temple of hephateus

Greece day 4: Let’s go shopping at the Ancient Agora [YQrtw Day 41 May 18]

[I just spend a good part of the past hour reading up comments on Game of Thrones! Let’s get some work done.]

Location: Athens, Greece

Today’s my fourth day in Athens but things are still exciting.

In the morning, I decided to see the Central Market and maybe try out some tripe soup recommended on TripAdvisor.

Athens Central Market

I never saw the tripe soup stall but I did enter the market’s meat, fish and vegetable zone.

There were so much seafood on display. My heart longed for the huge squids lying on their bed of ice. Sadly, I do not have a kitchen I can cook the squids.

Next on my To-Do list was the Temple of Zeus. However, I wandered to the wrong place and visited an ancient public bath.

Scene from a Greek public bath

The public bath was housed in a small house. The inside of the place was cool, a great escape from the heat outside.

There wasn’t any water around but they showed some marble washbasins and benches.

I was disappointed to see that the women’s section was much smaller than the men’s.

Shopping at the Agora

Just down the road from the bath is the Ancient Agora. My tickets to the Acropolis covered this sight as well so I dropped by.

Turns out I didn’t need my ticket. It was International Museum Day and it was free entry to the sight.

At the Ancient Agora, I followed Rick Steve’s brilliant walking tour.

Halfway during my tour, an older American couple followed my route with their audio tour on speaker. It was so annoying having their audio tour on so I waited until they left.

The Ancient Agora was where the ancient people met for town meetings, theaters and so on. Most of the buildings were turned to rubble so having the audio tour helped make more sense of the place.

Temple in Agora

I tried to look for the Temple of Aphrodite Urania but couldn’t find it.

It was past lunch time when I finished seeing the Ancient Agora. I head back to the Central Market area where I had spotted souvlaki shops.

For lunch, I had a delicious meal of kebab in pita with a cold Coca Cola for only 3.30 euro. The pita bread was still piping hot when it came to me but I wolfed it down rather quickly.

Greek kebab pita

The afternoon sun was too punishing so I head back to the hotel for a quick shower. Despite having coke for lunch, I finished a tin of carbonated lemon to cool down. I think it was worth the calories.

In search of a bus station

When it was past 5pm, I headed out again. This time, I needed to find the bus station where my Istanbul-bound bus will leave next week.

The directions given by the travel agency where I bought my bus ticket was fuzzy. Even with the help of the Internet, I couldn’t figure out exactly where it was.

I followed the advice of the travel agent and took bus A15. Luckily, Google Maps helped me narrow down the area and I spotted the bus station.

Since I had nothing planned, I continued my bus ride until its last stop. The bus stopped at a residential neighborhood on a very steep hill.

Posh steep neighborhood in Athens

I tried walking up but gave up before the last staircase. Even standing on the pavement made me feel imbalanced.

While I walked down back to the bus stop, I passed by a family of a grandfather, a father and two twin toddlers. They were playing baby football (the ball is kicked gently to the kids). The boys followed the father’s cheer “GOAL” when the ball reached their feet. It was so adorable.

The bus back to town was uneventful. We passed many shops that were closed. Maybe it’s a Saturday so everyone’s out.

The bus eventually ended near where I boarded. Luckily for me, that’s very near my hotel.

At Carrefour, I did a little shopping for feta cheese (Greek cheese is so yummy!), milk (equally yummy), body lotion (I hadn’t tasted it yet) and a big bottle of lemon soda.

The rest of the evening was spent on the internet. Good night!

Greece day 3: New Acropolis Museum and Rick Steve’s walking tour [YQrtw Day 40 May 17]

I was planning to laze around and visit the New Acropolis Museum later in the afternoon. But when I checked my notes, I found out that the museum closes at 15:00.

I guess that means lazing around will have to come later. [I just looked at my notes again and realized that I confused National Archaeological Museum with Acropolis Museum’s time.]

