Budapest

Buda at night

The two original cities of Buda, and Pest, which lie either side of the Danube make up the spectacular modern city.

Pest from the Budapest Eye

History

The history of Hungary is one of being fought over for hundreds of years.

In spite of the destruction that has occured in the past that there are many interesting places to explore, many that have been restored several times.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Dohany Street Synagogue
  • Main Market Hall
  • Matthias Church
  • Hospital in the Rock
  • Hungarian Parliament (from the outside)

Holocaust

In the last couple of years of World War II over 500,000 Jewish people were murdered in Hungary.

They are remembered with several memorials; including this shoe sculpture on the banks of the Danube.

Check the Offbeat Budapest website for more information on this and other poignant memorials.

Bars

Budapest has a big bar scene particularly around the old ‘Jewish Quarter’ with bars every few metres in that area.

Ruin Bar before the crowds

One thing that I have never seen before, which are common in Budapest are ‘Ruin Bars’.

They are literally set up in partially ruined building with an eclectic range of furniture that looks as though it has been rescued from the dump.

The bar scene does mean that on weekends Budapest fills up with groups of men, and groups of women, from all over Europe on pre-wedding parties.

Money

The currency in Hungary is the ‘Forint’ written HUF.

While in Budapest; most transaction can be carried out with a bank or debit card.

At many, but not all businesses, euros can be used although the change will be in forint. (some businesses will take euro notes, but not coins)

Turn ‘Lay Overs’ into ‘Stay Overs’

When you are travelling long haul you will normally need to stop at least once.

These ‘lay overs’ can be anything from an hour to 12+ hours.

Instead of hanging around the airport for hours why not book into a hotel for a couple of days and see a different city, or country.

Popular Stay Over Locations

Travelling from Australia to Europe I have had stay overs in :

Flying between Australia and North America I have stayed over at:

  • New Zealand
  • Hawaii
  • Los Angeles when flying from the East Coast of the USA.

Advantages of Stay Overs

  • An extra place to experience.
  • Helps reduce the effects of ‘Jet Lag’.
  • Two 8-10 hour flights with a couple of day rest in the middle are a lot easier on the body than 20 or more hours continuous travelling.
  • In some cases it can actually save you money.
  • Less stress about missing a connecting flight.

Saving Money

When you are planning a long haul flight don’t just look at direct flights look at flights that may take in another city close to the route.

Its not impossible on some routes to make up to a 40% saving, which could pay for a couple of nights hotel stay!

My Personal Stay Over Travel Hack

Having been caught out several times with immigration delays on entering the USA I now always arrange to stay over at least one day at the city that I fly into.

Bhutan

Bhutan, Land of the Thunder Dragon, is a fascinating country to visit, with the most spectacular scenery of any of the countries I have visited.

Although it is a developing country, poverty is not in your face compared with many other adjacent countries.

Politically

Less than 10 years ago the country was an absolute monarchy under King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

In 2008 the King, as part of his desire to reform Bhutan, transferred administrative power to a council of ministers and parliamentary elections were held.

One of the other reforms of the King was the introduction of Surveys of ‘Gross National Happiness’ as an important measure of progress in the country.

Around the same time the king transferred power he also abdicated in favour of his son, the current Dragon King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Although the new King is now a constitutional monarch he is much loved and you will see pictures of the royal family everywhere you go.

Culture and Religion

Preserving the Culture is a priority which is emphasised by the requirement that traditional clothes have to be worn by locals for all official business and even attendance at school.

Although Bhutan is Buddhist religion is so closely interwoven into the everyday culture that a local told me she didn’t realise she was Buddhist until.she left Bhutan to study,

Tourism

The Bhutan tourism policy is high-value, low-volume which means to get a visa you need to demonstrate a minimum daily spend.

The normal procedure is to book your holiday through a local tourist operator who will organise your visa, accommodation, vehicle, driver and english speaking guide.

Travelling around Bhutan without a tourist operator would be extremely difficult as you need a permit to cross district boundaries.

Bhutan’s currency is the Ngultrum (BTN) which has the same value as the Indian rupee (also legal in Bhutan)

Travel Hack 1

Even in the valleys Bhutan is 2,000m above sea level.

Tigers Nest Temple

You may be keen to visit the iconic Tiger’s Nest Temple but its a climb of around another 1,000m above the valley.

If, like me, you normally live at sea level don’t attempt it on the first few days, but allow yourself time to acclimatise and go at the end of your holiday.

Travel Hack 2

Like to see Bhutan and help the Bhutanese people? . . . . Disaster Aid Australia has a project to provide safe drinking water to all 120 central schools.

