Weekend Trip: Chiang Mai

Exactly a month ago, I wrote a blog post about sense of belonging and how that relates to my current job. I wouldn’t say I’m fully integrated into my new office yet, but I’d like to think I’m getting there. Last Thursday to Saturday, our whole office traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for an office team building trip. I’ve experienced that kind of thing before with my previous office when we visited Bintan Island, Indonesia. I’ve never been to Chiang Mai so I was really curious about it. Also, anything that would help in getting to know co-workers and potentially bonding with them is a good thing for me at this point. Our schedule was packed with office-related activities and presentations, but I was able to join a group that went around the city for a couple of hours. Here are some pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chiang Mai seems like a beautiful and historical city, I would love to go back and explore more of it. I was in the middle of Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews prior to the trip and I didn’t get much reading done during the trip so I was only able to finish it when I got back, will try to write a review of it soon. I’m still tired from staying up late and traveling though, so not making any promises. If I don’t manage to write new blog posts this week, you can always find me on Instagram and Litsy.

Cool Beans Cafe

As mentioned in yesterday’s Tweedle Book Cafe post, I have been able to visit other book cafes in Metro Manila during this trip. I really like the trend of book cafes popping up all over the metro, and I’m sure I would hang out at these locations on a regular basis if I was still based in Manila. One of the cafes that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now is Cool Beans Cafe, which I discovered when I watched the Filipino romantic comedy English Only, Please. Some scenes from the movie were shot in that location. I visited Cool Beans with my mom when we found ourselves in that area one evening.

Cool Beans - sign

Cool Beans - bookshelf

Bookshelves with comfy couches in front of them

Cool Beans - bookshelf 2

Cool Beans - bookshelf plus couch

Cool Beans - national geographic

Cool Beans - food

Dinner was Vigan longganisa penne and herb-crusted creamy dory

To be honest, I was surprised with how small the place was. We were lucky that we even got a table. I guess part of the charm of the cafe is its coziness. I definitely would have loved this cafe as a student! Given the size of the place, I’m not really sure if it’s a location where you can stay and read for hours. I’d say it’s worth a visit if you’re into book cafes (like I am).

Weekend Trip: Club Med Bintan Island

I didn’t get that much reading or blogging done over the weekend because we had an office team building trip from Friday to Saturday. To be perfectly honest, I was dreading it because I had a feeling that spending more than 24 hours with co-workers would be really awkward. It wasn’t as bad as I expected and I was able to have a little bit of fun (hey, gotta make the most out of a trip away from the city). We went to Club Med in Bintan Island, a ferry ride away from Singapore. I was in Bintan earlier this year for my birthday but stayed at a different resort. Some shots of the place:

Club Med Bintan - beach

Club Med Bintan - beach 2

Club Med Bintan - pool

And there were monkeys in our room’s balcony:

Club Med Bintan - monkeys

My normal beach thing would be to read by the beach but there wasn’t really any time for that because of the packed schedule that we had for team building activities (games, dancing, table tennis, etc.) Also, my co-workers confiscated my Kindle and put it in our room’s safe together with other valuables. They said reading during team building trip is not allowed because that’s being antisocial.

One of our team activities was (a dummy version of) archery! I didn’t get a pic but it was fun to play Katniss/Fire for 30 minutes. We were supposed to have a trapeze lesson but it was cancelled when it started raining. So we took advantage of the free time we had by going to the spa where I got a 30-minute massage and was able to sneak in some reading time (my weekend read was Suddenly One Summer by Julie James):

Club Med Bintan - spa lounge

Club Med Bintan - Suddenly One Summer

While the trip was fun in its own way, it was super tiring because I haven’t had that much physical activity in ages. So I just took it easy on Sunday and finished reading Suddenly One Summer. What about the rest of you, how was your weekend?

