Saturday, May 31, 2008

Beautiful Europe

currently it's spring time in stockholm and it's absolutely lovely! the sun's out more, the flowers are blossoming, tons of people sun bathing in every park at every square feet of it and the weather is almost perfect, warm enough to ditch your jackets and yet cool enough to not need aircon.

europe is an extremely lovely place to be in. it's very different from asia in almost every aspect. for example, the cost of living here is much higher than singapore. with the price of 1 big mac meal here, i could buy 2 in singapore. a normal lunch meal out on the streets would cost me about $17, and that's considered cheap. the culture and pace of life here is much slower and more flexible. people are not so rigid and uptight about things and people tend things slow and easy. like work for example, it's not a big deal if you're late for work or if you have to leave early to pick up your child or if you just have something on. at the end of the day, when work gets done, then all is well. over here, the relationships between people are more flat rather than hierarchical. the swedish dislike the use of titles and everyone would address each other by their firstname. whether you're the boss or employee, professor or student, everyone would be calling each other like how most of us in singapore would call our friends, just by their names. and one of the most amazing thing about europe is it's history and architecture. the intricate designs of the historical buildings, medieval castles, beautiful sceneries and the variety of it all over europe is absolutely breathtaking. every country, state and city is so distinct, almost like moving from one era to another era, and yet so accessible with such affordable cost. you can actually get flight tickets from stockholm to london for $25 SGD (including taxes). it's amazing! i'm gng to germany next weekend and my flight from stockholm to frankfurt only costs me $27 SGD (including taxes and credit card payment charges). so if any of you guys are coming to europe anytime this year, do let me know and maybe we can meet up in some nice city and have some real coffee with a postcard perfect backdrop. ;)

right now, i'm kinda busy with work, school reports to write, living the swedish life and traveling around europe, thus my infrequent blog entries. but i'm more disciplined and enthusiastic in capturing photos and uploading them as often as i take them. and i'm currently more into microblogging, as it's more convenient, more updated and less time consuming. microblogging is an alternative form of blogging, where it's shorter, as the name explicitly suggests. one example which most could identify with is the status update feed on facebook. but i actually do my microblogging on jaiku & twitter via my gtalk (aka google talk aka the chat function in gmail), which then automatically updates my facebook status update. and if you're wondering, yes i'm a computer science student... ;) you can also find my microblogs on my site.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vienna & Bratislava Trip

over labour day weekend, i made a trip to Vienna via Bratislava. it was good and i spent about $600 SGD for the 4 days inclusive of flights and lodging. not too bad i guess. ;) for our first night, we were staying at Wombat Hostel Vienna - The Base. it is a very nice and affordable hostel. the staff were very friendly, interior very cozily decorated and they had nice people staying there as well. if we had a choice, we would want to stay there the next night as well, but while we were there, we got to know 2 other friendly girls, one from montreal and the other from australia. we were chating over the champions league game that was showing, liverpool & barcelona, and ended up competiting who knew the world map better by drawing it out. and on the wall, there was this "Hall Of Fame" where all those who forgot to retreive back their ID cards were displayed. and if you click on the picture to view the higher resolution one, you can see a singapore's driving license. well, someone's paying $50 to make a new one... :P

while we were travelling around the city, i was amazed at how they ran their transport system. there weren't any barriers for the entry into the train stations except a few blue punch slot for you to punch your tickets if you just bought your tickets. you could buy daily or seasonal tickets, punch it the first time, and just walk in subsequently without tapping or punching your card. same for buses, of which you could enter or alight at any of the doors. there are conductors who do random checks though, but i didn't meet any while i was there. and as a law-abiding citizen, i faithfully bought my tickets. ;)

the next day we went about the city area, checking out the museums and the architecture. it's a lovely place and everything there seems so old and well preserved. it's like going back to another time frame. but not only are the buildings there old, there people there seem old too and i hardly see any local youths around.
it's the rise of the aging population. and in the evening, fazli suggested that we should catch an orchestra since we're here. and i couldn't agree more! coming from a classical background, orchestras and symphonies have always been one of my favourite activites to attend. and so we bought ourselves a ticket to catch the orchestra at the schonbrunn palace. and they are REALLY good. magnificient! and here's the friendly guy who sold us the tickets which we managed to get 1 euro off each after some bargaining.

during that night, we stayed at Airo Tower Hotel. we had a bad experience staying at that hotel.

although it was located quite far away from the city, having to take the train to the end of the line, then switching to a tram and travel to the end of the line again, it was rather near the tram station (3min walk).

as we arrived there in the night, we were told that 1 of the 2 rooms which we have booked and fully paid for, have been transferred to a nearby hotel instead as they ran out of rooms for the night. despite them making arrangements to call for a cab and paying for the trip to and fro, we found it extremely unprofessional as we have already made the full payments for the rooms. the staff behind the counter wasn't emphatic about our situation and even retorted that we could choose to sleep on the streets if we're still unhappy when all the necessary arrangements have been made. and after fazli & indra went over to the nearby hotel, they only gave them 1 room with 1 bed when there were 2 of them and the reception was closed there. they had to call us and we in turn called up our reception to get another room for them there. though the rude staff apologized for his bad attitude, but it was an unpleasant experience staying there. the staff at the souvenir store wasn't too friendly either. he was unhappy that we touched the display glass infront of his shop that left A (ONE) fingerprint mark on it and told us not to do that. this is one crappy hotel and i had to pay 17 euros more as compared to wombat. i'll take wombat anytime man!

the next day, we went to check out the graves of the famous composers, some sightseeing and then we headed off to bratislava via a ferry down the danube river.

bratislava was a small city, nothing really much to see. but the trip to devin castle was extremely breath taking. it was only in the last 2 hours that we learnt about the castle from the brochures and tourist stall owners that decided to rush there to check it out, despite it required a 30min bus journey there. upon arriving, we literally ran up the castle as we were really tight on time, but the trip there was totally worth it. it is situation out of the city on a hill, overlooking the village below on 1 side and danube & morava river on the other (which seperates slovakia & austria). an absolutely lovely view!

after that, we had to rush to the airport to catch out flight back to stockholm. and that was my vienna & bratislava trip. check more photos on my facebook or multiply.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Dreamfactory @ Superband

Attention everyone in the world! Dreamfactory's in Superband, so do check us out... and show your love and support @ jaiku or facebook or twitter or join the fan club @ ning...

more details on the official mediacorp site...