Hong Kong and the 10000 Buddha.

So today I decided to go up to the 10,000 Buddha temple in Northern Hong Kong, located in Sha Tin, it’s relatively new. I was up quite late in the day and decided to try a vegetarian buffet restaurant I had researched.

Ahimsa buffet is about a 5-10 minute walk from Fortress Hill subway.  For around £6.50 you can eat all you like from an amazing variety of vegetarian dishes. They were all so tasty especially the deep fried things!

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Once I had gorged on all this amazing food I took the subway from Fortress Hill all the way up to Sha Tin, and after getting a little lost in a huge mall I was heading in the right direction. Past a weird Snoopy theme park, it’s around 10 minutes to get to the base of the hill that the temple is located on, and started the walk up.

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Unfortunately my navigation skills failed me again and instead of climbing up to the temple, I realised I was wandering aimlessly around a cemetery. The views were amazing from up there and it was an interesting place to see, but I suddenly felt very exposed as a tourist in what is quite a sacred place. I descended back down as quickly as possible before eventually finding the correct path up to the temple.

Although it is called the 10,000 Buddha temple, there are apparently over 12,000 Buddha statues in total! It’s around 430 steps to get up to the temple, but the walk is amazing as you go past all these different gold Buddhas.

At the top of the hill, the temple complex spreads out before you, it’s okay but I definitely enjoyed the walk up/down more than the actual top. There was nothing there that made me go wow, or anything different from a myriad of other temples I’ve seen on my travels. I did however get a nice cold drink and sit looking out over Hong Kong for a while before leaving.

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I’m not sure the temple is worth the trek out unless you’re in HK for a good amount of time and looking for something different to do. I’m happy I tried it out and it probable would’ve been a better experience if I hadn’t got lost and spent so much time there. It was getting on in the afternoon and I had to get back down to causeway bay. I had heard about a dragon festival that was happening that night with a parade. So I took the subway all the way back, picked up some bubble tea and amazing cake on the way and after getting off at Tin Hau, I walked up to watch the Tai Hang fire dragon dance.

Originally the people of Tai Hang performed the dragon dance to ward off a spell of bad luck that they were experiencing, but as the village got swallowed up by the City, the dragon has kept on dancing. The streets were so crowded and it was hard to get a good viewing spot, but after about 30 minutes the dragon finally arrived! Covered in incense so the streets filled with a sweet smelling smoke and accompanied by a full musical extravaganza.

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As you can see it’s crowded but also it was a lot of fun, everyone around me were enjoying themselves and it was a great spectacle to witness. I love it when you just happen to be somewhere when a festival or event is happening. I really liked the festival that continued over in Victoria Park too, with lots of interesting light spectacles and food trucks.

This was a great way to end my trip to Hong Kong, it was somewhere I was really looking forward to but I left unsure as to whether I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I walked along to Causeway bay and after a very indecisive 20 minutes of aimless wandering/looking for food I ended up eating whatever veggie options I could find in Mcdonalds. I finished my night watching Arsenal in the pub next door to my hotel and then packed up my stuff ready to hit up my next destination…..Taiwan!!

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Hong Kong and Tian Tan Buddha

Today I was off to check out one of the biggest tourist sights of Hong Kong, Tian Tan Buddha! To get there you take the subway out to Tung Chung, from here you can either hike or take the cable car. I chose to take the cable car and treat myself to the glass bottomed booth. On reflection I wish I had prepared and hiked to the Buddha and taken the cable car back. The walking route looked really cool, I’m not sure how long it would take but the scenery was amazing from the car as we flew over the bay and up into the mountains.

On arrival you wander through a touristy village area with shops and restaurants, before you pass under a lovely archway and past statues of the Chinese Animal signs for each year. This leads to a huge square with steps heading straight up to the huge bronze statue of Buddha. It was completed in 1993 and symbolises the close relationship between man and nature.

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It’s pretty impressive, there are quite a few steps to get up to the base of the Buddha, but there’s a small art gallery underneath with air con which I used to cool down. The Buddha is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues that represent the six perfections that are necessary for enlightenment.Not only is the Buddha amazing, but the 360 views you get of Lantau Island and out towards the airport.I had such a good time here and would definitely recommend it! I took the cable car back down after looking for souvenirs in the village, and took the subway back into the City.

