 90 minutes until the rain abated. With a light drizzle still under way we started our descent. Kul decided that we would take a shorter tour since the steps were too slick to go down all the way. So the trek down took us only an hour and we met our driver halfway. Quite unfair that they only told us after the ascent about the short-cut.IMG_1393 IMG_1394 IMG_1396 IMG_1397 IMG_1398On the way back to castle resort we made a short stop so that I could buy myself a new backpack. The one I had I was really good for traveling but definitely the wrong choice when you go hiking. Since I am planning on doing a bit more in this direction an investment was in order.

And then finally back to the hotel where we first took a shower. Hot water and fresh clothes, heaven couldn’t feel better. We also hand washed some clothes since we didn’t know what to expect in the next couple of days.
And then since we were already used to descending steps we also walked to the city. After a 15 minutes descent we arrived in Pokhara and looked for an ATM first of all. We still had to pay at the hotel, plus needed money for taxis, food and our hotel in Kathmandu if we even got there.

Everything was still up in the air, we had no passports since they were with the agency to arrange for the Tibet/China visa. When we eventually got the ok that the visa and the flight were alright we were ecstatic.
Dinner in the city was the plan, not hotel food. We settled on Mint’s Hut which had a spectacular lake view and looked reasonable clean. The food was delicious (at least for me). Sylvia had vegetable soup and fried momos which didn’t convince her, while I had Sadeko, a very spicy salad made from peanuts or in my case dried corn and thukpa, a curried vegetable soup with omelette on top.IMG_1406 IMG_1408 IMG_1409 IMG_1412 IMG_1413 IMG_1414 IMG_1417The salad was really so spicy that I had tears in my eyes and the waiter asked after if it was my first time. I must have had really puffy eyes.

For our return we spoiled ourselves and took a taxi. We were both not up to the challenge of the steps in the dark. After a discussion with the driver about his fee that ended with the driver following us into the hotel, getting a cup of tea and an open ear from a fellow Nepali, we went to bed. Yours, Pollybert

A rainy day in Berlin

After being lucky the day before we woke up on Saturday to a bleak and grey sky. Good then that we were sleeping in and not in hurry to go for breakfast. This time we had reservations at the Schwarzes Cafe in Charlottenburg (thank you Sophie!!). The place looked inviting and comfortable, just perfect for another long and lazy breakfast. IMG_0014  IMG_0001  IMG_0002  IMG_0006  IMG_0007 IMG_0012

Just looking at it now makes me realize that this breakfast was delicious, actually each meal we had that weekend was perfect. On hindsight what astonishes me more than the great meals (you know how critical I can be) was with which consequence Sophie polished off every last morsel on her plate. Every time we went anywhere for food, no matter what time, day or meal. The rest of us just started to dig in the moment I put my phone away, while Sophie took her time and then steadily ate everything on her plate. I wonder how she does that?.

Eventually we left our cozy nook and took the S-train to ‘Hackescher Markt’ to visit the Museum Island. From the beginning I wanted to see the Pergamon Museum and the others were nice enough to accommodate me. Since I read the book “Limit” by Frank Schätzing I wanted to go (actually already before but after reading it I wanted to go soon).

On the way to the museum the weather god was still gracious, which bode well for us and was also great for the abundance of brides we saw (there were three, but I only took a picture of one) on the island. IMG_0024    IMG_0027IMG_0031  IMG_0034

While lining up for the museum it started to drizzle.IMG_0035IMG_0038
Not getting deterred we stayed in line until we finally came upon a sign on which it said that the hall with the Pergamon Altar was currently undergoing renovations and will not be open until 2020. None of us was prepared to wait that long, so after a short consultation we agreed on going for a drink. Of course there were other things to see, but my disappointment was just too big and needed to be fixed. But this is another story.
Yours, Pollybert

What I learned in Budapest

What did I learn in Budapest? This time it is really difficult to think about something. Might be that the rain just drained my brain?
Still, there are a couple of things that I believe I learned in Budapest.

1.) Bring an umbrella when traveling in winter, if possible in color. It will brighten any day (see the black one from the hotel looks a bit depressing).IMG_8821
2.) When taking a bottle of champagne on your trip, also bring a cooler.
3.) And glasses (the plastic cups just lack in style)!
4.) Always ask for the way first before walking 20 minutes in the wrong direction.
5.) Next to the checkout in a supermarket you find usually chocolate, magazines and other junk. Not so in Budapest. There you can find condoms and matches. Quite the interesting combination.IMG_8900
6.) Bring a second pair of shoes on any trip.
7.) Make sure that your guide-book is up-to-date.
8.) Travel with people you love. Everyone can be happy when the sun is shining, but when it’s constantly raining you need to surround yourself with friendly faces.
9.) And it’s an advantage if they like to go for a drink or two.
Yours, Pollybert

Food tasting in Budapest

The touring of the castle left us hungry and once we were back down on Danube level we made our way to Horgásztanya, a place that looks as if it has been around for years (which it has) but serves a great Hungarian fish soup. When I put together my restaurant list for this trip I came across the fish soup. Until then I didn’t even know that Hungary had a tradition for fish as well.IMG_8956The restaurant is actually at the other side of the block but I love the sailor on this one! Also I forgot to take a picture while we were there and this on is from the bus tour the next day.