I first knew of the New Acropolis Museum when D e-mailed me on June 15, 2009, an article about the museum’s opening. I was in my 9th month at work and my reply to the e-mail was:

wow.
I’ve actually forgotten that I want to go to Greece one day.

Then D reminded me that we shouldn’t become work drones. So I put the Acropolis Museum into my mental list of Places To-Go and thought about Greece again.

The Acropolis Museum

When I got to the museum, I thought to myself: I AM FINALLY HERE! (Oh wait, I think I did that at the Parthenon yesterday.)

The museum’s entrance had a surprise waiting. Parts of the floor was clear (with white polka dots), allowing visitors to see the excavation site underneath. There was also an excavated site that was open air and silly people tossed coins into it.

Before the Acropolis Museum's entrance

Before the Acropolis Museum’s entrance

The entrance to the museum was only 6 euro. It was so much cheaper than the other places I’ve been in Italy. I love Greece very much just for this.

Photo taking wasn’t allowed in the museum. I didn’t do any sketches like I did with David but I did sneak photos of the non-exhibits.

Athena guides children in the museum.

Athena guides children in the museum.

There were several of these signs saying “A Day at the Acropolis Museum with the Goddess Athena”. It was the cutest thing I’ve seen in a museum.

The description was in kid-language and was more fun to read than the adult-language sign.

Clear floor of the Acropolis Museum

Clear floor of the Acropolis Museum

The nightshift staff at my hotel, Hellen, warned me about the museum’s see-through floors so I wore pants to the place.

At one section, you can see the museum people cleaning up some of the statues. On the same level, the laser cleaning is covered up with a curtain.

View of Parthenon from the Acropolis Museum

View of Parthenon from the Acropolis Museum

On the third floor of the Acropolis Museum is a segment dedicated to the Parthenon. That floor is specially designed to face the same direction as the Parthenon is facing. It also has steel columns in between the carvings to show how the items look like in the temple.

I felt that the museum was a little small since it didn’t take me much time to finish all the items on display.

Still, it was a good museum because of all the Parthenon carvings and Athena statues.

Lunch at Smile Cafe Restaurant

I didn't eat the dog. Honestly.

I didn’t eat the dog. Honestly.

I had lunch at a tourist restaurant. Why is it touristy? Because it prints out maps of the Acropolis area and invites tourists to eat there.

The food was good for a tourist restaurant. I ordered from the Crisis Menu, a set lunch for only 7.50 euro.

I finally had tasty bread (which I never had in Italy). The cheese in the Greek salad was nice. I ate the tomatos and some cucumbers of the salad, thankful that it wasn’t the regular raw vegetable.

The gyros with pork was lovely, although I thought that I should stop eating Middle Eastern cuisine and be more adventurous.

It began raining while I was eating. Thank goodness I have my umbrella with me. I dropped by a coffee place for a 1 euro cafe latte before setting off to find the travel agency that sells bus tickets to Istanbul.

Silver Star Travel was easy to find, thanks to Google Maps. The 14-hour bus ride from Athens to Istanbul cost 60 euro (or 56 euro after -ahem- student discount). The price is half of flying to Istanbul and the time spent is half of taking connecting ferries.

Since my missions for the day was accomplished, I had to find something to do.

As usual, I hopped on a random bus that took me to a random place. And I took a not-so-random bus back to the city center.

Rick Steve’s audio tour

Rick Steve has an audio tour for Athens city so I decided to spend the afternoon walking around with my headphones in my ear.

His audio tours are really awesome. I went into different nooks and crannies of Athens. Climbed steep hills. Passed pretty Mediterranean houses. And learned more about the city than I would wandering aimlessly.

Overexposed Model in Greece

Overexposed Model in Greece

When the tour ended, so did my day. I bought 1kg each of cherries and strawberries (what was I thinking!) before heading back to the hotel to rest and write.

Until tomorrow!

Corridor of Athena statues at National Archaeology Museum

Greece day 2: Athen’s National Archaeological Museum + Acropolis [YQrtw Day 39 May 16]

Location: Athens, Greece

King Agamemnon's mask

King Agamemnon’s mask (not really his though)

Since I am staying 7 nights in Athens, I have 6-full days for sightseeing in the city. I had planned to slow down my pace and visit only one museum/ site a day.