My next stop took me to East Tsim Tsa Tsui stop, where Bruce Lee was only a short walk away! Usually found on the Avenue of stars, it was being renovated when I visited and all the famous statues and hand prints are now found at the nearby Garden of stars. There are also other famous statues and handprints from Chinese stars such as Jackie Chan and MIchelle Yeoh. This is a fun thing to do in the City and something I was really excited to see and get a selfie with Bruce!

From here I headed to Nathan Rd, this is one of the main shopping streets with smaller roads interconnecting more shops, restaurants and malls. So I wandered around here for a while, picking up some ubiquitous bubble waffles and bubble tea. I ordered chocolate waffles and matcha tea and both were super tasty. I wasn’t sure where to go next so I checked Google maps and noticed a cartoon avenue! Similar to the avenue of stars, this avenue is filled with famous Hong Kong comic stars with the iconic pig Mcdull being the most recognisable. This was definitely a fun little side adventure and it took me out of the heat of the City and into Kowloon park, it’s a green oasis amid the bustling, chaotic streets surrounding it. There are a couple of nice little ponds and fountains and the shade was beautiful and cool. It would definitely be great to grab some street food from one of the many vendors on Nathan Rd and retire to the park for a little picnic.

Next on my little tour was Chungking mansions, known as one of the cheapest places to live in Hong Kong it’s filled with a multiculturalism rarely seen. Although it’s mostly residential, you can find various restaurants from around the world here, lots of electronic and clothing stores and foreign exchange offices. I actually thought it was the more famous and instagrammable Montane Mansion and I wandered around for a while trying to find the iconic view of the apartments. I soon realised I was mistaken but I bought a couple of T shirts and the diversity of the shops was really interesting.

My next location is a must for anyone visiting Hong Kong, it’s cheap, easy to do and you get amazing views and a fun little boat ride, it is of course the star ferry! The area around Tsim Sha Tsui pier is nice to have a little wander, with the old railway clock tower and nice views of Hong Kong Island. The actual ferry costs HK$2.70 for a top deck seat which is definitely worth the little ride. I did think I would be on one of the red sailed junk boats at first so don’t be disappointed! It also helped that the ferry would take me back over to the Central ferry pier and HK island.

I enjoyed sailing across Kowloon bay and it was great to get shots of both sides of Hong Kong, it’s such a huge City, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many skyscrapers clustered together. I arrived back on the island and relaxed back on the pier for a little while thinking about what to do next and enjoying the cool sea breeze.

After a pretty full day I decided to take a nap and then get ready to go out in the evening, I wasn’t sure where to head and then remembered the Temple Street night market up on the mainland was meant to be a cool place. So I got ready and took the subway to Jordan, which is just a short walk from the markets. It feels like a different place on the mainland, busier, more neon lights and signs everywhere and maybe a bit more of how I imagine the rest of China would be in the Cities.

The markets were good, with loads and loads and loooaaddss of souvenirs, clothes, and electronics etc, there are also plenty of restaurants surrounding it to have dinner. I struggled finding anywhere that did anything vegetarian however, so I decided to go back to the island and try some of the gay bars out. I started off at T:ME bar which was a nice little place and had a cool vibe. I asked someone there where else they’d recommend and found myself in FLM, this place reminded me a bit more of somewhere I’d find back home in Manchester. So I googled and found a place over by Lan Kwai Fong, Petticoat Lane is a pretty cool venue and space, I liked the outside terrace area and after enjoying a couple of (pricey) beers I went back over to Causeway Bay and got some yummy veg dim sum and hit the sack.

Exploring the ancient Cities of Myanmar.

Today I was up super early, I got everything ready the night before including a shower so I could get up 15 minutes before Min Min was picking me up. This was still 4:30am but I was excited enough to not feel too tired, Min Min was waiting for me outside and off we went towards U Bein Bridge, the longest wooden bridge in the world. It’s located south of Mandalay and is a popular spot for sunrise and sunset.

On the way we stopped at a pagoda where the monks were washing the face of Buddha, people arrived to pray and attach gold leaf to the body of the Buddha. It was a nice little start to the day.

We drove out of the City and into the countryside, arriving at U Bridge at around 6am. It was so quiet and only 2 other tourists around, unfortunately it was also really cloudy so I wouldn’t get a good sunrise. I still loved walking along the bridge and taking with the locals, I even found a little chameleon friend.