Europe 2015: Regensburg Update

After being wowed by Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic, we decided to visit a medieval city in Germany too. We checked travel forums and asked German friends and Regensburg kept being recommended as a nice place to visit. Other cities that we would have loved to visit were Rothenburg and Nuremberg but they’re farther away from Munich and we didn’t want to waste too much time on train travel. About an hour and a half away from Munich, Regensburg is a charming city by the Danube river with a rich history – first capital of Bavaria, previous center of the Holy Roman Empire, the residence of the Thurn and Taxis nobility and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We started with lunch at a cafe across the church:
Regensburg cafe - across church Regensburg church

Here’s the view of the city from the bridge tower:
Regensburg - from bridge tower Regensburg - from bridge tower 2

This 12th century Stone Bridge was one of the first built-in Europe. I read somewhere that it helped inspire the Charles Bridge in Prague. It’s currently under construction so I couldn’t get a good shot:
Regensburg - bridge

The Porta Praetoria was the gate to the Roman camp Castra Regina from 179 AD. It’s amazing that a structure that old has been maintained and incorporated into the city’s architecture:
Regensburg - Porta Praetoria 3 Regensburg - Porta Praetoria
Regensburg - Porta Praetoria 2

Goliathhaus is a 13th century patrician residence with a mural of David and Goliath:
Regenburg - Goliathaus

The Schloss Thurn and Taxis is within the grounds of St. Emmeram. It’s a 19th century neo-Renaissance palace built from a monastery. The Thurn and Taxis family built a postal system in Europe in the 15th century. No pictures were allowed inside Schloss Thurn and Taxis so I only have a courtyard picture and a paparazzi shot of the floor of the winter garden:
Regensburg - Schloss Thurn and Taxis Regensburg - Schloss Thurn and Taxis floor

A sign with directions and a medieval house which has become a shop:
Regensburg - signs Regensburg - medieal house

This is the last of my series of posts about the places we visited in Europe during our two-week trip a few weeks ago. If you want to check out the rest of my travel updates, here are links to them:
Prague
Kutna Hora
Cesky Krumlov
Munich, where I met up with my Goodreads friend Estara
Neuschwanstein Castle

I’m waiting for some rolls of film to be processed and I’ll try to share some lomography shots when I get the results.

Europe 2015: Neuschwanstein Castle

It’s been more than a month since I came back from Europe and I’m still not done with my travel updates here on the blog. I’ve even gone back home to Manila since then. I’ve been distracted by real life, reading and writing book-related posts (which is what this blog is actually about LOL). As promised, here’s an update on Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the sites we visited that I LOVED.

Neuschwanstein Castle is probably one of the most famous castles in Europe. It was the inspiration for Disney’s iconic Sleeping Beauty castle. It’s located above the village of Hohenschwangau, which is 2 hours away by train from Munich. I really, really wanted to see Neuschwanstein which was why I chose Munich as the exit point (with Prague as the entry point) when I was booking tickets for Europe. Check out the pictures and let me know if you agree with me that Neuschwanstein Castle is worth a visit.

View of the town of Hohenschwangau and Alpsee, the lake nearby:
Hohenschwangau 2

Some shots of the front of the castle:
Neuschwanstein - front Neuschwanstein - front 2

And the back of the castle:
Neuschwanstein - back

We joined a tour of the castle interiors but pictures weren’t allowed inside, which is too bad because the rooms we saw were all beautiful. Not surprisng since King Ludwig II intent was to make the castle his refuge from court life. There is a magnificent view of the castle from a bridge called Marienbrücke:
Neuschwanstein Castle

From this area, there is a view that shows Hohenschangau Castle, where King Ludwig II grew up. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to explore this yellow castle.
Hohenschwangau Hohenschwangau castle

I’m so glad I got to see Neuschwanstein Castle in person, and in such gorgeous weather too. It’s really the stuff fairytales are made of.

Europe 2015: Munich Update

I think most people who include Germany in their Europe itinerary usually choose to go to Berlin. But when I booked the ticket to Prague and was trying to decide what other city to visit, Munich was the first place that I thought of. Mainly because I wanted to see Neuschswanstein Castle, which I will talk more about in a different post. If I had done more research, I probably would have chosen to visit the Romantic Road from Frankfurt to Munich, which is a tour of medieval towns in Bavaria. I can always go back, right? 🙂 While Munich is not always an obvious choice when planning a European tour, I did enjoy exploring and discovering more about Bavaria’s capital. As a bonus, I got to meet a long-time online friend in person! Again, more on that in another post.

