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Krys's Travel log

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Welcome to my travel log! You will find here a lot more than in the travel reports, stripped from political correctness. Enjoy!

Log entries 41 - 50 of 1158 Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Aug 18, 2013 04:00 PM The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - packing day

The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - packing day So, what does one pack for a 20 day holiday on the islands of the Indian Ocean during the whale migration season? A big camera with nice zoom, loads and loads of memory cards, sunscreen, insect repellent, beach footwear, linen shirts and trousers? What else? Battery charger, phone charger, shoulder bag, a few spare passport-size photographs for visas on arrival (just in case), an iPad with a few ebooks (incl. travel guides), a few t-shirts to give away to poor people? What else, but to fit into one cabin-size bag, watching its weight, too? A few pair of socks, underpants and comfortable walking shoes? Actually, that would be it. For anything else there is a credit card ;) But I am also taking my laptop.

Aug 15, 2013 04:00 PM The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 4)

The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 4) The budget estimate for the extravaganza has a pot of €1,222 for the hotels on Reunion, Comoros and Madagascar; quite a big amount of €540 for taxis - mainly to make it from and to the airports (as airport transfers make me cringe if they cannot be made on proper trains or metros, or coaches) maximising the time spent on exploring rather than on lugging the bags. There is €240 for food to be spent in proper restaurants rather than at street food stalls, and €179 for drinks and night outs. The budget also has €390 for tours, which include helicopter ride, whale watching trips, car hire on Comoros and side trips on Madagascar. And, finally, there is €84 for other stuff like the €50 visa for Comoros and airport taxes.

Travel literature and online fora suggest that one can comfortably rely on debit and credit cards on Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion, while the banking systems on Comoros and Madagascar are much less sophisticated, and although cash machines have sprung up steadily over the last few years in some airport and the larger towns, they may be unreliable. Common sense therefore suggests that it is prudent to take some cash as a back-up to cover the expenses in those countries.

Aug 14, 2013 04:00 PM The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 3)

The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 3) Now, the budget for trip is £2,300 plus £2,800 for regional flights. It excludes the intercontinental flights and accommodation on Mahe and Mauritius. This would add approximately £800 for the flights and £1,200 for the hotels at which I will be staying. Rather expensive holiday, hence the 'extravaganza' theme.

The budget also includes an helicopter flight over the island of Reunion and a whale watching trips, one just off the coast of Reunion and the other off the cost of western Madagascar. And this is why Reunion will the most expensive, followed by Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles and Mauritius. Had I need to pay for the hotels on Mahe and Mauritius, Seychelles would have been the second most expensive and Mauritius the third most expensive.

Aug 13, 2013 04:00 PM The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 2)

The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 2) The extravaganza will begin on the Mahe island of Seychelles, with a short layover on Mauritius on Wednesday 21 August 2013. Mauritius will be my 160th country and on the same day, Seychelles will be the 161st. After two days on Mahe, I will be back on Mauritius. Two days later, Air Mauritius will take me to Reunion, and if counted as a separate state, it will take the total tally to 162. And after again two days, the journey continues to the island of Grande Comore of Comoros. Three days on that island! Unless I could make a day hop to Mayotte. After Comoros, the ridiculously expensive Air Austral will take me to Nosy Be of Madagascar. Nosy Be ('big island' in Malagasy) is Madagascar's prime resort location that has direct intercontinental links at least with France and Italy, and a number of international connection within Africa and the Indian Ocean. On the main island of Madagascar, I will make visits to the capital, Fort Dauphin (Taolagnaro), Tulear (Toliara), Ifaty and Morondava. I will fly back home via Johannesburg.

Aug 12, 2013 04:00 PM The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 1)

The Indian Ocean Extravaganza - the plan (part 1) It is exactly a week before I embark on the second holiday this year (after the Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire week away). It will be the Indian Ocean Extravaganza including Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Comoros and the risky return to Madagascar. So - yes, Africa again! Just a couple of days on the Mahe island of Seychelles, a couple of days on Mauritius, four days on Reunion, three days on the Grand Comore of the Comoros and a week in Madagascar, including a day on Nosy Be. I originally wanted to include also Mayotte, but the somewhat obscene lack of competition in the airline industry in the region means that the flights to Mayotte have been cut, unpredictable and disgustingly expensive. Well, the two latter reasons do not always prevail, but the first one did. On this occasion. But, since last time I was in the area, the flight prices did go up considerably. Back in 2001, I paid only about $70 for an internal flight on Air Madagascar. This year, the flights cost $300 on average. The regional flights between Reunion, Mauritius and Comoros, which take only about an hour or so, cost ridiculous amount of money, too. A 2.5 hours return flight between Seychelles and Mauritius on Etihad comes at £405 ($625). One can easily fly from London and New York (and back) for this price. And the 2.5 hours return flight between Reunion and Comoros on Air Austral comes at £574 ($887), which enough to get a deal to fly from London to Cape Town or, on a good day, from London all the way across the world to Sydney. Well, that is nothing compared to a 45 minute one way hop between Reunion and Mauritius for which Air Mauritius charge $260! Grrr.