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Once I had walked to one side and back it was on to the next part of the tour, the ancient Cities. We stopped at a huge broken pagoda, destroyed by an earthquake, I had the freedom to explore the whole place, and I had it all to myself. After about 20 minutes or so I was ready for breakfast, with Min Min waiting just across the road from me.

Breakfast was a traditional Myanmar dish consisting of thick cold noodles with egg and a chilli, garlic peanut sauce. It was delicious and came with a banana plant soup. I ate it so fast the lady serving in the little covered shack was asking if I needed more! Even the little side dish of bean sprouts with a slice of lime tasted really good.

Once breakfast was finished it was back on the bike to continue onwards. We now headed to Innwa, one of the ancient Cities of Myanmar. The bike journey was so cool, passing by old temples, banana tree groves and rice paddies. We passed the old ancient walls of the City and really went off road.

The main place to see is a huge stone temple that you can explore, with a white and gold pagoda adjacent to it. I really enjoyed this place, it was a beautiful building and again I wandered around without seeing anyone else.

After I had been on my little adventure around the area, we continued to an old tower that had also been damaged by earthquakes, we didn’t linger here as you’re not able to climb it so no exploring!

The next stop was a small partly damaged pagoda with some cool Buddhas and great views of people working in the rice fields. This place was so peaceful, with villagers going about their morning duties and the scent of incense filling the air.

Our last stop in the Southern area of Mandalay was an old wooden monastery. I believe it’s used to teach children, but I couldn’t see anyone around, just a few squirrels and some dogs guarding the steps up, so I didn’t dare to climb them.

Next on the agenda was Sagaing hill, to get there we drove back up towards Mandalay before crossing the river over the …. bridge. Min Min stopped for me to take some pictures of the Irrawaddy river up close, then we started to ascend the hill.

Again I had to get off at the steepest part but it was definitely worth it as we reached the top and I took a short uphill walk to reach Soon U Ponya Shin pagoda, I hadn’t done any research on this so it was a great bonus. The bright blue curve of the temple along with all the Buddha inside was amazing. Plus the view of you walked a little further up over the whole river delta was spectacular.

We drove back down and stopped at one more pagoda, a controversial one that the government had painted gold against the community wishes. This one was good but I was a bit pagoda’d out at that point. We continued our drive and stopped for tea at a little teahouse while we waited to go to the next temple.

This next one was really cool, mainly because we got to watch the monks there chant and ring their bells before queueing up for food from one of the nearby villages. There was a lot of ceremony involved and it felt great to be able to watch it. They eat lunch at 11:30 and that’s their last meal for the day.

It was a long drive back into Mandalay but interesting to watch day to day life and the locals would always wave and smile when they saw me going past as a westerner.

Arriving back in Mandalay Min Min wanted to show me one last point of interest, Shwe In Bin monastery. I’m so glad he did as it was a beautiful wooden building with lots of intricate design. Monks walked peacefully about and I probably spent more time there than in some of the others places due to its beauty.

I was soon back at the hostel and ready to relax after being out for over 8 hours it cost me 20000 kyat for the whole day with Min Min, including food and drinks, he was so great and explained a lot about Myanmar life. I chilled out till the early evening coolness and had a wander around the hostel area. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong place but it felt like there wasn’t really much in the way of shops/restaurants or bars in Mandalay.

That evening I walked up the night market which wasn’t great, before finding a little restaurant on the street called Shan Ma Ma. It was similar to the night before, you ordered your main dish then got some sides and soup to go along with it. After explaining I only ate vegetables I was soon tucking into we great food again.

Suddenly the whole street went dark and I realised it was a power cut. My second of the holiday. Luckily the restaurant had a back up generator so I finished my meal with a beer before walking back some very dark streets and I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

How to spend a weekend getaway in Hamburg, Germany.

Hamburg is only around an hour and a half from most major UK airports. Germany’s second largest City, it lies in northern Germany just south of the Danish border. It’s famous for it’s canals and waterways, typical German architecture and slightly seedy red light district! Here are some tips on what to see, where to go and what to eat.

Explore Strandkai and Hafencity

Wander through the old warehouse district, with bridges criss-crossing the water ways it makes for some great photos.