It’s funny how we visited as many castles and palaces as we can during our trip. Our first full day in Munich, we chose to explore Nymphenburg Palace and its surrounding gardens:
Nymphenburg Palace Nymphenburg Palace - swan
Nymphenburg Palace - Great Hall Nymphenburg Palace - golden carriage
Nymphenburg Palace - view from gardens Nymphenburg park

Park palaces Amalienburg and Badenburg:
Amalienburg Badenburg

The Hall of Mirrors inside Amelienburg, a smaller version of the one in Versailles:
Amalienburg - Hall of Mirrors

During one of the days we were in Munich, we met up with one of Kim’s friends and she showed us around the area. We visited the elaborately decorated Asamkirche, which was built by the Asam brothers to be their private church:
Asamkirche

We explored the outdoor market Viktualienmarkt:
Viktualienmarkt - may pole Viktualienmarkt - fountain

The famous Marienplatz:
Marienplatz

Shakespeare and Co. is an indie bookstore in the Marienplatz area. It has the same name as the renowned bookstore in Paris. Unfortunately, most of their stocks are German titles so we weren’t able to buy anything:
Shakespeare and Co. Munich Shakespeare and Co. Munich - inside

The Munich Residenz is another royal palace located in the city. It was previously used by the monarchs of the House of Wittelsbach.
Munich Residenz - outside

The Antiquarium, the oldest room in the Residenz. It was created to house the royalty’s collection of antique sculptures. If these were antique during the 1800s, then they’re now ancient:
Antiquariam - side

One of the mirrors inside the palace and a super fancy cabinet for china:
Residenz Munich - mirror Residenz - china cabinet

Ancestral Gallery, which displays portraits of the rulers of Bavaria:
Residenz - Hall of Ancestors

A bejeweled crown and a ceremonial sword from the Treasury inside the Residenz:
Residenz treasury - crown Residenz treasury - sword

A traditional German meal that I had was cheese spatzle with Hacker-Pschorr Radler (beer with lemonade and my favorite out of all the beers we tried):
Munich - cheese spatzle with Radler

Have you visited Munich? If you have, what did you think of it? I’m not aware of any books set in Munich but I believe The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is set in a city nearby.

Europe 2015: Cesky Krumlov Update

Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage medieval town (or city?) about three hours away from Prague. When we were planning day trips out of Prague, I initially hesitated about going to Cesky Krumlov because it felt like the travel time would be too long. But the pictures that I’ve seen showed how gorgeous the place is that I didn’t mind the road trip as much. Like with the Kutna Hora day trip, we joined a tour company for the day just because it’s hassle-free when it comes to transportation arrangements. The downside is that we felt a bit rushed while going around. We definitely felt like we could have spent more time in Cesky Krumlov, maybe even spend a night there. If I had to choose a favorite out of all the places we visited, I would go for Cesky Krumlov with its mix of renaissance, baroque and gothic buildings. It was founded in the 13th century and was developed until the 17th century. It really is very beautiful, the kind that can make you say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?” If I could find a job in that place, I would live there. It looked like the setting of every fairytale or medieval fantasy novel that I’ve read. There’s even a medieval castle that has been very well-maintained. I don’t know why but a city or a town instantly looks better in my eyes when it’s beside a body of water. And the Vltava River meanders around Cesky Krumlov. Again, I don’t think my words can do enough justice on this place so I will let the pictures I’ve taken show you what I mean.

Cesky Krumlov again - for blog

Cesky Krumlov

Our first view of Cesky Krumlov included a bridge that looked like an aqueduct with corridors on top connecting the palace to servants quarters.

Cesky Krumlov - aqueduct / bridge Cesky Krumlov - aqueduct / bridge 2

After going through the bridge, we were treated to this view:

Cesky - first view of bridge Cesky - first view with man

We walked around the town leading to the main square, where there is a fountain dedicated to victims of the plague, since this disease took so many lives in Cesky Krumlov. There were some nice cobbled streets and of course, I had to take a shot of their manhole cover with the town’s seal.