Today’s plan was to see the National Archaeological Museum which is near by hotel and roam around the city in the afternoon.

When I went out a little before 8:30am, the sky was grey and cloudy and the temperature was cool. It felt like my kind of day.

Using directions by Google Maps, I took bus B12.

The signs for buses here in Athens is all Greek so I don’t think the government recommends tourists to take the bus.

Before the museum, there was a little cafe and the price of its bread was very reasonable. I had a pastry with cheese filling and a cappuccino.

While eating, a little tanned girl with messy hair came into the cafe to ask for money. It was rather awkward for me and I focused on my bread.

I didn’t want to encourage begging and thought that it was better than her going out and pickpocket. Actually,  begging is not any better than stealing.

National Archaeological Museum’s goodies

The museum was large but not overly gigantic like the Vatican Museum.

My Rick Steve’s audio guide for the museum worked perfectly, telling me highlights of the museum and the history behind them.

In fact, I had been enjoying Rick Steve’s audio tours for all the places I’ve been. I highly recommend you to download them if you are heading to Europe. He has mobile apps as well as podcasts and they area all free.

While the museum had lots of great Greecian works (like the gold mask above), my favorite section was the little corridor with statues of Athena.

Corridor filled with Athenas

Corridor filled with Athenas

At the end of the corridor was a small statues of Athena, her helmet decorated with winged beings, her Peter Pan collar decorated with snakes (!) and her shield also decorated with a snake. This was a miniature copy of the gigantic Athena statues that stood in the Parthenon in the ancient time (a replica in Nashville shows the size of Athena).

After the museum, I was thinking of where next to go. The sky was still grey and cloudy so I thought it would be perfect to go to the Acropolis and enjoy a not sweaty climb.

Off I went to the metro, buying a frappe to drink along the way. This time, the frappe had a less sour endnote. I’m getting to like this more and more.

Acropolis

It was about 12 noon when I reached. Based on my experience at the Vatican Museum, this was the best time to visit any famous sites as the tour groups have headed for lunch.

I got my tickets at the Theater of Dionysus so there wasn’t a queue. Even with the ticket, I had to exchange for an electronic ticket at the main entrance so it kind of annoyed me.

Rick Steve’s Acropolis audio tour kept me company the whole way. This is way cheaper than hiring a tour guide and less taxing!

Pathenon being refurbished

Pathenon being refurbished

The path to the Parthenon wasn’t a smooth walkway and I was thankful that my sandals didn’t sprain my feet.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the sun decided to come ot and play when I bought the ticket. The sky was cloudy but the ray of the sun pierced through and made it a little too warm.

Prettier side of the Parthenon

Prettier side of the Parthenon

It got so hot that I had to hide in the shade, thinking if I should wait for sunset and leave at 8pm (it was 2pm then). I didn’t leave that late but I did hang around in the shade, writing postcards.

Postage in Greece is cheaper than in Italy. I had to pay 2 euro to mail a postcard from the Vatican City but here in Greece, it was only 78 cents each.

Postcards from Athens

Postcards from Athens

Oh, I also started eating a chocolate pastry I bought. I was told by someone working at the Acropolis that only water is allowed. Oops.

After my long wait, I finally finished my audio tour and descended from the holy hill.

My phone’s battery was dangerously low then so I decided to head back to the hotel. Before that, I stopped at Carrefour (!!!) for some dairy product to prevent my stomach from having severe gastric.

Carrefour in Athens near Larissis Station

Carrefour in Athens near Larissis Station

I did plan to head out later but my lazy bones decided to stay in with my computer. Let’s hope tomorrow’s more productive!

Greece day 1: No Museum Day in Athens [YQrtw Day 38 May 15]

Location: Athens, Greece

Hello I’m back on my laptop! I was afraid that my netbook would die and leave me after it got wet from a leaky water bottle. I switched it on last night and it shut off when I tried moving it.