You can also check out the modern Elbphilharmonie building, it’s free to enter and you can get great views of the City from up there.

Miniatur Wunderland is also located here, it’s a bizarre mix of central Europe’s most famous sights mixed with top industrial spots. It’s actually quite fun to walk around and there are some weird sights to find. It gets pretty busy so it’s good to book in advance.

Walk along the promenade and grab a beer and bratwurst, we got a great German hotdog from here and sat in deck chairs looking out over the water.

Rathaus and Aubenalster lake

Check out the beautiful Rathaus (town hall) and take some time to relax in the market square in front before taking a walk around Aubenalster lake for amazing views and a break from the bustling City.

Reeperbahn

For an interesting night life head to the busy Reeperbahn, filled with bars it’s the Cities Red light district. I’m not going to lie and some parts were pretty seedy, but it’s also just a good night out. We ended up singing in a Thai karaoke bar after doing a mini pub crawl down the street.

Wander around Sternschanze

This bohemian neighborhood is full of vintage shops and cool bars/eateries and a good way to spend a morning. On Saturdays they have a great market popup to visit! There’s also interesting street art to find.

Take a boat tour of the waterways

We did late evening tour, it took us around the shipyard and docks which wasn’t so exciting but entering the City waterways was definitely worth the wait.

Top places to eat in Hamburg

We found so many nice places, first off my best advice is to stop at any little place for bratwurst and currywurst, they’re a mainstay of quality and good for a quick and easy lunch.

Xeom Vietnamese

We love Vietnamese food and this place couldn’t do it any better, the whole vibe made us feel like we were back in Vietnam and the food was incredible and full of that flavour that the Vietnamese are famous for.

Pizza Bande

Hidden away just off the Reeperbahn, this place does the most amazing Pizza, you just order your toppings from the extensive menu and they cook it from scratch right in front of you. Mix that with a good selection of beers and a bohemian vibe makes this place a little gem in an otherwise slightly seedy area.

Brooklyn Burger Bar

We were a bit hungover and craving something really messy and dirty and this restaurant served it up for us. Loads of burger choices, excellent fries and most importantly, tasty dips to accompany it all. We loved the décor here, the friendliness of the staff and it was busy which is always a good sign. The food was delicious too, with huge portions.

That’s how you spend a few fun filled days in Hamburg. I’d love to go again in the Summer when they have their artificial beaches and bars out on the waterfront. It’s a cool City and a cheap destination if you’re looking to get away for a weekend.

Lets face it, who doesn’t love a big German sausage?

Kuala Lumpur, 2 sides to the same coin. 

After an early morning swim, a bit of a lie in and some amazing breakfast in the orchid lounge we were ready to sightsee! 

The plan today was to visit the jungle top walkways, colonial district and Chinatown. Checking Google maps it looked like we could get to the TV tower and Eco park from a couple of monorail stops up. 

After walking for 15 minutes or turned out you couldn’t, but luckily we had been walking in the general direction of the colonial area, passing through a market street we came to a river with a mosque situated next to it, and could see the colonial buildings across from us. We jumped into a couple of shops on the way to get a quick aircon boost to cool down. 

After walking past a huge gold building we crossed a small bridge and made our way to Merdeka square, the centre of former British rule in this area. On 31st August 1957 the Malaysian flag was raised here and independence declared. 

The central area was unfortunately covered with seating….probably from the recent Asian games. We did a lap of the square, checking out St Mary’s cathedral and walking past the ultra exclusive selangor club. 

The history around KL is so cool, its definitely a melting pot of different cultures and styles. We sat in the square for a bit and I checked out a cool sounding walk in my lonely planet book, which would take us through Chinatown and towards the Eco forest. 

Setting off we walked back towards the river, taking a right and after walking through a couple of nice squares found ourselves at the entrance to Chinatown. 

There was a beautiful old building which housed a market, so we decided to wander through here and check out the trinkets and food. We stopped for a coffee and a rest and marvelled at the fabulous old building. 

Emerging back into the sunshine and heat our next destination, one of the oldest Chinese temples in KL was just a short walk away down an inconspicuous little side street. I think you could smell the incense before you could see the temple. Full of reds and golds it was beautiful as we wandered through and checked out the architecture and tradition. 

