Travel stories from various places

This pages combines some of my recent trip experiences with pictures showing at least part of the characteristics of the place. Some more pictures can be seen with better resolution in my Photo Gallery and a larger number of photos arranged by travel target in photos I’ve originally published in Facebook. Have a look!

I spent almost all of December 2011 with my wife on a trip with Kuala Lumpur as the main destination. The fastest route from Finland to Kuala Lumpur is probably via Hong Kongin, which served as an intermediate stop for us along Macau. From there we flew into KL to explore also other areas of Malaysia. This was a pretty neat arrangement where Macau and Malaysia where more to my taste than Hong Kong. This story does not cover Malaysia, which is worth a separate page 🙂

Kaikki ei niin kaunista Macaossa

A view from old Monte Fort into Macau shows how many of the buildings are quite old.

You can reach Macau direcly from Hong Kong International Airport with a ferry including automated luggage transfers and border formalities only in Macau. All major casino hotels have free shuttle service from the Ferry Port and that brought us quickly into Sofitel at Pointe 16. This hotel attracted us not only because of price but also location at the riverside and very close to the old Macau centre with all its historic sites within walking distance. The land area of Macau is only some 25 square kilometres, hence the new mega casino-hotels are rising on Taipa Island a couple of kilometres away from Macau Peninsula. Macau’s attraction is the unique history as Portugal’s main Asian colony ever since mid-1500’s to year 1999 combined with recent fast rise of megacasinos. The old Macau centre with historic sites is very interesting and constrasts nicely with the new casinos and the vast shopping malls inside these hotels. One example is The Venetian Macau and its ‘Grand Canal Shoppes’ with more than 330 shops. Chinese is the main language but the local portuguese dialect has also an official status even though only a couple of percent of the population has it as their mother tongue. Macau is highly autonomous which means that you need to go through border formalities even when you travel to Hong Kong or mainland China. As summary Macau is most to my taste among Chinese cities visited (Shanghai, Bejing and Hong Kong) because of its compact size and various aspects of old and new – not to mention the glamour of gambling 🙂

Hong Kong Central The Peakilta

Hong Kong Central, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon seen from the observation deck in The Peak.

Compared to Macau many people know more about Hong Kong: the mighty commercial centre of Asia where scyscrapers rise higher and higher beside each other. This city state is like Macau a special administrtive area that is highly autonomous and has its own money. Hong Kong is both in land area and population more than ten times Macau. This mean crowds of people but also more nature than at least I expected. Compared to other cities of its size traffic is quite low since people make 90 percent of trips with well functioning public transport – doubledecker buses, subway and ferries. City centre is on Hong Kong Island but shoppers paradise is in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui area or shortly TST, easily and cheaply reached with a ferry. Hong Kong was up to 1997 a part of Britishy Empire which means that you manage very well with English as most people speak it. But in comparison to many Western and Chinese large cities I missed their versatility in food and culture. Food is mostly meat-based Chinese or British type – it is actually quite hard to find good vegetarian food. It seemed hard to find shows, plays, musicals or concerts – maybe you could succeed if you stayed longer than three nights like us. My probably one-sided impressioin of Hong Kong is finance and shopping – you have more of both than you really need.

 

In December 2010 I made a trip to Maldives using Dubai as an intermediate stopover both ways. This allowed me to use a week in both of them to explore each quite well which I had not done before. These two countries are in many ways extremes for a traveller even though both are all year around warm places (Dubai actually being far too warm during summertime).

mal-maanpaallinen-paratiisiko_1

Maldives – the Paradise on Earth?

Maldives is an extreme place for someone who is looking for a very peaceful place to spend a holiday just with your loved ones on a beach or warm turquoise ocean ulizing the high quality hotels. If you are interested in exploring marine life Maldives is surely a must to visit: there are almost 30 atolls with more than 1.000 small coral reef islands offering all kinds of places for scubadiving or just snorkeling amongst the corals and splendid fish. I stayed at Hilton Maldives Irufushi in Noonu Atoll about 185 kilometres away from the capital city Male where all international flights arrive. Transport to the atoll is using a seaplane allowing spectacular aerial views on the atolls. The just relax and enjoy life – but be prepared to high prices. Maldives is really concerned about global warming, as most of the islands are just two metres or less above current sea level. I share their concern and wish we manage to keep the sea not rising as Maldives is really one of the natural wonders of the world!