When I get there, I will see how interesting Comoros are, and if I can squeeze Mayotte in, I will. Depending on the reliability of the Comoros airlines - something which is rather unheard of. No-one these days puts 'reliability' and 'Comoros airlines' in one sentence anymore.

So, if all goes well, I will most likely publish a few new reports here. One on Mahe, one on Mauritius (or maybe two, who knows), one or two on Reunion, one or two on Grande Comore and two or three on Madagascar. Watch this space... ;)

Jun 22, 2013 04:00 PM Porto (PT) - The party was cooking...

Porto (PT) - The party was cooking... The waterfront by the Don Luís I Bridge, along Rua Cais Ribeira, was the place where people hung out. It was lined with cafes and bistros as well as stalls selling traditional and some dubious handicraft.

I sat down at no. 52 and had a couple of ice-cold lagers. And then, at Bar Ponte Pensil by the Don Luís I Bridge.

The best view of the historic centre was from the top of the upper Teleferico (cable car) station. Its roof terrace was great to lay down on the extra wide ledge and bask in the sun, admire the views and soak the atmosphere.

The Ribas Bar was great for people watching. And the party for the Sao Joao was slowly picking up. The bars from the upper promenade, including the Ribas Bar, were setting up temporary beer and chicken rolls stands on the lower promenade for an easy access for everyone. I have to say that the personnel from the Ribas Bar were really friendly. They were young but geared well for the business. I think it was a family run business, which was great to see in this rubbish economy context.

A taxi taken from a rank in the historic centre, on a Sunday afternoon, all the way to the airport took about 30 minutes, depending on the traffic, and made a €28 dent in the budget. Not that bad, actually. And I did not notice that the fares were any different at night. I used taxis from and to the hotel at night and in the morning, and the fares seemed to be exactly the same.

Had it been possible, I would have stayed for the Sao Joao party. It was starting very promisingly. Everyone was happy and people were really, really friendly. The vibe was incredible. I contemplated changing my flight, but I had an early morning conference call on Monday, which I could not push back. Such a shame, as the midnight was due to be the moment when the city was to show off with their €40 million (allegedly) firework display.

Jun 21, 2013 04:00 PM Porto (IT) - What a city! And this weather!!

Porto (IT) - What a city! And this weather!! The historic centre of Porto was relatively compact, but there is still quite a lot to see. Plus, the city is located on the steep banks of the river and there are a few up and down hikes around. Here is a selection of the most prominent sights on both sides of the river.

In Porto (the north bank): Casa da Musica, Igreja das Carmelitas, Torre dos Clegicos, Estacao de Sao Bento, Se Catedral, Palacio da Bolsa, Mercado Ferreira Borges, Igreja de San Francisco, Igreja de Massarelos, Muralha Fernandina.

In Villa Nova de Gaia (the south bank): Camara Municipal de Villa Nova de Gaia, Monasterio da Serra do Pillar, Corpus Christi Monasterio, Casa Barbot, and the numerous porto warehouses and tasting houses!

In addition to those, there were about seven fascinating bridges that spanned the banks. The most dramatic one was the Don Luis I Bridge with its two decks, but the Eiffel Bridge was equally grand. And one that until recently held the world record for the longest single span.

The top of the famous Ponte Don Luís I was perhaps my favourite spot. It offered views of the very photogenic Ribeira Quay of Porto, the intriguing long porto warehouses in Villa Nova de Gaia, the once-monastery-now-military-barracks (Monasterio da Serra do Pillar), the Douro River, the Eiffel Bridge (it is actually named after a Portuguese queen), and the breeze on those heights was blissful. It was also thrilling to feel the vibrations of the metro trains running just inches from one's shoulder.

I think my other favourite spot was the panoramic garden next to the courts of justice. This was another great vantage point. The garden was not unkept at all. It must have been just a hanging out spot for fellow trouble makers (waiting for their mates). I found empty bottles of all sorts and other items stereotypically used by those with relaxed attitude to laws and regulations. But the view of the historic centre of Porto from there was definitely picturesque.

I liked the variety of creature comforts geared to commuters and travellers alike. Porto had a cable car; a funicular; a vertical lift; and a historical tram - all to beat the hills. It had a metro linking all transport hubs, including the airport. And boat trips to admire the riverbanks and bridges.