Carrying on our little tour we made it to the Sri Mahamariamman Hindu temple. Here we had to pop our shoes off before we could wander around the super colourful building and watch some of the rituals happening around us. It felt very sacred in here as we walked through in the cool shade. 

Our next stop was a street that was familiar to me from Bangkok. Basically filled with hawkers selling cut price designer goods, hotels and food places. I love the sights, scents and sounds that invade your senses in places like this. 

We took a little detour from here to check out some interesting bits of street art and finally arrived at the Eco forest. 

The Eco forest is basically a huge park in the middle of KL, full of jungle trees and animals. The best part is climbing up into the treetops and stepping across walkways to view the canopy. 

This was a really fun thing to do, so far in the day we had seen so much and spent less than a couple of £ each. Mainly on drinks to keep hydrated, the only downside is we didn’t see many creatures in the treetops until we got to the end, where a group of monkeys suddenly went flying through the trees. 

We were now at our planned destination, the KL TV tower, the highest point in Kuala Lumpur thanks to it’s location. Built on a hill it actually reaches further to the sky than the Petronas towers. Our plan was to head to the top for a drink and great views, little did we know there was a surprise up there for us. 

We paid to go right to the top and took the lift up to the outer balconies that run right the way round the tower. The views were absolutely amazing and it was a great feeling being this high up. 

There were even some angel’s wings to take a cool selfie with up here, and the best thing? Glass cubes sticking out over the edge that you could get pictures in, suspended 276m above the ground. Some people were too scared to do it, but I defied the growing vertigo inside me and stepped out onto the clear glass. 

We grabbed a pretty expensive drink and sat savouring the views over the City and planned our evening. We would head back to the hotel for a refreshing swim, before getting ready and taking advantage of free drinks and food in the orchid lounge. 

We managed to get a super cheap taxi back to the hotel and splashed around the pool for a bit. 

Utilising the free drinks we had a few glasses of red wine and gin and tonics before walking up to a well reviewed bar located on a helipad on the top of a building! Heli lounge is located in the Bukit bintang area of KL, once you go through the hotel you take the lift up to the bar, buy a drink here and take it up to the helipad. Now you can enjoy the 360 degree views with background dance music and pods to sit in. 

As we sipped our drinks we could hear thunder in the distance and dark clouds rolling in with shafts of lightning lashing through them. We made the wise choice to head back down to the bar now the sun had set. We sat here for a while enjoying a beer before heading to Pavilions to eat. 

Pavilion is another huge mall located in Bukit bintang, we wandered around the shops a little, I was enamoured with Japan St, where they sold so much stuff I loved in Japan I could’ve used all my spending money right there. We decided on a place called Ben’s which did some traditional Malaysian food along with Asian regulars like Thai. 

I had curry laksa and it was insanely good, I can only imagine how much better it must taste out on the streets. After dinner we did a little more browsing and wandering around Bukit bintang before heading back to the hotel ready for our next adventure….. Tomorrow we fly to  Singapore. 

Kuala Lumpur, the gateway to our Asian expedition. 

After an 18 hour or so journey, nearly missing our connecting flight in Dubai, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. This was our gateway in and out of Southeast Asia and a great starting point to ease ourselves in. The capital of Malaysia it’s an old colonial City, the Chinese settled here first before the British used it to impose their imperialism on the area. 

Arriving at the airport it’s really easy to take the 30 minute train to the main station. We had glimpses of the Petronas Towers and skyscrapers in the distance while we passed through rainforest. 

Our first view of KL was from the monorail, there are several transport options to get you round the City but our hotel lay on this line. We passed Hindu and Chinese temples, Mosques and a church, showing the multiculturalism that KL is famous for. 

We checked in to the Park royal which I would definitely recommend. We upgraded to their orchid lounge giving us a more private breakfast area, and free nibbles and drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Plus a nicer room! We had a quick look at the pool and view of the KL tv tower too. 

Taking my trusted lonely planet guide to the City we planned our day. It was around midday at this point and we decided to head out of the City for the Batu caves, one of KL’s major sights. We took the monorail back to the station and got on one of the many trains out of the City to Batu. Beginning in 1890 the caves have been a major Hindu centre of worship. They are famous for the 140ft statue of the Hindu God of war, Lord Murugan. 