Dubai is these days mostly a bustling city that grows extremely rapidly with “world largest” buildings popping up everywhere. You can of course arrange a beach holiday there, but then you are quite far from the current wonders of the city. Dubai is the one of the seven emirates of United Arab Emirates along the Gulf they prefer to call “Arabian Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf “.

dub-burj-khalifa-downtownin-suunnasta_1

Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the World.

To name just some constructions you should see there:

  1. Burj Khalifa, by far the tallest building in the World at 810 metres. There is a viewing platform at floor 124, about 636 metres above the ground; book the tickets in advance! And if you happen to be interested: there are many apartments still unsolf in this tower even about 60 floors.
  2. Dubai Mall, the biggest mall in the world with its 1.200 shops and various attractions: a vast sea aquarium, an olympic-size skating rink and an entry to Burj Khalifa, with which the mall shares a artificial lake having the largest musical fountain show on Earth.
  3. Jumeirah Palm, the artificial palm-shaped construction reaching about five kilometres from Dubai’s natural coast. There are several tall buildings holding apartments in the trunk of the palm and houses on the palm leaves having each their own strip of a beach. This palm added 800 kilometres of coast to Dubai!
  4. Bur Dubai and Deira at both sides of Dubai Creek, having several traditional “souks” for shopping and nice surroundings to walk around – being about the only part of Dubai where walking is really a way to move around. Most of Dubai is for cars only!

Pallas Natural Park is one of the most amazing areas in Lapland.

Finnish Lapland has become one of my favorite travel destinations during several years regardless of time of year. Autumn travel still waits for a proper time to enable a couple of weeks to see the expectedly stunning Autumn colours. During wintertime I’ve visited Ylläs, Levi, Pallas, Saariselkä and Ruka, mostly for alpine skiing. Best memories are from Ruka where I last visited in early May 2008, experiencing  Wappulounas, which is the end of season for snowboarders (which I’m not!) collecting professionals globally. It is quite amazing to ski at +20 degrees Celcius wearing just your t-skirt!

In mid April 2009 we had a possibility to enjoy a sunny late winter day in Pallas fjell, which is impressive compared to any site in the World. There are higher mountains in many places, but the quiteness, whitness and round shapes of Pallas National Park  give you an experience you will not forget. And if you enjoy off-piste skiing or hiking – Pallas in the number one place in Finland.

 

 

 

Termite nest and elephants in Tarangire – most typical Africa?

Late 2008 I was on a safari in Tanzania. What an experience! Together with my wife I visited National Parks in Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire.

We experienced amazing scenes and huge amounts of wild animals, especially since we happened to be in Serengeti plains just in the middle of wildebeest annual migration – depending on source there are about 1.6 to 3.8 million wildebeest migrating with about two hundred thousand zepras migrating in front. We also managed to locate lion families and elephants at close distance – have a look at the animal photos in my Facebook albums.

The Great Sphinx gards Khafre’ pyramid, the second tallesta after Keops pyramid.

 

 

fidzin-rantoja

You can stay in Fiji on an island with just one hotel.

The tranquility of Fizi island beaches is due to the surrounding coral reefs and the shallow lagoon. It was a very relaxing one week in the beginning of 2007 during my round the world trip. We selected Shangri-La Resort, which has its own island, and includes a full 18 hole golf course and several good tennis courts for those interested.

 

 

The Strip in Las Vegas is impressive when night falls.

The Strip in Las Vegas is impressive when night falls.The Strip in Las Vegas is impressive when night falls.Las Vegas is a city which you really can not assess before you have visited it yourself. This view from 19th floor room of Cesar’s Palace hotel towards Bellagio fountains and the Strip in early evening left me an unforgettable effect – not to mention the desert and Grand Canyon experiences around the city.

 

 

Sun setting behind Mekong and mountains in Luang Prapang, Laos.

 

 

 

One of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever visited is Luang Prapang located in mountain areas of Laos. Sunset seen from the hill in the middle of the town towards mountains and river Mekong is just a showcase of many amazing sights and experiences there. One special feature are the extremely friendly and modest people, maybe due to very strong buddism.

Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the World for many reasons.

 

Angkor Wat area is huge and new temples are constantly found there. But this since the 13th century continously operated main temple “Angor Wat” is still one of the most amazing historical buildings. The highest tower raises to 65 meters and the surrounding moat measures 800 x 1200 metres. And this is just one the many temples in the overall 160 square kilometre Angkor area.

 

 

 

 

You can find the above places on the map below:

[mappress]