Cesky - fountain Cesky - manhole cover

Cesky - nice cobbled street Cesky - water and town

Cesky Krumlov’s palace is the second largest in Czech Republic, after Prague Castle. We joined a lovely tour of the palace but unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed inside. So I can only share some exterior shots of the palace, and also a bear in one of the bridges leading to the courtyard.

Cesky Krumlov Palace Cesky - bear

A fuller view of the tower:

Cesky Krumlov Palace 2

The panoramic shots at the start of this post are views from the palace and here’s another one from the same vantage point:

Cesky - view from palace

All pictures were taken using my phone’s camera. I’m sorry if the brightness and contrast aren’t consistent in all the pictures – I edited some using my laptop and some using Instagram. Have any of you visited Cesky Krumlov? While I don’t know of any books set in this gorgeous place, I’m sure I’ll be reminded of it whenever I read a well-written medieval fantasy or fairy tale.

This Is… Children’s Travel Books

In my recap about my vacation in Prague, I mentioned that I bought only one book during our entire trip. It was a children’s book about Prague called This Is Prague by Michaela Kukovicova and Olga Cerna. I got it from an indie bookstore that was mostly selling Czech books and it was the last copy that they had. I probably would have been tempted to buy more than one if they more stocks. As mentioned in a previous post, I also thought it was pretty cool that the bookstore sold postcards with illustrations based on the book. wpid-img_20150618_121212.jpg I looked up the title and found out from the publisher’s page that it’s actually a tribute to Czech writer M. Sasek’s “This Is…” series of travel books for children. Then one of the friends I traveled with last year reminded me that he got a copy of This Is Paris from Shakespeare and Company. Now I want all of the books in the series that feature places I’ve visited! That would be This is Paris, This Is Munich, This Is San Francisco and This Is Hong Kong. I wouldn’t mind collecting all of the books in the series but I’ll prioritize the places I’ve been to because the books would make nice souvenirs. I need to find a way to get these. Unfortunately, they’re not available in Book Depository and shipping would be very expensive if I order them off Amazon. I tried looking for these books in bookstores in Singapore but they’re not available. Sigh, I’ll have to think of another way of hunting them down. This Is ParisThis Is MunichThis Is Hong KongThis is San Francisco Are you familiar with M. Sasek’s books? Are there any other illustrated travel books that you think are fun to read and collect?

Europe 2015: Kutna Hora Update

As mentioned in my earlier update about Prague, I’m also doing recaps of the day trips that we did in Czech Republic. Last year’s Europe trip really tired me out because I felt like we kept hopping from out city to another even though we only visited four: Paris, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence and Milan. So for this year, I wanted to visit only two cities and just plan day trips from there. That way, we only had to lug our suitcases around three times (from the airport, from Prague to Munich and then back to the airport).

One of the cities we visited from Prague was Kutna Hora. We joined a day trip organized by one of the many tour groups in Prague. It was just more convenient for us to join a tour group for half a day because it included the bus rides (about an hour and a half each way) and a tour guide to enlighten us about Kutna Hora’s history. Kutna Hora and its neighboring town, Sedlec, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Czech Republic. In its heyday, this mining city was the second richest in the country. Today, it’s a quiet and cozy city that has well-preserved historical structures.

Kutna Hora - for the blog

Near Kutna Hora is the Sedlec Ossuary, which has a creeptastic collection of bones that have been made into decorations. There is a huge chandelier of bones that contains at least one of every bone in the human body and also a coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg.

Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary chandelier Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary coat of arms
Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary skulls Europe 2015 - Sedlec Ossuary vase

One of the well-known sites in the city is the gothic cathedral of St. Barbara, who is the patron saint of miners. Apparently it took 500 years for this church to be finished.

Europe 2015 - St. Barbara outside Europe 2015 - St. Barbara inside

After exiting the cathedral, we saw a path lined with big statues, like a smaller version of the Charles Bridge:

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora with St. Barbara view Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora stone bridge

I enjoyed walking around the cozy cobblestone streets of Kutna Hora.