We had half an hour to wait for the train so wandered around the connecting mall, it was huge! Mall culture is massive in KL with various sized places dotted about the City. 

As the train set off it started raining, but luckily it had finished by the time we arrived. We started off at a smaller cave off to the left of the station, where a big statue of another Hindu deity Hanuman. 

The cave is full of statues picturing various Hindu legends and you can climb up through the limestone formations. The colourful scenes are really fun, but it would have been good to know some of the stories behind the depictions. 

Leaving the cave we walked round the cliffs and got our first look at the gold statue of Murugan. Batu caves are also famous for their contingent of monkeys that live around the place, entertaining and tormenting tourists in equal measures. After some dicey moments with monkeys in Cambodia I was a little hesitant to get too close. 

We climbed the 272 steps up into the main cave area, passing various sized Macaques on the way, it was pretty humid out here but with a couple of breaks the steps were okay, the scenery surrounding us distracting from the climb. 

Inside the caves it was a bit cooler, and the size was impressive, reaching up above us. We wandered through before finding ourselves in daylight once again. The cave had no roof and sunlight poured through the natural skylight. 

We headed back down the steps and past the dark cave which we unfortunately didn’t have time for as I had made plans for the evening. Making it back to the hotel we had a quick swim and got ready for an evening out. 

Our destination was the famous Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest twin towers. It’s a beacon of Southeast Asian development. We walked from the hotel and caught our first glimpse of the tower from a lovely park located at the feet of several skyscrapers. 

I had pre booked the tickets to go up the tower, so we checked in for our time slot, and after a brief introduction took the elevator to the corridor between the two buildings. 

The views from here were amazing and we weren’t even at the top yet! The skybridge takes up the 41st and 42nd floors and us 170m above ground. It’s designed to slide in and out of the main towers to avoid breaking and give the towers additional support.

We took the lift up to the top, the 86th floor and now the views of the City were incredible, even with the cloud coverage you could see for miles! It was such a cool way to spend our first day in Asia. 

After 15 minutes or so up there it was time to head back down. It’s definitely worth doing and I really enjoyed it. 

The sun was setting as we stepped out into KLCC park and we wandered around the little lake, finding a spot to sit and marvel as the City transformed around us as night fell. The view of the towers at night is amazing and after being the subject of a few locals pictures and live streams the light show on the lake began. 

I loved this moment, it really felt like we had arrived somewhere magical and foreign to Manchester and the UK. I could have stayed there for hours taking it all in, but hunger struck and we decided to go for dinner. 

I had read about a few street food places that sounded good, and one was back towards our hotel underneath one of the malls. It was fun walking through these bustling mini metropolis, with the air con you can see why they’re so popular with the locals. 

We ate underneath Lot 10 mall, in the food court full of old street hawkers who have been given this space. We got some Korean influenced food with a mix of dishes served to us. It was so good and I couldn’t wait to try more Asian food, after the long flight and day in the humid City we were ready to go back to the hotel. Although I had to get a bubble tea and some ice cream on the walk back. 

Belem and the birthplace of Nata. 

Our last day was upon us! Our flights weren’t till later on in the evening so we had at least half a day to sightsee. This took us to Belem, an area of Lisbon that is easily reachable by train or tram.

Another scorcher of a day, we took the train out to Belem and walked through a small park to get to the main street. Here you can find ‘Pasteis de Belem’ where the original Nata were made from an old recipe taken from the nearby monastery.

We decided to explore a bit before having a Nata, and emerged at the end of the street onto a huge square with the aforementioned monastery taking up one side.

The Jeronimos monastery is an impressive building, it’s also where Vasco de Gama stayed before sailing for the far East!

After taking a few pictures we walked down towards the Tagus river and spotted a huge monument pointing out towards the water. A quick Google told us it was a monument to the discoveries, a nod to Portugals past as a major player in the exploration of the earth.

You could actually go up to the top of the monument but we decided against it. Instead there was a cool love sign nearby which we had to get some pictures with, and once done we got some ice creams and continued our walk along the Tagus.

The views out over the water were amazing, our destination was Belem tower, sitting out in the river and only accessible by a small bridge it’s extremely photogenic.

It was lunchtime and using foursquare I had found the #1 sandwich shop in Belem. Which sounded perfect, it was actually back on the main st we had walked along earlier so we wandered through a couple of cool green parks on our way back.