I gave it a night to dry and was glad this morning to find that it was OK!

Back to today’s event. After many days of museumseeing in Italy, I was getting quite tired of seeing lovely old things.

Plus, I really didn’t want to do any planning for the day so I rested by setting today as No Museum Day.

Anyway, I will be in Athens for 7 nights (much longer than any cities I’ve been) so I’m sure I’ll get to see lots of the city in the following week.

[My airconditioner is making noises like a lawnmover as I write. Last night, I had to switch it off and rely on the cool night air of end of Spring, or else I would get no sleep.]

Back to the day’s event. So what does No Museum Day mean? It means I get to leave my room late at past 10am–not possible when you need to be in line for a gallery before it’s opening–and I do not need to plan anything.

Of course I still need to tick a few things off my To-Do List, the most important being #1 Get a local SIM; and somewhere down the list is Get a cheap hat that fits my head.

After getting a weekly transport pass in the shape of a small ticket, I started my SIM hunting at Syntagma Square. The square didn’t seem very busy compared to the cities I have been to on this trip. Maybe there weren’t too many tourists around crowding the place.

I walked down the sloppy pedestrian street near Syntagma Square. When I looked at the cafes, it didn’t seem like Greece was in a downturn. I saw a lot of locals sitting at cafes, chatting over coffees. Today is a Wednesday, why are you all outside?

While walking, I passed a bakery, overflowing with bread and pastries. I grabbed a braided bread–which might have been a tsoureki–that was only 70 cents. The bread was big and had lumps of sugar on it, giving me the energy to continue my search for my SIM card.

While walking, I saw some parts of the Acropolis from afar. There was a gated area which had an unguarded door, leading me to think that it is possible to sneak in without paying charges.

Acropolis from afar

Acropolis from afar

Sipping Greek coffees

As I walked down the street, I checked out the menu of one of the cafe. The waiter came out to greet me, and left me with a stunning employee who was the “coffee master”.

The coffee master looked a little like Jason Stackhouse from True Blood. Of course, how can I say no to getting the recommended cappucino freddo which was overpriced by 2 euro? Damn these sneaky businesspeople and people with fairy blood.

The coffee tasted different from the smooth drinks I had in Italy. Its taste reminded me of Turkish coffee but, thankfully, without the coffee grounds.

I took my time with the coffee and read a few chapters on my Kindle. Not running around after museums is really fun.

After the coffee break, I ended up at a tram station. I took the tram to nowhere, deciding to stop when I see a Wind shop to get my SIM.

The tram snaked its way into the residential area. It wasn’t long when I spotted a large Wind shop.

Getting a local SIM in Greece was much easier than Italy. I didn’t have to wait a whole day for activation and there was a promo where I only pay 5 euro for 500MB. That works out awesome for me.

I never figured out which part of Athens I was at but it was a wealthy-looking neighborhood. More people hung out at cafes and the shops were selling shoes that cost more than 50 euro.

It was in this unknown neighborhood that I replenished my sunblock and had a taste of my first Greek frappé (for only 1 euro).

I saw the lady put two spoonfuls each of sugar and coffee powder. She poured in water, beat the cup’s content with a machine and added milk.

The mixture was fun at the beginning. I tasted some of the unmelted sugar and was jolted by the thick caffeine.

Later when the drink was almost gone, the foam and the leftover remained, the coffee turned sour and bitter. I had to toss the thing away.

After more walking aimlessly, I head back to my hotel, stoppined at Carrefour for a roasted chicken to feast in my room.

From 4pm onwards, I retired and did a bit of reading and writing.

Tomorrow, museum seeing will continue. Until then!

Table on the Leonardo Express

Greece day 1: Delayed plane to Athens [YQrtw Day 37 May 14]

[I am writing this on my iPhone. This morning my water bottle spilled in my bag and the computer was affected too. I’m leaving it to dry until tomorrow morning, may the gods of Greece bless the machine.]