You can have a holiday in Bhutan and give a water filter to a school.

Find out more at Bhutan 2020

Disclosure: The author, and owner of this website, volunteers for Disaster Aid Australia.

Niagara Falls

Niagara is certainly one of those iconic tourist destinations that doesn’t disappoint.

American Falls

We were very pleased to have allowed a full day for our trip to Niagara, and that we had booked both day and evening tours.

There is lots to see and the tours manage to fit in all the key elements, including many great viewing areas, without feeling too rushed.

The Falls

Horseshoe Falls

I am sure I’m not the only one who didn’t realise there were three waterfalls.

As well as the Horseshoe and American Falls there is the smaller but still impressive Wedding Veil Falls.

A must is a trip on one of the Maid of the Mist boats.

At Night

The falls look different again at night as they are illuminated by coloured floodlights.

There is also an impressive firework display during the main tourist season.

Niagara Travel Hack

Bridal Veil Falls

If you have got a good rain jacket wear that rather than those cheap ponchos that get handed out.

You can spot me in the Bridal Veil photo because I am the one wearing the red raincoat rather than an anonymous poncho.

I also noticed that the poncho wasn’t much use when you got on the Hurricane Deck as the polythene rips easily.

Meanwhile I stayed completely dry.

Buffalo, New York State

My # 1 Under-Rated Destination

Hotel Lafayette

Back in 2017 we went on an eleven week world tour for our 40th wedding Anniversary, and one of our stops was Buffalo.

Most Americans we talked to said “WTF are you going there?”

I must admit we originally only considered Buffalo as a destination because it had an Airport close to Niagara Falls.

When we checked into the Hotel Lafayette and saw the Art Deco lobby, including the Elevators, we started to think there was more to this town than we first thought!

Martin House Complex

Martin House, Buffalo

Frank Lloyd Wright is probably the most iconic American Architect and I am a big fan, so when we found that one of his major houses could be seen that became a second reason to visit.

When we got there we found it’s actually the main house plus two smaller houses.

A local restoration society looks after the Martin House complex and runs regular informative tours.

Naval and Military Park

At Canalside there is an impressive museum.

You can look over three WW2 vessels; A cruiser, destroyer, and a submarine.

In the museum building I was also interested to find a model of USS Wolverine one of only two Fresh Water Paddle Steamer Aircraft Carriers.

You can also take a pleasant boat tour from Canal Side, which takes you along the canal, and around the only Marina that is shaped like a Buffalo (Don’t believe me then search Google Maps for ‘Erie Basin Marina’)

Some Things We Missed

Buffalo City Hall

It was only as we were in the Taxi on the way back to the airport we were told not only could we visit this impressive city hall; we could get a free lift to an observation deck on the top floor.

Exploring the many other Art Deco Buildings in the city

Visiting the Anchor Bar, where the world famous Buffalo Wings were invented in 1964.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities.

Hong Kong from the Peak

Since first visiting in 1997 I have been back six times.

Most people visit it for 2 or 3 days but I don’t think that is long enough.

Here are just a few of the things I love to do in Hong Kong.

Taking the Peak Tram

A spectacular ride up a funicular railway with great views from the top.

Best taken early in the morning as the queues can get very long later in the day.

Horse Racing at Happy Valley

Racing is every Wednesday night during the season at this spectacular location surrounded by skyscrapers.

Last time I went I had went on a tour organised by the tourist information centre including; coach pick up, meal and betting vouchers for a very reasonable price.

The Star Ferry

Star Ferry

One of the worlds greatest bargains is a trip across bustling Hong Kong Harbour on the Star Ferry for just a few cents

A little more expensive but well worth it is evening boat that stops in the middle of the harbour to take in the nightly light show.

Getting Tailor Made Clothes

In Hong Kong tailor made clothes is an affordable luxury.

If you don’t want a suit you can just get a few shirts and pants.

It’s worth checking a few review sites before you go. (I use Apsley Tailors but there are several other with good reputations)

Visit the Big Buddha on Lantau Island

The Big Buddha is in a great location, overlooking the South China Sea.

Make sure you get a ticket which includes a vegetarian meal at the adjacent monastery.

To get there you can take a spectacular cable car ride starting at Tung Chung Railway Station.

Best avoided at weekends.

Take a Bus trip on Hong Kong Island

Jumbo Floating Restaurant

Two of the scenic trips you can go on from the top deck of a Hong Kong bus start at ‘Central.’

One goes to Aberdeen Harbour where you can have an authentic Chinese sea food meal at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.

For the shoppers Stanley Market is well worth a look.

Disclaimer I haven’t been paid or received any other reward for this post