The food from Pao Pao Queijo Queijo was so good, and the name is great! You queue up and order then decide what extras you want, it was a bit like a much tastier version of subway.

We sat in the shade of a huge tree in one of the nearby parks and water our food, planning the next hour before we had to head back and pick our luggage up. We decided to visit the nearby botanical gardens as they were free.

I’d say it’s definitely not a must see place, some parts were really nice but it as quite run down. The highlights were peacocks and their chicks stalking through the grass and foliage.

As time started catching up on us we walked back towards the station, picking up Nata for the journey back from Pasteis de Belem and took the short trip to Alfama.

Hannah had to get to the airport earlier than us so I waved her off on the train before we sat in our little local square and had a couple of drinks to enjoy the Lisbon sunshine for the last time. We even had a bit of live music to entertain us.

It was really easy to get the train up to the airport from Alfama, and we wandered around a bit trying to decide on food. Eventually we just went through to the gates and picked up a few bits in there.

We were soon flying home and saying our goodbyes to Lisbon, a city that impressed us no end, even with all the sights we managed to see there is so much more to do. It’s cheap and friendly with way transport around, and close to beautiful beaches. A definite must on the bucketlist.

Exploring Alfama, Lisbon in a day. 

After last night’s exploits there were some sore heads this morning so we didn’t really have much planned. The best thing about being abroad is that you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out on anything….so using the lonely planet Lisbon guide I worked out a little walking tour we could do from the hotel. It was our last day so everyone was game as we left the apartment and emerged into beautiful sunshine. 

All the small cobbled streets are so beautiful as we made our way towards Sé, Lisbon cathedral. The girls stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping when I spotted a tiny place selling different types of sangria! It looked so good we just had to try it, I got white while the others tried different red flavours, it was so good! 

We walked up alongside the Cathedral and marvelled at the beautiful architecture. I spotted some cool street art too, we emerged onto a square where the impressive main entrance is situated. It’s such an amazing building and it was nice to properly see it rather than just from the tram. 

From here I cheated a little as we wandered down out of Alfama and towards Comercio square. A palace used to stand here but the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed it, allowing the square to be built as part of a remodelling of the city. The square has a good bit of history, being the site of an assassination on the penultimate king of Portugal. We entered through the Arco da Rua Augusta, a stunning triumphal arch built in 1873. 

The square opens out onto the river and in the sunshine it was gorgeous, with restaurants and bars encircling it. There is a statue of King Jose I in the centre of the square, notable because he developed severe claustrophobia the earthquake and never comfortably lived within 4 walls. In fact he moved his royal court into tents in the nearby hills. 

We also found the self proclaimed sexiest toilet in the world here, which the girls used and said was very nice with coloured toilet paper but maybe not the sexiest. 

It was very hot now as we walked back up the hill into Alfama district once again, stopping to grab ice cold drinks on the way. I checked Google maps and noticed another viewpoint so we headed towards the Miradouro de Santa luiza and after admiring some typical Lisbon tiles we took in the red rooftops and views out to the river that lay before us. 

The blues and reds were incredible as we walked around to second viewpoint, but not before taking some fun pictures. 

The next terrace was the Visigothic wall and the Portas do sol with more great views. We were getting hungry now and hasn’t had any Nata today! So we walked towards our end game, the Castelo de S.Jorge. 

As we walked up we spotted a cute restaurant called Miss Can which was incredible. Sardines, olives, breads and salads it was delicious and cheap too! Plus a beer refreshment to wash it down and Hannah tried lisbon’s famous green wine. 

With our hunger sorted it was time for more Nata from the same place we had got them from on our first day at the entrance to Castelo St Jorge. Once we’d had our Nata fill we queued up for the Castelo and wandered in to beautiful gardens within the castle. Perched up at the top of the hill Alfama is located around, the castle dates from the 10th century and has a heavy Moorish influence. 

The views from here were great over the City and there was a wine cart called wine with a view! So Lee and I got a Portuguese red and sat looking out from the walls of the castle. 

The Castelo itself is pretty big and the walls are fun to climb up and stand on the ramparts looking at a 360° Lisbon. Plus some fun towers to climb up to. It was getting towards evening and we had plans for a bbq fish dinner so we wandered back down towards the apartment to get ready. 