I guess the most important thing, however, was the safety. It felt comfortable and safe to walk about the city, also at night. The fact that my large camera was swaying from my shoulder did not bother anyone at all. I also hit the town for the nightlife extravaganza and started partying at about 1am. The city was packed with people, who were really friendly.

One of the greatest things about Porto were also the taxis. Their ranks were scattered around the old town nicely and they were rather cheap. For a touristy place like this, one would have expected a bit more drama about the taxis. But not in Porto, where the drivers were friendly and honest.

Jun 20, 2013 04:00 PM Porto (IT) - Port wine and party

Porto (IT) - Port wine and party I have been cooking the weekend trip to Porto for a couple of years. There was always something landing on the critical path of this journey that it has taken this long to finally realise it. But a day had eventually come, Ryanair came up with reasonable prices for their dubious quality of flights, so I booked the trip and firmed it up in the calendar for the 21-23 June 2013 weekend break.

The flight landed about 35 minutes ahead of schedule, which is always welcome. The immigration check was quick. I think I spotted a cash machine still before the customs border. But there were two other cash machines in the arrivals hall. One from the Millennium Bank and the other from Santander. Both machines accepted most of the cards.

To get to the metro station, one had to descend one floor, and pass under the road. The station had ticket machines operating in a couple of languages, but there was also helpful personnel, who could give advice.

There was also a local bus station and a taxi rank right in front of the arrival hall.

Porto is a rather large city, which is spread across large area. The northern part of the city was partially industrial, with a large port in the west, and partially residential. Between the airport in the north and the old town, there was also a sort of a business district. Then further south, a bit more residential and commercial and then, finally the historic centre. The old town was divided by the river, and the southern back was actually called Villa Nova de Gaia. This is where the famous port wine warehouses are located.

Now, Porto's nightlife is truly plentiful. One really has to seek advise of a local to get the best recommendation at a given night. As a rule of thumb, weekends are best kicked off at theTropical, followed by a venue or two, or three, or perhaps four, at Rua Galleria de Paris. The party did not really kick off before midnight, but then from about 1:30am, it really picked up well. Very well!

The PortoTonico at Rua Galleria de Paris was as good as any other bar-come-club along this short pedestrianised avenue. And the buzz was unrivalled. It was relaxed and bar staff were friendly.

The Maomaria a couple of doors along was less relaxed about door policy and the drinks were €1 more expensive on average. But it was bustling as well.

All the following - the Twins, Three Cs, Plano B, Baixa, the Gin Club, Randez Vouz Electro Club, the Wall, the W, the Auditorio - all on a stretch of 200 yards street were busy.

And then, there was Deltronica, a bar packed street. Next one up! And it was super. And the majority of the people were just partying in the street. It was a great party.

May 05, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Elmina & Cape Coast

Ghana 2013 - Elmina & Cape Coast Lazy morning in bed, early lunch, check-out and a shopping trip to Cape Coast. The last chance for Isaac to squeeze a few more cedis out of me, before we say good-bye again. Probably for another year. So, we bought a ceiling fan and a few shelves for his room and a brand new mattress to sleep on that replaced the floor matt.

Then, the football players from Elmina, who play in various football clubs, play Monday Special match for the Elminians. I checked in to a beach bar for a couple of lagers, and Isaac and some other boys prepared for the match. It kicked off at 4:30pm, instead of 4pm. I had to leave at 5pm for Accra to catch my 10:45pm flight back to London. So, Isaac did not play too long.

This time round, I decided to do some navigating in Accra. For some reason, Isaac was guiding the driver via the centre, which was totally unnecessary, and led directly into massive traffic. With the help of GoogleMaps, we managed to find the ring road and reached the airport in half the time we used to.

My flight was on time, and actually left early.

May 04, 2013 04:00 PM Ghana 2013 - Elmina; west end to east end

Ghana 2013 - Elmina; west end to east end Excercise time. I always liked this walk. From Coconut Grove Beach Resort all the way to Elmina Beach Resort. And this time, I decided to stretch it - all the way to the area called Harmony. There was a small resort called Mabel's Table. I met one of the waiters, who worked there at the Square party the night before. There was nothing much about the venue, but it was a nice area, quiet and directly on a small beach with a wonderful view of Elmina's both castles. I did not check the rooms, but they charged only about 50 cedis per night.

I had a couple ice-cold malta drinks, contemplated the view, had a chat with the waiter and it was time to walk back to Elmina proper. A few greetings of familiar faces in the town and a quick trip to the resort for some dinner and relaxation.

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