Take a look around the place, it has quite an unique decor.IMG_8850IMG_8852IMG_8853IMG_8854IMG_9025

Poor Susi had to come with us although she doesn’t eat fish. There is not much else to order besides all kinds of fish soup, fish and meat dishes. There is basically nothing for vegetarians. So she ate a cabbage salad while we sampled the soup.IMG_8856

Love the way how it was served and it was super delicious!

And all within walking distance of the Chain Bridge which we crossed right after the meal with another view on the parliament.IMG_8859IMG_8861IMG_8863IMG_8864IMG_8865
Every good meal deserves a dessert, which we wanted to eat at Gerbeaud. The Gerbeaud coffeehouse is well-known for its cakes and has a long history. Coming from a land with a tradition in coffeehouses and cakes, we nonetheless wanted to try what our former “crownland” had to offer.

What they did offer compares with the best! A beautiful coffeehouse, delicious coffee (at least mine, Susi tried the “exclusive” one and it was sour) and mouth-watering cakes.IMG_8880IMG_8881IMG_8867IMG_8868IMG_8869IMG_8870IMG_8871

Cat decided to stay with the beer and got some nuts with it. They seemed to taste especially good!
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When we left the coffeehouse it was already dark outside and we did a little shopping at the Christmas market in front of Gerbeaud.IMG_8882

We also looked on how the traditional Hungarian chimney cake was prepared but at that moment there was just no room to try it.IMG_8890IMG_8892IMG_8894IMG_8883

And then more shopping along the Váci ut which is a super long pedestrian zone. Although it was not so much shopping as stopping at every store to warm up again.IMG_8897

Finally we decided to go for a drink. It was dark after all and we knew if we went back to the hotel for a short siesta, there would be a good chance that we might not leave the place again that evening. The name of the wine bar was Borkonyha – Wine Kitchen, right at the end (or rather beginning) of Váci ut and actually the least tourist looking place although it was a hotel bar. Upon looking at the website now I noticed that it was recommended by Michelin and Gault Millau, no wonder the tourists in the back were making such satisfied noises.IMG_8901IMG_8902IMG_9057IMG_9058

From there it was only a short walk to our next destination that evening. Since it was Sunday night the choice was limited to begin with. The reception had made a reservation that morning for Ruben, a restaurant from a guide book. It had the added advantage of being near the hotel. The walk to it was eerie though since not one light worked in the street of the restaurant and the place was rather at the end. At least the place itself was illuminated.

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Inside it was small with gallery on top for more diners and the kitchen.IMG_8920Quite the cozy dining experience, only the food didn’t live up to it.

We shared as starter Hungary’s best (different meats) which turned out to be good and was quickly devoured.IMG_8911
The second course we shared as well, stuffed meat crepes with red pepper sauce. Definitely the highlight of the meal. So sorry that the picture is blurred, I had to rush to take it before Cat ate all.IMG_8912

Meanwhile Susi had a salad and gave Tici the cold eye. Wonder what had piqued her interest?IMG_8913IMG_8910

I refrained from ordering more (unbelievable I know) and had only a small “Retro” cucumber salad. I kid you not, it was really called retro. But of course you are right, I shared the crepe with Cat.IMG_8914

From then on it was all downhill for me. I had the weekly special of lamb with pumpkin as main course and the lamb was overdone while the pumpkin was more than crunchy, the others had duck with mango, pasta with cheese (and a substantial amount of garlic) and a stuffed cabbage roll.IMG_8915IMG_8916IMG_8918IMG_8919With a good bottle of wine these mountains of food were manageable. Still, the restaurant was nice but only excelled in the typical dishes category.

After dinner we were ready to try another bar, this time the Tip Top Bar. Right around the corner of Ruben’s and on the way to the hotel we were ready for a last round. As it turned out the Wallpaper City Guide has another tip to update, this bar was closed too. Defeated we trudged back to the hotel only to find a large nativity set on our way and the girls had nothing better to do than strike a pose with it. And of course it was still raining, let’s not forget about that.

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In the end we settled for a drink at the hotel bar, after all this one was still open.
Yours, Pollybert
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