Our dinner destination was a place called Patio 13 which we had discovered accidentally by walking past and noticing a big queue and the amazing smell of bbq. It’s located in Alfama and it was only a 5 minute walk from our place. Arriving we queued up with a beer before being given a table on the patio. The restaurant is basically a load of tables and a huge now all outside. 

We ordered sangria and a selection of different bbq fish including swordfish and sardines. All the plates arrived with sides and we had bread and butter at the start. The food was out of this world and we all devoured it. We also got dessert and finally tried Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liqueur which was tasty too. 

It was really good value too, I think we paid less than £15 each easily for it. Once done we had a nightcap at a bar nearby and went back to the apartment…sad to think it was our last day tomorrow. 

NOS Alive and a day at the beach. 

So today was the start of the festival! We were pretty excited to see what NOS had to offer us as we belatedly got up and had breakfast. Shout out to Sarah and Lee who always had coffee and something cooking for us all in the mornings. The views from our apartment this morning were ace. 

NOS is located a few train stops out of the City so we walked over to Santa Apolonia, the station that served us so well over the course of the week. From here we went straight to Cais De Sodre where we jumped a train to Alges. Our plan was to pick up our wristbands before heading to a nearby beach for a couple of hours. 

Because of the heat in the day the first acts don’t start until around 5-6pm and go on till 2-3am which is a pretty good idea! Anyway we arrived at the festival gates only to find a huge crowd in front of us waiting to get in. After waiting in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, a band started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ and we walked through security. Unfortunately Sarah and Lee had the caps from their liquids taken off them, so they had to sort a makeshift one out of plastic and husbands. 

Finally though we were in! We walked under the welcome arch where the band was playing and surveyed the terrain. It’s not a big festival with only 2 stages, a dance tent and a bandstand. It was around 3pm now so the beach idea was scrapped in favour of a beer idea. The sun was shining and we sat on the astroturf that was laid out over the concrete with a beer and looked through the bands that were playing today. 

There were a load of freebies being handed out including hats, wristbands and sun cream! Getting hungry we walked over to the food area…basically the length between dance and 2nd stages has tables and chairs and loads of different types of food. I lumped for a burrito which wasn’t satisfying at all so I got a kebab too! Excited for our first European festival we had a few more beers and learnt a few lessons over the 3 days. 

  1. NOS is easy to get to, but hard to get from, they close off the train station from one side so you have to walk for about 40 minutes along an overpass, squeeze onto a train, then try and get a taxi or walk to your hotel once in the City. 
  2. They have people walking around with beerpacks, so you don’t need to go to the bar, the bar comes to you. 
  3. Portuguese people don’t really dance, or singalong much, so it can feel a bit awkward at times. 
  4. It’s not super packed with people so you can always get to a good spot, especially important for the smaller people along us! 
  5. It’s great to party in the sun but it actually did get colder at night than we expected!
  6. You can get free T-shirts in exchange for plastic cups. (My sister Hannah got especially into this, I think managing to get about 5 or 6). 
  7. It’s a great festival overall, the line-up has to have enough on it to make it worth it though, we had to make big decisions on who to see as all the acts we wanted to see were on later at the same time.

One of the best bits of the 3 days was being able to visit the beach, only a ten minute or so journey past the NOS stop is Carcavelos where you can get off and walk another 10 minutes to find yourself at a beautiful beach. We arrived here the 2nd day of the festival, got food and sangria at one of the restaurants and spent a few hours playing on the beach and in the very cold Atlantic! The water was really clear though and we could see fish swimming around us.

We relaxed on the beach for a bit longer with some beers and ice creams, we then headed back via another beachside restaurant which was so good! Hannah got these huge prawns that tasted amazing. We got the train back to the festival and spent another great night there. Rocking out to the Foo Fighters. The walk back wasn’t as bad either because we were more prepared for it. 

We fully intended to go to the beach again on the third and final day, however I think everyone needed a rest after the past few days of drinking. So instead we chilled out and then went straight over to the site, meeting some crazy Portuguese Depeche Mode fans who were adamant they should play ‘Personal Jesus’. NOS and doing a festival abroad was so much fun and we’re already talking about where we could try next year, after all it’s a Glastonbury fallow year so that’s out of the equation.