Location: Rome, Italy
Location: Athens, Greece

This morning, the AirBnb hostess offered to drop me off at the metro since she was driving her mother to work as well.

That meant I had 15 minutes less to pack my things which were (typical of me) strewn everywhere.

Fortunately, I did manage to pack everything, even taking into account what I should leave in my checkin bag (US$20).

(Later the hostess e-mailed to say that I forgot a dress in my cabinet. That’s not too big a deal.)

I had breakfast at the train station at one of the coffee station. As usual, it was a standing café bar and everything was consumed quickly.

While I walked to the express train platform, I realozed that the bottom of my hand carry felt wet. To my horror, the cap of my bottle was open.

Taking most of the things out, I realized that the effect wasn’t too bad. The cardigan which I stuffed in to mop up the water was damp but not dripping wet.

As for my netbook, it’s battery side had some water but everything else looked OK. To be safe, I decided to wait a long while before switching it on.

On the train, I spent some time trying to figure out how to open the table so I could charge my iPhone.

I pushed, pulled, banged and knocked. On the end, I realized that I needed to push the panel up, not inwards.

20130514-215611.jpg

The express train to the airport was fast. In 30 minutes time, we reached the airport.

At the easyJet terminal, I was told that my flight had been rescheduled from 12:40 to 15:00. Oh well, we have to embrace things out of our control.

The queue for easyJet’s checkin was horrible. It took me an hour or so to get my baggage in.

I witnessed two old ladies (one with a Canadian passport, the other Italian) jumped queue like a boss. Just unabashedly push pass others (especially if they are German or Asian).

The wait for the plane was slow. I ate expensive airport food, drank a cappucino, tried to turn on my computer to pass time.

Finally, it was time to board. The shuttle that was taking us to the plane didn’t leave even though it was fill until the other bus came to pick the rest of us up.

EasyJet had a nice plane. Their inflight magazine was hip with articles about music festivals.

Even their inflight meals were co. They serve Starbucks instant coffee and sparkling wine–all at higher price than on land.

I snoozed on the plane with my mouth open. All these days of sightseeing was taking a toll on me, I’ll take things slower in Athens.

We landed in Athens airport a little after an hour and a half.

The signs to the Metro station were clear but when I got there, I found a sign about train stations with so much greek alphabets that my jaw dropped.

I did figure out my train and got to my hotel safely.

At the hotel, a bubbly receptionist greeted me. It was Helen who wad from the Philippines.

When I asked where to go for dinner, she asked me to join her pizza dinner with another hotel guest.

The other guest, Scott, was from Australia and had a big beard with long hair. He was into heavy metal and just came from a heavy metal cruise where people drank a lot of beer.

He also planned to travel for four months, focusing on Europe. I didn’t share my four-month career break because it felt odd blurting it to a stranger.

Now I am in my room. My airconditioner makes noises that sound like the motor of a noisy fishing boat. I’ll take it as a lullaby.

Old timey Athens

YQrtw: Why Greece

[We’re back on schedule with my round-the-world warm up posts thanks to my mom’s mobile broadband.]

Today, we’re going to visit Greece and say “Hi!” to all my patron gods and goddesses.

Old timey Athens

Old timey Athens

Image credit: Brooklyn Museum Archives

Greece was no. 1 on my list of countries to visit ever since I watched Disney’s Hercules: The Animated Series. That’s why I listed Greece as a must-visit when I planned my RTW.

I will land in Athens after an EasyJet flight from Rome. I plan to spend most of my time in the capital before making my way over land to Istanbul.

I want to visit Acropolis Museum and the other Greek ruins. I will also make a pilgrimage to the Parthenon to visit Athena’s temple.

Apart from the museum and the temple, I’m pretty much plan-less so I will read more on Athens when I travel.

I’m glad I’m going to Athens after the Olympic Games  because this means that the public transportation has been upgraded.

I love train rides so I am excited to take the Athens to Thessaloniki route. But I’m kind of disappointed that the overnight train to Turkey has been cancelled.