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora streets Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora streets 2

We also saw this huge gothic water cistern that was used for water storage, it was filled with water through an irrigation system. And like with Prague, I noticed that even manhole covers have nice designs on them.

Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora water cistern Europe 2015 - Kutna Hora manhole

Have any of you visited Kutna Hora? I don’t know of any books set in this city but I think it would be a good inspiration for some authors, I’m sure Sedlec Ossuary would present various story ideas.

Europe 2015: Prague Update

Dobry den! I have a feeling my blog will look more like a travel blog than a book blog as I post updates about my recent trip. But I like doing these recaps because it also helps me remember the experience and I feel like I can look back and reminisce whenever I’m in the mood to do so. For the first leg of our trip, we traveled to the beautiful city of Prague in Czech Republic.

Whenever I find out that a friend has been lucky enough to go around Europe, I would ask what his or her favorite city was. I’ve gotten Prague as an answer several times. I found out more about this fairytale city when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and that just further strengthened my resolve to visit it one day. So when January rolled around and I started planning for my Europe trip this year, I knew Prague had to be one of the destinations that I’ll visit. And the city didn’t disappoint. It was even more charming and beautiful that I expected. Some parts of the city are modern (which is to be expected) while others feel like they’ve been frozen in time. It was a place steeped with so much history and I wanted to just absorb as much as I can in the days that we spent there. I fell in love with Prague the same way I fell in love with Paris last year. I think the pictures will do a much better job of showing everyone how beautiful Prague is. Here’s is a lovely view of the city from the palace gardens:

Prague - for blog

The iconic astronomical clock and Tyn Cathedral in Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site:

Europe 2015 - Prague astronomical clock Europe 2015 - Tyn with horses

Another shot of Old Town when we came back another day. You could see how big a difference the nice weather makes when it comes to historic buildings. Also, we noticed that even the manhole covers are pretty in Prague:

Europe 2015 - Tyn with blue skies Europe 2015 - Prague manhole cover

Another famous landmark in Prague is the historic Charles Bridge, which crosses the river Vltava. It was super crowded with tourists and vendors so I’m quite proud that I was able to get a shot of one section of the bridge WITHOUT any people in it. I also loved how the sunlight bathed the bridge and the surrounding areas in such a warm glow:

Europe 2015 - Charles Bridge Europe 2015 - Charles Bridge sunlight

We walked around the palace gardens and saw quite a nice view of Prague Castle. We went back another day to explore the insides of the castle (where pictures were not allowed) as well as the grounds within.

Europe 2015 - Prague Castle garden Europe 2015 - Prague Castle

We were awestruck by the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral which is inside the grounds of the Prague Castle:

Europe 2015 - St. Vitus Europe 2015 - St. Vitus clock

Europe 2015 - St. Vitus inside Europe 2015 - St. Vitus Mucha panel

The stained glass panel above was designed by world-renowned Czech artist Alfons Mucha and because Kim is a Mucha fangirl, we also visited the Mucha Museum in the city. No pictures inside so this was all I got:

Europe 2015 - Mucha Museum

Some traditional Czech dishes that we had: pork knuckle, beef goulash with bread dumplings, beef sirloin with cream sauce served with bread dumplings, potato dumplings with bacon. Of course, served with Czech beer.

Europe 2015 - Czech dishes Europe 2015 - Czech dishes 2

And because we are book nerds, we took note of bookstores whenever we saw them:

Europe 2015 - Prague indie bookstore Europe 2015 - Prague Knihy books

From the indie bookstore above, I bought the one and only book that I managed to buy for our entire trip. It’s a children’s book called This Is Prague and I loved its quirky illustrations. Even better? The bookstore also sold postcards based on the book. Such a perfect souvenir for a book and postcard nerd like me.

Europe 2015 - This Is Prague Europe 2015 - This Is Prague with postcard

I feel like I can go on and on about Prague but I’ll leave you all with this write-up. Next up will be recaps of the day trips that we took from Prague to Kutna Hora and Cesky Krumlov. Have you been to Prague? What did you think of the city? If you know of any books set in Prague that you think I’ll enjoy reading, please feel free to recommend them!