Have you been to Greece? Any visit tips to share?

Round the World route

My round-the-world 2013 route

It’s rather strange being at home on a Wednesday afternoon, typing at my computer…

Oh ya, I am unemployed now. Anyway, I have a whole lot of things to pack in my room and should spend less time on the computer. (I’m only getting started with “things on the floor”. I’ve only managed 15 tiles and it seems that I’ve dug out more things than I’ve tossed.)

Anyway, not to bore you with my packing, I’ll share with you the route of my round-the-world trip (while I procrastinate packing).

My concrete route for now is:

Round the World route

Round the World route

Malaysia -> Sri Lanka -> Dubai-> [Stopping by Jordan and Egypt on a cruise ship] -> Italy -> Greece -> Turkey -> South America (most likely Argentina, Bolivia, Peru) -> El Salvador -> Hong Kong

While there are other places in the world which I want to go, not all of them are on the list. The reasons why they are not in the list are: money, time and out-of-wayness.

The plans that you see now have been distilled from a murky “These are the places I want to go if I am rich” to something that’s more possible.

What my previous goal was

When I was planning the trip, I had big dreams. I wanted to see India, Egypt, Greece, UK (for flight transfer), USA, Hawaii (and by budget airline to) Australia.

I wanted to cross the Atlantic or Pacific oceans on a cargo ship. Even though this might sound like a good and cheap option to cross the sea, turns out it’s rather expensive and very time consuming.

I wanted to do so much but I knew my budget was limited. In the end, I narrowed down my destinations to a few continents while keeping to a few important places: Greece and South America.

Destinations such as Egypt and Hawaii were crossed out because it would be rather expensive to go solo (especially for only a few days). Since Hawaii was out, there was no point going by budget airlines to Australia which I’ve not found the wish to visit yet.

Where I’m going

I will be heading home to Sabah next Tuesday and spend about 2 weeks there. Then I’m heading to Sri Lanka for seven days which will coincide with the the local new year celebration. [Catch the Sri Lanka updates here.]

After Sri Lanka, I will be in Dubai for a few days before my cruise leaves for Italy. [Dubai posts here.] Yes, that’s right, I’m going on a cruise despite being on a backpacking trip. I’ve never been on a cruise but two people who have been on cruises told me it’s dead boring. Will I be bored to death? Stay tuned.

The cruise covers Jordan and three sites in Egypt so I might go on an excursion at those places.

While in Europe, I will only visit Italy, Greece and Turkey because I only have a month there. Mom will join me in Turkey! Yeah! We’ll be checking out exotic locations in Turkey.

After Turkey, I’m heading to South America for TWO MONTHS. Holy macarena! Two whole months in South America in winter. Actually, two months is not much if you consider how gigantic the continent is.

After SA, it’s a week in El Salvador. I know it’s a bit weird but I had a flight connection there and for an extra US$60, I could stop over for as long as I like. Great!

After El Salvador, I’m heading to Los Angeles for a transit to Hong Kong. I am not staying in the US because living expenses there is crazy compared to the other places I have on my plan. But I still need to pay US$160 for visa, even though it’s only a 4-hour transit. Boo hoo.

Finally, I will be heading to Hong Kong. I’ve only been to Macau so I look forward to the many dimsum feasts which I will have.

After Hong Kong, it’s back to Malaysia. I’ll take a mini break before I figure out the next step.

What will happen during RTW?

Of course my RTW isn’t a long vacation which some think it is.

I will continue blogging and share travel tips for the locations I go to. I will also jot notes for the book that I want to write after the trip.

During my journey, I also want to find “the next place I want to stay semi-permanently”.

I’ve been in Singapore for 7 years, which is about one-quarter of my life. I am not sure if I want to be in Singapore for the rest of my life so I want to find the next best place. What better way than to go to places and check out the place? (By the way, this doesn’t mean that I want to settle down in a place with “that special someone”.)

Do you have any recommendations for the countries I’m visiting? Share them in the comment!

Further reading

My RTW route: